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Williams v. Ritchey, FL, Complaint, Wrongful Conviction, 2024

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Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 1 of 40 PageID 1

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
JACKSONVILLE DIVISION
Willie Williams,
Plaintiff,

No.24-cv-367

v.

Charles David Ritchey, W. J.
Mooneyham, J.R. Starling, the
Estate of James Geisenburg,
the Estate of Bryant Randolph JURY TRIAL DEMANDED
Mickler, Hugh Fletcher, the
City of Jacksonville, and
Duval County,
Defendants.
COMPLAINT
Now Comes, Plaintiff WILLIE WILLIAMS, by and through his
attorneys, LOEVY & LOEVY and the HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENSE
CENTER, and complaining of CHARLES DAVID RITCHEY, W.J.
MOONEYHAM, J.R. STARLING, HUGH FLETCHER, AND THE
ESTATES OF LT. BRYANT RANDOLPH MICKLER AND JAMES
GEISENBURG, the CITY OF JACKSONVILLE, and DUVAL COUNTY,
alleges as follows:

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1.

Willie Williams was wrongly convicted of the 1975 attempted

murders and robberies of Kathrina Farah and David Phillips, crimes he
had nothing to do with. Mr. Williams spent nearly 45 years, more than
half of his life, in prison. He then spent an additional 3 years on parole
before finally being exonerated.
2.

Mr. Williams had nothing to do with the crimes and has

always maintained his innocence.
3.

Not one piece of physical evidence ever connected Mr.

Williams to the crime.
4.

The only evidence against Mr. Williams at his 1976 trial was

the testimony of David Phillips, one of the victims. Phillips, who had been
shot in the back of the head but survived, testified that he identified Mr.
Williams at lineups.
5.

However, unbeknownst to Mr. Williams, his counsel, or

prosecutors at the time, Mr. Phillips only identified Mr. Williams after
being hypnotized by Defendant Mickler.
6.

This eyewitness identification evidence was knowingly

manipulated by Defendant Charles David Ritchey in conspiracy with Lt.

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Bryant Mickler and Detectives W.J. Mooneyham, J.R. Starling, James
Geisenburg and Hugh Fletcher.
7.

Defendants

then

fabricated

police

reports

claiming,

misleadingly, that Phillips had confidently identified Mr. Williams in
photo and live lineups.
8.

Defendants

also

withheld

and

destroyed

exculpatory

evidence, including the fact that Phillips had been hypnotized and an
audio recording of the hypnosis session.
9.

The Defendants built an entirely false case against Mr.

Williams by fabricating evidence, including the false inculpatory
testimony by Phillips and police reports, and suppressing exculpatory
evidence that Plaintiff could have used to defend himself in the criminal
case against him.
10.

Based on this illegitimate and fabricated evidence, Mr.

Williams was convicted of two counts of attempted murder and armed
robbery and sentenced to life in prison.
11.

Mr. Williams was finally exonerated in 2024, after the

Conviction Integrity Unit discovered that Defendants used hypnosis to

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obtain Phillips’ identification and withheld and destroyed evidence of the
hypnosis session.
12.

Mr. Williams brings this suit to vindicate the deprivations of

his constitutional rights that caused him to spend nearly 45 years in
prison as an innocent man.
Jurisdiction & Venue
13.

This action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and

Florida law to redress Defendants’ tortious conduct and their
deprivations of Mr. Williams’s rights secured by the U.S. Constitution.
14.

This Court has jurisdiction of Mr. Williams’s federal claims

pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction of his statelaw claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
15.

Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). The events and

omissions giving rise to Mr. William’s claims occurred within this judicial
district, including the investigation, prosecution, and trial resulting in
Mr. Williams’s conviction.
Parties
16.

Plaintiff Willie Williams spent nearly 45 years incarcerated

for a crime he did not commit.

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17.

At all times relevant to the events described in this

Complaint, Defendants Charles David Ritchey, W.J. Mooneyham, J.R.
Starling, Hugh Fletcher, and now-deceased Lt. Bryant Randolph Mickler
and James Geisenburg were detectives in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
(“JSO”). For purposes of this Complaint, Charles David Ritchey, W.J.
Mooneyham, J.R. Starling, James Geisenburg, Hugh Fletcher, and
Bryant Randolph Mickler are collectively referred to as “Officer
Defendants.”
18.

Lt. Bryant Randolph Mickler and James Geisenburg died

before this Complaint was filed. The Estate of Bryant Randolph Mickler
is sued as successor in interest to Bryant Randolph Mickler. The Estate
of James Geisenburg is sued as successor in interest to James
Geisenburg.
19.

Defendants City of Jacksonville and Duval County are a

consolidated municipal corporation that is or was the employers of
Charles David Ritchey, W.J. Mooneyham, J.R. Starling, James
Geisenburg, Hugh Fletcher, and Bryant Randolph Mickler.

