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Federal Jury Awards Michigan Woman $1,048,000 over Retaliatory Arrests

A Michigan woman who police arrested twice on charges of filing a false police report of rape was awarded just over $1 million after a federal jury found that the arrests were in retaliation for her criticism of the detective who investigated her rape complaint.

     Linda Sonte Everson, a 46-year-old 911 dispatcher, reported to the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department that she was raped by Battle Creek Police Officer Douglas Graham, her one-time boyfriend. Detective Guy Picketts took her statement and submitted his report to the prosecutor, who declined to file charges against Graham. After that, Everson openly criticized Picketts’ investigation, claiming that Picketts wasn’t thorough and falsified a key witness statement. Everson also complained to Picketts’ boss about the investigation.

     Sometime later, Picketts spoke with a former friend of Everson, who claimed that Everson told her the rape allegation was not true. An arrest warrant was requested and Everson was arrested at work. She was held in the maximum security section of the county jail and when the charges were dismissed, Everson was immediately rearrested. An independent prosecutor dropped the charges against Everson in 2008.

     Everson filed a civil rights complaint in federal court against the estate of Picketts, who by this time was deceased. She argued that her First Amendment right to report the rape and to question Picketts’ investigation was violated. She claimed that Picketts acted under the color of state law and such an arrest would deter other women from engaging in speech, such as reporting a rape.

     The defense contended that Picketts simply passed the information to the prosecutor, and closed the case when the prosecution refused to act on it. Then, based on information from a new witness, he again passed the information to the prosecutor who authorized a charge against Everson. The defense maintained that regardless, Picketts was entitled to qualified immunity as a police officer.

     The Grand Rapids jury returned a verdict in favor of Everson, awarding her $1,048,000, which included $300,000 in punitive damages, $300,000 in non-economic damages, $225,000 in future lost wages, and the remaining for counseling, lost wages and pension benefits and legal fees.

See: Everson v. Picketts, United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Grand Rapids Division, Case No. 1:08-cv-00859-RJJ (Aug. 21, 2012)

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Related legal case

Everson v. Picketts