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civil rights suit

Strippers: San Diego Cops Violated Civil Rights

A group of San Diego strippers is accusing the city's police department of civil rights violations after a raid at the club that employed them. Twenty-five dancers employed by Cheetahs, a "gentlemans club," have filed a claim against the city, alleging that 10 San Diego police officers held them for about an hour and forced them to "pose in various positions and expose body parts" while being photographed, reports U-T San Diego. Police maintain the investigation was routine. But do the strippers have a case? Invasion of Privacy Alleged Although Cheetahs is a place where you might go to see female dancers expose themselves, it's a different story when these women are forced to reveal themselves outside of work. According to the claim filed by the dancers, San Diego's boys in blue raided Cheetahs on March 6 in order to "check 30 dancers' permits," San Diego's KNSD-TV reports. In San Diego, like many other cities and states, adult entertainers (including exotic dancers) need to have special permits in order to legally work at a licensed strip club. Under the city's municipal code, police are authorized to regulate adult entertainment businesses and perform background checks (including fingerprinting) on all permit applicants. The San Diego cops in question allegedly went well beyond asking these women for their permits, telling dancers to "smile" as they took revealing photos of dancers' tattoos. San Diego Police Lt. Kevin Mayer explained that recording tattoos is "an important part of the inspection process" because dancers can often change their appearances through wigs and makeup, reports U-T San Diego. But when does a routine investigation cross the line into police misconduct? Have Civil Rights Been Violated? Law enforcement officers need probable cause and/or a search warrant in order to search a person's body, and regardless of the evidence, the search must be objectively reasonable. Anything more could be a violation of a person's civil rights. Even if police were at Cheetahs for a legal permit inspection, it could arguably be unreasonable for officers to take an hour to photograph the dancers' tattooed bodies to properly identify them. Especially since all permitted adult entertainers should have undergone fingerprinting, a quick fingerprint test would have sufficed. KNSD reports that the dancers' claim against the city of San Diego asks for more than $10,000 in damages. Because there is a particular process in place for suing government entities, the strippers must first wait for their claim to be denied before they can file a lawsuit. Related Resources: Strippers file claim against city of San Diego after Kearny Mesa strip club raid (San Diego's KGTV) Club's Strippers Are Employees, Kan. Supreme Court Rules (FindLaw's Decided) When Can Police Conduct a Strip Search? (FindLaw's Blotter) Browse Civil Rights Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
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Ryan Ferguson Files $100M Civil Rights Lawsuit

Ryan Ferguson's attorney has filed a $100 million civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the Missouri man wrongly convicted and imprisoned for nearly a decade. As you may recall, Ferguson, 29, was freed in November after spending more than eight years in prison for the murder of Missouri newspaper editor Kent Heitholt in 2001. The court overturned his conviction because the case was rife with evidentiary problems. On the 10th anniversary of his arrest, Ferguson is at the center of a legal dispute again, but this time as a victim in a civil lawsuit. Civil Lawsuit Filed Ryan Ferguson's lawsuit takes aim at the unlawful way authorities conducted their investigation and case. Ferguson's attorney Kathleen Zellner filed the suit against 12 defendants -- including individuals (cops, investigators, and attorneys) as well as the Columbia Police Department, the city of Columbia, Boone County, and the Boone County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Among the lawsuit's numerous claims are allegations of: Destruction and/or suppression of exculpatory evidence, Fabrication of evidence, Reckless or intentional failure to investigate, Malicious prosecution, Conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights, Failure to intervene, False arrest, Defamation, and Indemnification. None of the DNA collected at the scene, or the footprints and fingerprints, matched Ferguson; however, jurors unanimously convicted Ferguson by relying on the testimony of two witnesses. Those two witnesses later confessed to lying under the oath, according to the suit. In addition, details surfaced that prosecutors repeatedly failed to disclose exculpatory evidence -- evidence that could have helped Ferguson and may have changed the outcome of the case. There are also reports that the wife of the key witness was intimidated and coerced by authorities who were overly zealous about obtaining a conviction, St. Louis' KSDK-TV reports. Different Types of Damages The lawsuit asks for actual damages of $75 million and punitive damages of $25 million. Actual damages are awarded to compensate for actual losses (also called "compensatory damages"). The amount awarded is based on the proven harm, loss, or injury suffered by the plaintiff. The actual damages award does not include punitive damages, which may be awarded when a defendant's actions are especially reckless or malicious. Punitive damages are awarded in cases of serious or malicious wrongdoing to punish or deter the wrongdoer or deter others from behaving similarly. Considering the level of misconduct alleged and the number of involved parties, Ferguson is certainly poised well to obtain a hefty settlement from his wrongful conviction. Related Resources: Attorney for wrongly convicted Ryan Ferguson files $100M lawsuit (CBS News) Ryan Ferguson vs. State of Missouri (FindLaw) Man Framed for Murder by N.Y. Cop Gets $6.4M (FindLaw's Injured) How Do You Get a Conviction Vacated? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Man Framed for Murder by N.Y. Cop Gets $6.4M

A man framed for murder by an NYPD detective has settled a complaint with the City of New York for $6.4 million. David Ranta, 58, spent 23 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit based on the machinations of a rogue detective, Louis Scarcella, The New York Times reports. Although Ranta can't get back his 23 years, he may still have a legal bone to pick with those who put him away. Flawed Murder Case Ends in Release Ranta was convicted of the 1990 murder of a Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn. According to the Times, Ranta claims his confession to the murder was fabricated by former detective Scarcella. Scarcella had been under investigation by the district attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit, which discovered that Scarcella had used two career criminals as witnesses. They admitted to lying in order to "obtain get-out-of-jail excursions provided by Mr. Scarcella." Even more disturbing, according to the Times, prosecutors discovered that a potential suspect had been dropped by Scarcella -- one whose widow later confessed that her husband was the real killer. Any one of these issues would have violated a defendant's constitutional right to exculpatory evidence under Brady, and may explain why the Brooklyn District Attorney asked for Ranta's indictment to be dismissed in 2013. Settlement Without Civil Rights Suit Once out of prison, Ranta filed a $150 million claim against the City of New York which, according to the Times, was settled for $6.4 million "without involving the city's legal department." In New York City, like many other metro areas, those injured by the government must first file an administrative tort claim with that government before being allowed to file a civil lawsuit. This process gives the city, state, or federal government a chance to respond and remedy the problem without involving the court system. In Ranta's case, his claim was settled for less than 5 percent of his initial demand -- but without seeing the inside of a courtroom. According to the Times, Ranta plans to file a separate wrongful conviction claim against the state of New York. Such claims can also lead to large payouts for victims: For example, another wrongly convicted man, Alan Newton, served 20 years in prison for rape and received an $18.5 million settlement from NYC after being exonerated by DNA evidence. Related Resources: Man did 23 years for NYC murder he didn't commit, gets $6.4M (CBS News) When Can I Sue Police for False Arrest? (FindLaw's Injured) Can You Sue for False Imprisonment? (FindLaw's Injured) Chicago Man Gets Record $25M for Wrongful Conviction (FindLaw's Blotter)
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