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20.

Each of the Defendants named in this Complaint acted during

their investigation of the crimes as agents or employees of the City of
Jacksonville and Duval County.
21.

The City of Jacksonville and Duval County are liable for all

torts committed by the Defendants pursuant to the doctrine of
respondeat superior.
22.

Additionally, the City of Jacksonville and Duval County are

responsible for the policies and practices of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s
Office and are liable for the violations of Mr. Williams’s rights caused by
the unconstitutional policies and customs of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s
Office, including actions of the above-named Defendants employed by the
City of Jacksonville and Duval County undertaken pursuant to those
policies and customs during the investigation.
23.

Each and every individual Defendant, known and unknown,

acted under color of law and within the scope of his employment at all
times relevant to this lawsuit. Each of the individual Defendants is sued
in his individual capacity unless otherwise noted.

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The Crimes and Police Chase
24.

On October 8, 1975, Alfred Mitchell walked into Wesconnett

Produce Store and shot Kathrina Farah and David Phillips three times
each after demanding they give him their money.
25.

Meanwhile, Mr. Williams was outside in the passenger seat

of his green Buick waiting for Mitchell. Mr. Williams did not know that
Mitchell had gone into the store with the intention of robbing it or
committing any act of violence.
26.

Upon exiting the store, Mitchell put an item under the seat of

Mr. Williams’s car, jumped into the driver’s seat, and sped away from the
scene. In his rush to get away, Mitchell hit another parked car.
27.

Police officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office responded

and began chasing the Buick almost immediately.
28.

During the chase, Mr. Williams asked Mitchell what

happened in the store and why they were being chased by police. Mitchell
responded with words to the effect of, “I just killed two people. Don’t you
be the third one.”

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29.

Mr. Williams managed to escape the car after Mitchell ran

into another parked vehicle. Terrified, he tried to jump over a nearby
fence to distance himself from Mitchell and the chase.
30.

Mr. Williams was apprehended without resistance by police

and taken to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for questioning.
31.

Mitchell kept driving for a short time after Mr. Williams’s

escape before he stopped the vehicle and fled into a nearby house. Once
inside, Mitchell shot himself in the head. He died immediately.
32.

Fortunately, Farah and Mitchell survived their wounds and

were taken to the hospital for treatment.
Defendant’s Initial Investigation
33.

In the immediate aftermath of the crimes, it became clear that

Alfred Mitchell was solely responsible for shooting Farah and Phillips.
34.

Defendants Ritchey and Mooneyham were partners and the

lead detectives on the case.
35.

The day of the crime Defendants Ritchey and Mooneyham

first interviewed the man who had reported the green Buick to the police,
Robert West.

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36.

West, who worked in an office 100-150 feet away from

Wesconnett Produce Store, provided a detailed account to Defendants.
He stated that he saw two Black men in a green Buick stop in front of his
office window. The driver of the car left the car in a red, white, and blue
striped shirt and walked into the grocery store, while the other man
remained in the car. Several minutes later, the same man walked out of
the grocery store. He walked over to the driver’s seat and placed an object
under the front seat. The driver then sped away, hitting a car in the
process. West immediately contacted the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to
report what he saw.
37.

Ritchey and Mooneyham also spoke to the officers involved in

the car chase.
38.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers C.H. Ray and Parker responded

to the police pursuit of the green Buick in their helicopter. They observed
a young Black man wearing no shirt and striped pants jump out of the
passenger side of the car when the Buick hit a parked truck. Officer Ray
then observed the Buick continue to drive for a few blocks before hitting
a curb and stopping. Another young Black man then ran out of the car
into a house.

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39.

Motorcycle officers Bready and Geuterman confirmed that

they chased the passenger of the Buick – Mr. Williams – and
apprehended him.
40.

Officers Royal and Gueterman confirmed that they chased the

driver of the Buick – Alfred Mitchell – to a nearby house where they found
him dead from a gunshot to the head.
41.

At the house, Officer Royal collected the black revolver

Mitchell used to shoot himself. He also collected a chrome revolver from
underneath the driver’s seat of the Buick, Phillips’ wallet, and two shirts
(one striped and one that was black or dark blue with flowers on it) from
the car.
42.

The revolvers recovered from the scene were sent to Donald

Champagne for firearms analysis. Champagne found that the Black
revolver was the gun Mitchell used to kill himself, while the chrome
revolver was the gun used to shoot Farah and Phillips. He also found that
the chrome gun had fired bullets in a murder and robbery that had taken
place two weeks before.
43.

Defendants Ritchey and Mooneyham also attempted to speak

to the victims while they were recovering.

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44.

Farah, whose eyesight had been severely injured by the shot

to her head, described the shooter as a Black man wearing a red, white,
and blue striped shirt.
45.

