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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
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Cops Granted Immunity for Mistake in Meth Case

NASHVILLE (CN) - A federal judge tossed a man's claims against law enforcement for wrongfully indicting him on meth-making charges because their actions are protected by absolute immunity.

Jackie Cross, Jr. sued the city of Nashville, Davidson County, and law enforcement officials for a wrongful indictment stemming from a 2011 incident.

Cross bought Sudafed at a Nashville Wal-Mart on Feb. 13, 2011, the same day police arrested five men and a woman in the parking lot for purchasing pseudoephedrine to help them cook methamphetamine, the ruling says.

Sudafed is a cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine. Metro police mistook Cross for a "smurf," someone who buys pseudoephedrine inconspicuously for meth production, based on the time of his purchase. He bought Sudafed at the same time as alleged meth cook Teresa Kingsmill and five homeless men she paid to buy her pseudoephedrine.

"The proximity in time of the purchases coupled with statements made by Teresa Kingsmill that day, caused Detective [William] Loucks to believe that plaintiff was involved in the criminal enterprise," the ruling states. "As a result, Detective Loucks included plaintiff's name in the case summary he created to keep track of the suspects in the investigation."

Cross was indicted in November 2011, along with 38 others allegedly involved in cooking meth, but the criminal charges against him were dismissed after review by an assistant district attorney.

Cross says he was fired from his job with the Nashville public school system because of the indictment and he sued in 2012. A federal judge dismissed all of his claims against the metro government and a number of his other claims against all the defendants in 2013.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell dismissed a false light claim against Loucks and Sergeant Gene Donegan, and granted them summary judgment on all of Cross' remaining federal and state claims.

Cross' false arrest and false imprisonment claims don't hold up because he was only indicted and not detained without legal process, Campbell ruled.

Loucks has absolute immunity from malicious prosecution because he testified in front of a grand jury and evidence doesn't support malicious prosecution on Donegan's part, the judge found.

"Even assuming there was not probable cause to indict plaintiff, the evidence plaintiff has presented to the court, viewed in the light most favorable to him, does not demonstrate that defendant Donegan encouraged or otherwise directly participated in Officer Loucks' decision to include Jackie Cross as a suspect, was involved in any of the communications between Officer Loucks and ADA Homlar about the evidence against Mr. Cross, or participated in the decision to seek an indictment against Mr. Cross from the grand jury," Campbell wrote. "There is no evidence that he encouraged or directly participated in any misconduct."

The law enforcement officers would be protected under qualified immunity on each claim even if Cross proved that his rights were violated, Campbell ruled.

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