NEW ORLEANS (CN) – A sheriff’s deputy stole a man’s computer in an illegal raid on his home, and though it turned up with a cache of other things the deputy had stolen, and the deputy was arrested and convicted, the homeowner claims in court that he never got his computer back.
Billy Ray Farmer III and his mother Diane Farmer sued the United States in Federal Court. The United States of America is the only defendant.
The Farmers claim that a group of “heavily armed persons” raided their home on June 24, 2009.
The gun-toting officers included Tangipahoa Parish Reserve Deputy Sheriff Marcus McMillian, St. John the Baptist Parish Deputy Sheriff Thomas Young Jr., at least one other Tangipahoa Parish deputy sheriff, a Louisiana State Police officer, a U.S. Secret Service agent, and a deputy United States Marshall, according to the complaint.
“They had no arrest warrant, no search warrant, no probable cause, and no consent to enter the home,” the complaint states.
“McMillian forced his way into the home and went into Billy’s bedroom where he had a laptop computer, and sat on the bed,” the complaint states. “When Mrs. Farmer opened the door to her room across the hall from Billy’s room, McMillian pointed a sawed-off 12 gauge shotgun at her, threatened to shoot her and her dog, and forced her into the living room. He took possession of Billy’s Toshiba laptop computer … and removed it from the home. No receipt for the computer was given. It was not turned in to the Tangipahoa Sheriff as evidence. It was not produced in the criminal proceeding. It has not been returned. Taking the computer at shotgun point violated LSA-R.S. 14:67, armed robbery. Pointing a shotgun at Diane Farmer and threatening to shoot her was a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:37, aggravated assault.
“A female officer, possibly a Secret Service officer, politely explained to Mrs. Farmer that the officers arrested Billy for texting messages to young girls.”
The complaint does not state how old Billy Ray Farmer III is. It says he was jailed for five days until his mother offered their home as collateral to get him out of jail.
The Farmers say charges against Billy were dropped.
They also say that “During April through August of 2009 St. John the Baptist Parish Deputy Sheriff Thomas H. Young Jr. offered and sold a computer belonging to the Sheriff of St. John the Baptist Parish to another St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Deputy.”
Then “on August 20, 2009, at the request of St. John the Baptist Parish deputies on authority of an arrest warrant, Young was detained by the U.S. Secret Service in their office in Metairie, and questioned about the stolen St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s computer. He was then turned over to St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s deputies, and booked into the St. John the Baptist Parish Jail,” the lawsuit states.
The Farmers say St. Tammany Parish deputies searched Young’s home and found several computers, including Billy Ray Farmer’s stolen Toshiba laptop.
Deputies also found a St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s evidence envelope containing $3,000 worth of gold and diamond jewelry, two 12-gauge shotguns, and ammunition for a 9.22 mm Makarov pistol, the complaint states.
The Farmers say the deputies subpoenaed eBay documents that showed Young had sold several other laptop computers on eBay.
Young was charged with felony theft and felony malfeasance and sentenced to two concurrent 3-year sentences, suspended, and he was placed on probation, according to the complaint. All the property seized from him was ordered returned, including Farmer’s computer, the Farmers say.
“Prior to the raid on the Farmers’ home on June 24, 2009, Deputy McMillian impersonated a 16-year-old female in instant message chats with Billy beginning March 26, 2009,” the complaint states. “The purpose was to incite or procure Billy to violate Louisiana Revised Statutes Title 14, Section 81.3, ‘Computer-aided solicitation of a minor,’ a felony.”
The complaint adds: “During the texting, McMillian asked if Billy was OK with her (McMillian’s) only being 16. Billy’s response was ‘Sure, when you turn 17.’ This demonstrated absence of intent to violate LSA-R.S. 81.3 may explain why no arrest warrant or search warrant was obtained by the Task Force.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
When Farmer was arrested, there was in effect a memorandum of understanding between the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff and the U.S. Secret Service, “providing for the payment of overtime and expenses for deputies ‘assigned to assist the U.S. Secret Service’s Louisiana Financial and Electronic Task Force in conducting official investigations,'” according to the complaint.
“(T)he United States Secret Service claims it has been given jurisdiction under Section 506 of the USA Patriot Act (‘United in Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism, P.L. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 (2001)’).” (Parentheses and underlining in original.)
Billy Ray Farmer seeks damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, battery, theft, malicious prosecution, defamation, permanent criminal record and impaired earning capacity. He wants $5.2 million. He also wants his computer back. His mother demands $1 million.
They are represented by Dennis Whalen of Baton Rouge.