Phillips was unable to provide any specific identifying

information about the shooter other than that he was a Black man in a
striped shirt carrying a chrome plated pistol.
46.

Though vague, the victims’ initial descriptions of their shooter

matched the description of the driver of the Buick that West gave to
Defendants Ritchey and Mooneyham.
The Palm Furniture Murder
47.

About two weeks prior to the shootings at Wesconnett

Produce, another man was found dead from a shot to the head at Palm
Furniture Company in Jacksonville.
48.

Defendant Starling was the lead investigator of the Palm

Furniture Murder. He and Defendant Ritchey directed Champagne to
analyze the revolvers recovered from Wesconnett Produce shootings with
the bullets found during the Palm Furniture Investigation. Champagne
confirmed that the chrome gun used in the Palm Furniture Murder was
the same one used to shoot Phillips.

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49.

Defendant Starling also interviewed Deborah Mitchell, Alfred

Mitchell’s sister-in-law, during his investigation into the Palm Furniture
Murder. She stated that Alfred told her that he killed a man inside of the
Palm Furniture Company store and that he would kill himself before he
went back to jail.
50.

Based on Champagne’s ballistics analysis and Mitchell’s

confession to Deborah Mitchell, Defendant Starling concluded that
Mitchell solely robbed and murdered the victim of the Palm Furniture
Murder. Starling exceptionally cleared the case because Mitchell had
committed suicide.
Defendants Decide to Frame Mr. Williams
51.

Though it was clear that Mitchell was also the sole person

responsible for the attempted murder and robbery of Farah and Phillips,
Defendants focused their efforts on pinning the crimes on Plaintiff. They
reached an agreement to paint Mr. Williams as the shooter despite all
evidence to the contrary.
52.

The evening of the crime, police officers, including Defendants

Gesisenburg, Ritchey, and Mooneyham, interrogated Mr. Williams.

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53.

Defendant Geisenburg was the first officer to speak to Mr.

Williams at the Sheriff’s Office. Geisenburg had a friendly relationship
with Mr. Williams after working with him on a case and knew him to be
reliable. Mr. Williams told Geisenburg he did not understand why he was
under arrest and the Defendants had the wrong man. Mr. Williams
explained how he believed Mitchell went into Wesconnett Produce Store
to cash a check. While he was waiting, Mr. Williams got hot and took off
the blue shirt he was wearing that day.
54.

Mr. Williams did not know that Mitchell shot and robbed

Farah and Phillips until Mitchell threatened to shoot him as well.
55.

Plaintiff then spoke to Defendants Ritchey and Mooneyham

and told them the same thing. He signed a written statement consistent
with his oral statement to Defendant Geisenburg and the other
eyewitness accounts of the day.
56.

Despite

this

statement,

eyewitness

accounts

all

but

confirming that Mitchell was the driver of the car and shooter, and that
Plaintiff had provided reliable information to JSO in the past,
Defendants Ritchey and Mooneyham, agreed with the other Defendant
Officers to pin the crimes on Plaintiff.

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57.

Knowing that Farah’s eyesight had been permanently

damaged by the shooting, the Defendant Officers focused their efforts on
getting an identification from Phillips.
58.

A day or two after Phillips told defendants he didn’t remember

anything, Defendant Ritchey visited Phillips again in the hospital and
showed him a photo array of ten pictures, including photos of Mitchell
and Mr. Williams.
59.

Phillips could not make an identification. He told the

Defendants again that he could not remember anything about the
robbery after being shot.
60.

After Phillips was released from the hospital, Defendant

Ritchey asked him to come to the Robbery Office of the JSO to view a
photo line-up again.
61.

When Phillips arrived at the Robbery Office Defendants

Ritchey, Wickler, Mooneyham, and Starling were waiting for him.
62.

Defendant Mickler then hypnotized Phillips to “help” him

remember more details about the robbery. Defendants Ritchey, Wickler,
Mooneyham, and Starling memorialized the hypnosis through, among
other things, an audio recording.

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63.

After the hypnosis, Defendant Ritchey showed Phillips the

same ten photos again. This time, Phillips chose Mr. Williams’ picture.
64.

But for Defendant Officers improperly suggestive tactics and

steering, Phillips would not have identified Mr. Williams, who Phillips
had not seen commit any crime.
65.

Two days after the hypnosis session and photo line-up

identification, Defendants Officers asked Phillips to return to the
Robbery Office to view an in-person line-up.
66.

In the presence of Defendants Fletcher, Ritchey, and other

unknown JSO officers, Phillips identified Mr. Williams again. Phillips
would not have made this false identification but for the misconduct
described above.
67.

On information and belief, Defendants Officers agreed to

destroy the audio recording and any notes of Defendant Mickler’s
hypnosis session with Phillips in order to ensure Mr. Williams’s
conviction. On information and belief, the audio recording and any notes
of the session no longer exist.

