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Corrupt Cops Cost Him Five Years, Man Says

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Corrupt police officers sent an innocent man to prison for five years by lying about drugs, and he was freed only after the cops pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, the man claims in court.

Michael Holmes sued the St. Louis Police Board and former police Officers Bobby Lee Garrett and Shell Sharp, in Federal Court. Mayor Francis Slay is a defendant, as a member of the Police Board.

Holmes was convicted in June 2006 of possession of more than 50 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute. A federal jury sentenced him to 25 years in prison.

He spent five years and three months behind bars until U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson vacated his conviction, on Sept. 26, 2011.

Evidence indicated that Officers Garrett and Sharp lied during testimony, according to the complaint. Instead of retrying Holmes, prosecutors dismissed the charges.

"Sharp's testimony was false," the complaint states. "As in other, similar cases, Sharp manufactured testimony in order to frame plaintiff for possession of the crack cocaine. Plaintiff did not have or 'throw down' a brown bag on the stairs in front of the officers. He was never in possession of the weapons, drugs or other paraphernalia admitted into evidence."

Holmes claims Sharp was the subject of an internal police investigation over allegations that he routinely lied to obtain search warrants. He claims that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in 2009 that the St. Louis circuit attorney's office had dismissed 21 cases brought by Sharp in the preceding year.

"The allegations against Sharp included a history not only of lying about confidential informants and surveillance in sworn statements to obtain search affidavits, but also of perjured testimony in court," the complaint states. "Sharp retired in the midst of the investigation. The government has taken the position that it will not vouch for Officer Sharp's credibility or his testimony in cases preceding the corruption investigation."

Holmes claims Garrett was present when he was arrested on Dec. 9, 2003, but did not participate in the surveillance and search.

"Over objection, he testified at petitioner's trial regarding a 1995 state arrest and charge against Holmes for trafficking in cocaine base," the complaint states. "Garrett testified falsely regarding that arrest, including his claim that Mr. Holmes inexplicably admitted during questioning that he was a drug dealer. The court admitted Garrett's allegations at trial, to be considered on the issues of knowledge, intent and motivation."

Holmes claims Garrett was motivated by Holmes' internal affairs complaint against Garrett and other officers involved in that arrest.

Holmes claimed he was threatened and verbally abused and that Garrett and other officers planted drugs in his house. Holmes says he entered an Alford plea because of his innocence and subsequently completed his 2-year suspended sentence. Holmes claims the government incorrectly referred to this as a guilty plea and conviction for drug possession with intent to distribute.

"In late 2008, Bobby Garrett and others were federally indicted on charges of corruption related to their official duties," the complaint states. "He later pleaded guilty to six felonies, and 'admitted planting evidence, arresting an innocent man to cover up the theft of money and involvement in falsifying court documents, lab forms and police reports.'"

Holmes seeks compensatory and punitive damages for civil rights violations, failure to train and supervise, malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment, and abuse of process. He is represented by Richard Dowd.

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