Man files multi-million dollar lawsuit against county claiming wrongful imprisonment
Published 5:01 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2016
A Carter County man has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Carter County claiming he spent more than 60 days in jail after the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office issued a warrant for his arrest in error.
On Tuesday afternoon, James Wilson filed his lawsuit in the Carter County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office seeking $3 Million in compensatory and punitive damages. Wilson names Carter County, Circuit Court Clerk Johnny Blankenship, one of Blankenship’s employees Janet Smith and Assistant District Attorney Janet Hardin as defendants in the suit.
The lawsuit states that on Sept. 8, 2015, charges of identity theft and theft under $500 against Wilson were presented to the Carter County Grand Jury. The Grand Jury issued a “no true bill” finding, which means the Grand Jury found a lack of probable cause to arrest and prosecute Wilson on the charges as presented.
In his lawsuit, Wilson alleges that despite the Grand Jury issuing a no true bill, Smith “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly and/or with gross negligence” issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Wilson on charges for which the Grand Jury found no probably cause. According to the lawsuit, Wilson was arrested on the warrant issued by Smith on Sept. 20, 2015, and taken to the Carter County Detention Center.
“Because Mr. Wilson could not make bond, he remained incarcerated for 64 days until his initial Criminal Court appearance on Nov. 23, 2015, when he was released on bond monitoring supervision,” the lawsuit said. Wilson then spent 98 days under bond monitoring supervision until the court released him after the Public Defender’s Office filed a motion for his release, according to the lawsuit.
“Despite having possession and actual knowledge of the No True Bill, Ms. Hardin intentionally, knowingly, recklessly and/or with gross negligence failed to bring the No True Bill to the attention of Mr. Wilson and the court, causing or contributing to the cause of Mr. Wilson’s lengthy incarceration and bond monitoring supervision,” the lawsuit said.
Wilson was finally released from bond monitoring supervision on Feb. 29, 2016, according to the lawsuit.
In his lawsuit, Wilson also alleges the Carter County Sheriff’s Office failed in its duty to ensure that Wilson was being properly held in jail and bringing attention to proper authorities.
“The unlawful incarceration caused Mr. Wilson substantial problems, including but not limited to, the loss of his employment, the inability to obtain employment, significant money, the loss of visitation with his children, and his liberty to be free to live as he wishes,” the lawsuit said.
In his lawsuit, Wilson claims Smith violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure was violated and he was falsely imprisoned after she issued a warrant for his arrest despite the Grand Jury finding no probable cause for an arrest.
Wilson also contends that Smith is guilty of libel because his arrest was published in the newspaper “resulting in damage to his reputation.”
The lawsuit contends that Smith was negligent, or grossly negligent, in her duties for issuing the warrant for Wilson’s arrest despite the Grand Jury finding.
Wilson claims Blankenship, as Circuit Court Clerk, also failed in his duties by failing to properly train Smith in the performance of her job.
“As a direct result of Mr. Blankenship’s failure to train and supervise his assistant/deputy clerks, Mr. Wilson’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure, made applicable by the Fourteenth Amendment, was violated,” the lawsuit said.
The suit also alleges negligence on the part of Hardin for failing to recognize and inform the court of the No True Bill. Wilson further alleges that Hardin also violated his Fourth Amendment rights through her negligence, which resulted in his lengthy incarceration.
“As a result of the foregoing, Mr. Wilson seeks the verdict of the jury and the judgment of the court for compensatory damages from the defendants, and each of them, in the amount of not less than $2 Million,” the lawsuit said. “As a results of the facts as stated heretofore, including intentional, knowing reckless and/or grossly negligent conduct of the defendants, Mr. Wilson seeks the verdict of the jury and the judgment of the court for punitive damages in the amount of not less than $1 Million.”
The lawsuit was filed on Wilson’s behalf by attorney Keith Edmiston of the Edmiston Foster law firm in Knoxville.