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Williams Is Tried and Convicted Based on Fabricated Evidence
68.

Between 1975 and 1976, as the result of Defendants’

misconduct and based solely on Defendants’ fabricated evidence
described in this Complaint, Mr. Williams was prosecuted and convicted
of the attempted murders of Ms. Farah and Mr. Phillips.
69.

At trial, Plaintiff testified in his own defense and maintained

his innocence.
70.

Robert West also testified and provided his detailed account

of witnessing Mitchell go into the store by himself in a red, white, and
blue striped shirt. He also made an in-court identification of Alfred
Mitchell. West further testified unequivocally that Mr. Williams was not
the man who he saw walk into Wesconnett Produce Store.
71.

The only evidence suggesting that Mr. Williams was the

shooter was Mr. Phillips’ manipulated identification and subsequent in
court identification and testimony.
72.

The Defendants’ fabrication of evidence was not disclosed to

prosecutors, Mr. Williams, or his criminal defense attorneys in advance
of his criminal trial.

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73.

The Defendants also wrote false police reports and gave false

statements before trial, which were the basis for charging and
prosecuting Mr. Williams.
74.

At

all

times,

the

Defendants

suppressed

the

true

circumstances surrounding Phillips’ identification of Plaintiff.
75.

In addition, on information and belief, the Defendants

suppressed and destroyed additional evidence, including a recording of
Phillips’ hypnosis session, police reports and notes detailing the hypnosis
session, and other evidence still unknown to Mr. Williams, which would
also have shown his innocence.
76.

Mr. Williams maintained his innocence from the moment he

was arrested.
77.

However, because of the Defendants’ false and manufactured

evidence and destruction of exculpatory and impeachment evidence, Mr.
Williams was wrongly convicted.
Plaintiff’s Damages
78.

When Mr. Williams was arrested and charged with the

attempted murders of Ms. Farah and Mr. Phillips, he was 31 years old.
79.

Mr. Williams was convicted on February 16, 1976.

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80.

Upon his conviction, Mr. Williams was sentenced to life in

prison for crimes he did not commit.
81.

In total, Mr. Williams spent almost 45 years in prison as an

innocent man.
82.

Mr. Williams was taken away from, and missed out on, the

lives of his family and friends. He missed special occasions and
milestones, and he returned home to relationships changed by or lost to
over four decades of wrongful incarceration. During his incarceration, he
also lost several family members including his mother, father, sister, wife
three aunts, and two nephews and was denied the chance to attend their
funeral services.
83.

Mr. Williams was robbed of his prime adult years and over

half of his life. He was deprived of opportunities to start a family, engage
in meaningful labor, develop a career, and pursue his interests and
passions. Mr. Williams has been deprived of all the basic pleasures of
human experience, which all free people enjoy as a matter of right,
including the freedom to live one’s life as an autonomous human being.
84.

During his nearly 45 years of wrongful imprisonment, Mr.

Williams was detained in harsh and dangerous conditions in maximum-

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security prisons, including time spent in solitary confinement and
witnessing several instances of violence against other prisoners.
85.

Throughout his time in prison, Mr. Williams also was forced

to work without pay or other privileges. At times, he undertook this
compelled labor at serious risk to his health and safety. For example, at
the beginning of his sentence Mr. Williams was assigned to a chain-gang
for six months. During that time, he worked in roadside ditches, fully
shackled. The ditches were also teeming with wild snakes, which Mr.
Williams had to take care to avoid on top of the already heavy manual
labor he was forced to complete. Armed guards would also shoot at these
snakes, which added yet another element of physical danger and
psychological distress. In another example, Mr. Williams was forced to
work at the prison infirmary where he regularly cleaned up blood and
other biohazards without being provided any personal protective
equipment by the prison. As a result of the exposure to infected blood and
lack of PPE, Mr. Williams suffered injuries.
86.

In all that time, Mr. Williams never knew whether the truth

would come out or whether he would ever be exonerated.

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87.

In addition to the severe trauma of wrongful imprisonment

and Mr. Williams’s loss of liberty, the Defendants’ misconduct continues
to cause him extreme psychological and emotional pain and suffering.
88.

Mr. Williams was released on early parole on June 30, 2020.

In the nearly four years preceding his exoneration, Mr. Williams had to
face a community that still believed he was capable of attempted murder.
Mr. Williams’s Exoneration
89.

Mr. Williams fought hard to prove his innocence for almost

half a century of wrongful imprisonment.
90.

In 2005, Mr. Williams filed a motion for post-conviction DNA

testing, asking for the clothing worn by Mitchell and Williams to be
tested for the victims’ blood to identify the shooter. The Court granted
the motion and ordered testing on two shirts, including the red, white,
and blue striped shirt, and a pair of Williams’ pants. In 2006, the FDLE
reported that their analysis failed to find blood on any of the clothing
items.
91.

