SAN DIEGO (CN) - The San Diego police chief and sheriff violated a woman's privacy and civil rights by inviting three TV crews to accompany officers as they arrested her and searched her car and apartment, then threw her in jail for 5 days for alleged crimes against the elderly, though the cops had a photo all along that showed she "clearly" was not the woman they sought, Deidria Nicholson claims in Federal Court. The real suspect was already in jail, Nicholson says, and "the only similarity between the suspect and Deidria Nicholson was that they were both heavy-set black women."
Nicholson says the city and county cops staged the televised arrest after "an anonymous caller contacted the police and told them that the suspect looked like" her.
So in April 2010, police got a warrant to search her home and "brought camera crews from three different television stations to film the search," Nicholson says. Police allowed the camera crews into "a private area" of her apartment complex, to "film and broadcast" while police searched her car. Police then "rummaged through the entire house and took letters, bills and other financial documents," and her computer, Nicholson says.
Police and sheriff's officers were search a woman for "a series of frauds and thefts" against elderly people. Nicholson says the TV stations - which are not named as defendants - broadcast film of her arrest for days while she sat in jail.
All along, Nicholson says, police had a photo of a suspect who was "clearly" not her, and they found no evidence in their search to justify the arrest.
Police had been "investigating a series of frauds and thefts committed by a woman whose image was captured on video surveillance," according to the complaint. The "crimes were committed against the elderly" and attracted "significant media attention."
"The news of Ms. Nicholson's arrest aired for several days," accompanied by video footage of Nicholson being taking into custody. Because of the exposure, Nicholson says, she had to be placed in protective custody.
"The real criminal, Cassandra Henry, had been arrested in Claremont, California days earlier for these crimes," Nicholson says.
At her arraignment, Nicholson's family showed the prosecution the photo of the suspect - "who was clearly not Deidria Nicholson," the complaint states. Prosecutors then dropped the charges against Nicholson.
Nicholson says the police refused to return her computer for several months.
She sued the City of San Diego, its police department, San Diego County, its Sheriff Bill Kolender, and police trainer William Lansdowne.
She demands damages for civil rights violations, failure to properly train, failure to supervise and discipline, false imprisonment, emotional distress, media intrusion, negligence and violations of the Unruh Act.
She is represented by Eugene Iredale and Julia Yoo.
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