On June 30, 2020, when he was 75 years old, Mr. Williams

was released on early parole.

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92.

In 2021, the Conviction Integrity Review Division of the

Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office (“CIR”) decided to review
Mr. Williams’ case. The CIR conducted a full re-examination of his case,
including DNA testing and interviewing witnesses.
93.

During

their

review,

the

CIR

discovered

previously

undisclosed evidence that Defendant Officers used hypnosis to obtain
Phillips’s identification of Mr. Williams.
94.

CIR interviewed Defendant Ritchey about the circumstances

surrounding Phillips’ identification of Mr. Williams as Phillips was the
only person to identify Mr. Williams. Defendant Ritchey, who
remembered the case well, admitted to the CIR that Defendant Mickler
hypnotized Phillips prior to his identification of Mr. Williams from a
photo line-up.
95.

Defendant Ritchey told the CIR investigators that the

hypnosis sessions had been audio recorded, but the CIR was unable to
locate the recording.
96.

Phillips, likewise, confirmed to the CIR that he was

hypnotized prior to identifying Williams.

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97.

On May 16, 2023, the CIR disclosed to Mr. Williams that

hypnosis was used in his case. This was the first time any such
information was disclosed to Mr. Williams, his counsel, or the
prosecution.
98.

On October 19, 2023, Williams filed a petition seeking to

vacate his convictions based on the suppressed evidence of Defendant
Mickler’s hypnosis of Phillips.
99.

On January 3, 2024, the CIR joined Mr. Williams’ counsel in

requesting that the petition be granted.
100. That day, the court granted the motion and vacated Mr.
Williams’s convictions, and the prosecution dismissed all charges against
him.
101. Mr. Williams has spent over half his life wrongfully
incarcerated. For the first time in over 48 years, Mr. Williams can finally
pursue the rest of his life as a free man. Mr. Williams brings this suit to
vindicate the deprivations of his rights that caused his wrongful
detention, prosecution, and incarceration.

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The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s Policies, Practices, and
Customs
102. The actions of Defendants Ritchey, Mooneyham, Starling,
Geisenburg, Fletcher, and Mickler as described herein were consistent
with the policies, practices, and customs of the Defendant City of
Jacksonville and Duval County.
103. The actions of Defendants Ritchey, Mooneyham, Starling,
Geisenburg, Fletcher, and Mickler described herein were undertaken
pursuant to the policies and practices of the City of Jacksonville, Duval
County, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, in that Jacksonville
Sheriff’s Office officers regularly used unconstitutional measures during
the relevant time periods to falsely implicate criminal suspects, including
by withholding or suppressing exculpatory evidence, fabricating
evidence, feeding information to or manipulating witnesses, and
engaging in unduly suggestive identification and lineup procedures.
These were widespread, clear, and persistent patterns and practices of
officers in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the years around, prior to,
and leading up to Plaintiff’s 1976 conviction.
104. At all times relevant herein, the City of Jacksonville, Duval
County, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had no policies or
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inadequate policies, procedures, rules, or regulations relating to police
officers’ obligations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), to
disclose exculpatory or impeachment evidence, or any such policies were
woefully inadequate. The City of Jacksonville, Duval County and the
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office deliberately chose not to adopt any or
adequate policies on officers’ obligations to disclose exculpatory and
impeachment evidence under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963),
even though the need for such policies was obvious and the likelihood of
recurring violations clear.
105. At all times relevant herein, the City of Jacksonville, Duval
County, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had no policies or
inadequate policies, procedures, rules, or regulations regarding the
conduct of lineups, or the writing of police reports. The City of
Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office deliberately chose not
to adopt any or adequate policies regarding the conduct of lineups, and
the writing of police reports even though the need for such policies was
obvious and the likelihood of recurring violations clear.
106. The failure to maintain adequate policies on these topics
posed an obvious risk of violation of the constitutional rights of Mr.

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Williams and other criminal defendants. This failure to maintain
adequate policies therefore constituted deliberate indifference on the
part of the City of Jacksonville and Duval County.
107. At all times relevant herein and for a period of time prior
thereto, the City of Jacksonville and Duval County had notice of a
widespread practice by their officers under which individuals suspected
of criminal activity, such as Mr. Wiliams, were routinely deprived of
exculpatory evidence, were subjected to criminal proceedings based on
false evidence, and/or were deprived of their liberty without probable
cause, such that individuals were routinely implicated in crimes to which
they had no connection and for which there was scant evidence to suggest
that they were involved.
108. Upon information and belief, the final policymakers for the
City of Jacksonville, Duval County, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
were on notice before 1975-76 that their policies were inadequate and
outdated, likely to lead to constitutional violations by police officers, and
needed to be revised to ensure that officers complied with the law.
109. The widespread practices were so well-settled as to constitute
de facto policy in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and they were allowed

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to exist because municipal policymakers with authority over the same
exhibited deliberate indifference to the problems, thereby effectively
ratifying them.
110. In addition, at all times relevant herein, the City of
Jacksonville, Duval County, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office did not
provide any or adequate training or supervision to Jacksonville Sheriff’s
Office police officers with respect to their obligation to disclose
exculpatory and impeachment evidence, the conduct of lineups or
identification procedures, or writing of police reports and notes on
witness statements.
111. The importance of and need for training was known to final
policymakers of the City of Jacksonville and Duval County in and prior
to 1975.
112. Upon information and belief, at all times relevant herein,
final policymakers knew of these problems, allowed them to continue,
and made decisions not to implement adequate training or supervision.
113. The constitutional violations complained of by Plaintiff were
a highly predictable consequence of a failure to equip the Jacksonville
Sheriff’s Office police officers with the specific tools—including policies,

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training, and supervision—to handle the recurring situations of how to
handle, preserve, and disclose exculpatory or impeachment evidence,
how to conduct lineups, and how to write police reports or notes of witness
statements. The City of Jacksonville and Duval County made a conscious
choice not to properly train, supervise, or discipline its officers or provide
adequate policies on these issues.
114. The City of Jacksonville, Duval County, and the Jacksonville
Sheriff’s Office decided not to implement any legitimate mechanism for
oversight or punishment of officers who violated their Brady obligations
or citizens’ constitutional rights, or who fabricated evidence or
manipulated witnesses or created unduly suggestive lineups, thereby
leading officers to believe that they could violate citizens’ constitutional
rights with impunity.
115. The policies and practices of the City of Jacksonville, Duval
County, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office were the moving force
behind the violation of Mr. Williams’s rights. The widespread practices
were allowed to flourish because the leaders, supervisors, and
policymakers of the City of Jacksonville and Duval County directly
encouraged and were thereby the moving force behind the very type of

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actions at issue by failing to adequately train, supervise, and discipline
their officers who withheld exculpatory evidence, fabricated false
evidence and witness testimony, and pursued wrongful prosecutions and
convictions.
116. Final policymakers for the City of Jacksonville and Duval
County on matters relating to the respective police departments knew,
among other things, that there was a need to train and supervise police
officers and that the their existing policies were outdated and needed to
be updated to include policies on how to handle, preserve, and disclose
exculpatory and impeachment evidence, how to conduct lineups or other
identification procedures, and how to write police reports or notes of
witness statements.
117. The deficient policies and practices described herein caused
other

criminal

defendants

to

be

wrongfully

convicted,

putting

policymakers on notice of the problem.
118. The City of Jacksonville and Duval County are liable because
the violation of Plaintiff’s rights as described in this Complaint were
caused by the policies, practices, customs, and/or actions of final
policymakers for these Defendant City of Jacksonville and Duval County.

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Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 29 of 40 PageID 29

119. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ actions,
Plaintiff’s constitutional rights were violated and he suffered injuries and
damages, including loss of liberty, physical sickness and injury,
emotional pain and suffering, and other grievous and continuing injuries
as set forth herein.
Count 1 1
42 U.S.C. § 1983 – Due Process
(Fourteenth Amendment)
120. Plaintiff incorporates each paragraph of this Complaint as if
fully restated herein.
121. As set forth in the paragraphs above, Defendants Ritchey,
Mooneyham, Starling, Geisenburg, Fletcher, and Mickler, while acting
individually, jointly, and in conspiracy with one another, as well as under
color of law and within the scope of their employment, deprived Mr.
Williams of his constitutional right to due process and his right to a fair
trial.
122. In the manner described more fully above, the Defendants
fabricated evidence, including a false identification obtained through

Plaintiff served his notice of claim on April 16, 2024 regarding the state-law claims
against the Defendants. Once those state law claims are ripe, Plaintiff intends to seek
leave to amend the Complaint to add them.

1

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Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 30 of 40 PageID 30

hypnosis and other evidence falsely implicating Mr. Williams in the
crime, obtained charges against Mr. Williams, secured his conviction
using that false evidence, and failed to correct fabricated evidence they
knew to be false when it was used against Mr. Williams during his
criminal case.
123. The Defendants also deliberately withheld exculpatory
evidence from prosecutors, Mr. Williams, and Mr. Williams’s criminal
defense attorneys, including: evidence relating to the Defendants’
fabrication of Mr. Phillips manipulated identification; an audio recording
of the hypnosis; and the fact that Defendants falsified police reports,
thereby misleading and misdirecting the criminal prosecution of Mr.
Williams.
124. Upon information and belief, Defendants also destroyed key
exculpatory and impeachment evidence in the form of an audio recording
of Defendant Mickler’s hypnosis session with Phillips.
125. In addition, based upon information and belief, the
Defendants concealed, fabricated, and destroyed additional evidence that
is not yet known to Mr. Williams.

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Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 31 of 40 PageID 31

126. The Defendants’ misconduct described in this count resulted
in the unjust and wrongful criminal prosecution and conviction of Mr.
Williams and the deprivation of his liberty, thereby denying his
constitutional right to a fair trial guaranteed by the Fourteenth
Amendment. Absent this misconduct, the prosecution of Mr. Willaims
could not have, and would not have, been pursued.
127. The misconduct described in this Count was objectively
unreasonable and was undertaken intentionally, with malice, with
reckless indifference to the rights of others, and/or in total disregard of
the truth and of Mr. Williams’s innocence.
128. As a result of Defendants’ misconduct described in this count,
Mr. Williams suffered loss of liberty, great mental anguish, humiliation,
degradation, physical and emotional pain and suffering, forced and
involuntary prison labor, and other grievous and continuing injuries and
damages as set forth above in the above paragraphs.
129. The misconduct described in this count was undertaken
pursuant to the policies and practices of the City of Jacksonville and
Duval County in the manner more fully described below in Count 5.

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Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 32 of 40 PageID 32

Count 2
42 U.S.C. § 1983 – Illegal Detention and Prosecution
(Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments)
130. Plaintiff incorporates each paragraph of this Complaint as if
fully restated herein.
131. As set forth in the above paragraphs, Defendants Ritchey,
Mooneyham, Starling, Geisenburg, Fletcher, and Mickler, individually,
jointly, and in conspiracy with one another, as well as under color of law
and within the scope of their employment, accused Mr. Williams of
criminal activity and exerted influence to initiate, continue, and
perpetuate judicial proceedings against Mr. Williams without any
probable cause for doing so and in spite of the fact that they knew Mr.
Williams was innocent, in violation of his rights secured by the Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendments.
132. In so doing, the Defendants caused Mr. Williams to be
deprived of his liberty without probable cause, detained without probable
cause, and subjected improperly to judicial proceedings for which there
was no probable cause. These judicial proceedings were instituted and
continued maliciously, resulting in injury.

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Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 33 of 40 PageID 33

133. The misconduct described in this Count was objectively
unreasonable and was undertaken intentionally, with malice, with
reckless indifference to the rights of others, and/or in total disregard of
the truth and of Mr. Williams’s innocence.
134. As a result of Defendants’ misconduct described in this count,
Mr. Williams suffered loss of liberty, great mental anguish, humiliation,
degradation, physical and emotional pain and suffering, forced and
involuntary prison labor, and other grievous and continuing injuries and
damages as set forth in the above paragraphs.
135. The misconduct described in this count was undertaken
pursuant to the policies and practices of the City of Jacksonville and
Duval County in the manner more fully described below in Count 5.
Count 3
42 U.S.C. § 1983 – Failure to Intervene
136. Plaintiff incorporates each paragraph of this Complaint as if
fully restated herein.
137. As set forth in the above paragraphs, Defendants Ritchey,
Mooneyham, Starling, Geisenburg, Fletcher, and Mickler, during the
constitutional violations described in this Complaint, stood by without

33

Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 34 of 40 PageID 34

intervening to prevent the violation of Mr. Williams’s constitutional
rights, even though they had the duty and the opportunity to do so.
138. The misconduct described in this Count was objectively
unreasonable and was undertaken intentionally, with malice, with
reckless indifference to the rights of others, and/or in total disregard of
the truth and of Mr. Williams’s innocence.
139. As a result of Defendants’ failure to intervene to prevent the
violations of Mr. Williams’s constitutional rights, Mr. Williams suffered
loss of liberty, great mental anguish, humiliation, degradation, physical
and emotional pain and suffering, forced and involuntary prison labor,
and other grievous and continuing injuries and damages as set forth the
above paragraphs.
140. The misconduct described in this count was undertaken
pursuant to the policies and practices of the City of Jacksonville County
and Duval County, in the manner more fully described below in Count 5.

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Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 35 of 40 PageID 35

Count 4
42 U.S.C. § 1983 – Conspiracy to Deprive Constitutional Rights
141. Plaintiff incorporates each paragraph of this Complaint as if
fully restated herein.
142. As set forth in the above paragraphs, Defendants Ritchey,
Mooneyham, Starling, Geisenburg, Fletcher, and Mickler, acting in
concert with other co-conspirators, known and unknown, reached an
agreement among themselves to frame Mr. Williams for the attempted
murders of Farah and Phillips, regardless of Mr. Williams’s guilt or
innocence, and thereby to deprive him of his constitutional rights.
143. In so doing, the Defendants and their co-conspirators agreed
to accomplish an unlawful purpose and/or a lawful purpose by unlawful
means.
144. In addition, these co-conspirators agreed among themselves
to protect one another from liability for depriving Mr. Williams of his
rights.
145. In furtherance of their conspiracy, each of these coconspirators

committed

overt

acts

participants in joint activity.

35

and

were

otherwise

willful

Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 36 of 40 PageID 36

146. As a result of the Defendants’ agreement, Mr. Williams
suffered loss of liberty, great mental anguish, humiliation, degradation,
physical and emotional pain and suffering, forced and involuntary prison
labor, and other grievous and continuing injuries and damages as set
forth in the above paragraphs.
147. The misconduct described in this Count was objectively
unreasonable and was undertaken intentionally, with malice, with
reckless indifference to the rights of others, and/or in total disregard of
the truth and of Mr. Williams’s innocence.
148. The misconduct described in this count was undertaken
pursuant to the policies and practices of the City of Jacksonville and
Duval County in the manner more fully described below in Count 5.
Count 5
42 U.S.C. § 1983 – Policy & Custom Claims Against the City of
Jacksonville
149. Plaintiff incorporates each paragraph of this Complaint as if
fully restated herein.
150. As described above, the Defendants City of Jacksonville and
Duval County are liable for the violation of Mr. Williams’s constitutional
rights by virtue of its official policies.

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Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 37 of 40 PageID 37

151. Mr. Williams’s injuries were caused by the express or official
policies, absence of necessary express policies, and widespread practices
and customs of the City of Jacksonville and Duval County, as well as by
the actions of policymaking officials for the City of Jacksonville and
Duval County.
152. At all times relevant to the events described in this Complaint
and for a period of time prior and subsequent thereto, the City of
Jacksonville and Duval County failed to promulgate any or adequate
rules, regulations, policies or procedures on: the handling, preservation,
and disclosure of exculpatory evidence; the writing of police reports and
notes of witness statements; the conduct of lineups and identification
procedures; and meaningful discipline of officers accused of such
unlawful conduct.
153. In addition or in the alternative, the City of Jacksonville and
Duval County failed to train, supervise, or discipline officers of their
respective police departments, on the above topics. The City of
Jacksonville and Duval County chose not to implement any or adequate
policies and training in these areas even though the need for such policies
and training was obvious, and the failure to do so would lead to violations

37

Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 38 of 40 PageID 38

of constitutional rights. The decision not to implement any or adequate
policies or training in these areas also contributed to the widespread
practices described in this Complaint.
154. The failure to promulgate proper or adequate rules,
regulations, policies, procedures and training was committed by final
policymakers or those delegated final policymaking authority.
155. At all times relevant herein, final policymakers for the City of
Jacksonville and Duval County knew of these problems and allowed them
to continue, and made decisions not to implement adequate policies,
training, supervision, or discipline.
156. The constitutional violations complained of by Mr. Williams
were a highly predictable consequence of a failure to equip Jacksonville
Sheriff’s Office officers with the specific tools—including policies,
training, and supervision—to handle the recurring situations of how to
handle, preserve, and disclose exculpatory evidence; how to conduct
proper identification procedures, including lineups; and how to write
police reports and notes of witness statements.
157. The policies, practices, and customs set forth above were
maintained and implemented with deliberate indifference. They were the

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Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 39 of 40 PageID 39

moving force behind the constitutional violations described above and
directly and proximately caused Mr. Williams to suffer the grievous and
permanent injuries and damages set forth above.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff WILLIE WILLIAMS respectfully requests
that this Court enter a judgment in his favor and against Defendants
City of Jacksonville, Duval County, Ritchey, Mooneyham, Starling,
Geisenburg, Fletcher, and Mickler; awarding compensatory damages,
attorneys’ fees, and costs against each Defendant; awarding punitive
damages against each of the individual Defendants; and any other relief
that this Court deems just and appropriate.
Demand for a Jury Trial
Plaintiff WILLIE WILLIAMS hereby demands a trial by jury
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 38(b) on all issues so triable.

Respectfully submitted,

Willie Williams
By:/s/ Joshua Martin
One of Williams’s Attorneys

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Case 3:24-cv-00367 Document 1 Filed 04/17/24 Page 40 of 40 PageID 40

Jon Loevy (Pro Hac Vice Pending)
Lauren Carbajal CA #336485 (Pro
Hac Vice Pending)
LOEVY & LOEVY
311 N. Aberdeen St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Telephone: (312) 243-5900
jon@loevy.com
carbajal@loevy.com
Attorneys for Plaintiff

Joshua Martin, Fl. #1040927
EJ Hurst, NC #39261 (Pro Hac Vice
Pending)
Human Rights Defense Center
P.O. Box 1151
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Telephone: (802) 233-2545
jmartin@humanrightsdefensecenter.org
Attorneys for Plaintiff

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