Former Deputy Says Sheriff Set Him Up to Thwart Bias Claim

(CN) – A former deputy sheriff in Raleigh County West Virginia claims in court his one-time employer routinely discriminated against him because he is black, wrongly fired him, and then set him up for arrest on a phony drug charge.

In a complaint filed in the Beckley, W. Va. federal court, Marquel Ali says his mistreatment began while he was still at police academy.

During his training, he says, his white superior officers made bets that he wouldn’t make it through the program.

Ali goes on to say that after he graduated and joined the force he was given used equipment that didn’t work while his white coworkers received brand new, working equipment.

According to the complaint, Ali was regularly subjected to abusive and racially hostile language from his fellow officers and even defendant Sheriff Steven Tanner.

Among other things, Ali says, he was repeatedly referred to as a “boy,” “thug,” and “stupid ass boy.”

Ali says that after he once mentioned in passing that he wanted to be an FBI agent, Sheriff Tanner told him, “Boy, if I ever hear you talking about the FBI, I’ll fire your ass.”

Ali says the situation took a turn for the worse following an arrest he made with a white coworker. The person taken into custody made allegations against the two officers who arrested him.

The complaint doesn’t elaborate, but Ali says he was interrogated about the arrest while his white partner was not. He says he was fired the next day.

Ali filed an appeal with the Civil Service Commission and he says he told Sheriff Tanner he intended to press discrimination charges against him.

Weeks later, he says, a cousin who was out on parole called and asked him for a ride. He says when he arrived at his cousin’s home he noticed several unmarked police cars gathered at the bottom of the tree-lined hill.

He picked his cousin up, drove him to his destination and then decided to stop at a Burger King. While waiting in the drive-thru lane, the complaint says, the unmarked police cars he’d seen earlier barricaded him in.

Ali says he knew many if not all of the officers, and they knew he carried a gun. He says one of the officers approached his car with gun drawn and asked him if his personal firearm was in the car.

Ali said it wasn’t.

At that point, he says, the officer said, “Marquel, if you move I’ll blow your head off!”

He says he was then forced to the ground at gunpoint and handcuffed while the other officers searched his car. Ali claims that during the search he saw another officer go to the back of his car with a large manila package.

Minutes later, the officers claims to have found drugs in Ali’s car and placed him under arrest.

Ali says he responded, This is a set up, man!”

Ali was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and conspiracy to commit a felony.

The officers claimed they stopped Ali because they were searching for his cousin, who was on parole and wearing an ankle monitor that the officers said had stopped working.

Ali says during his trial a magistrate trial prevented him from presenting key evidence that he says would have cleared him of any wrong-doing.

Eventually, all  the criminal charges against him were dropped.

Ali seeks compensatory, actual and punitive damages. He is represented by Hoyt Glazer of Huntington, W.Va.

A representative of the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department declined to comment.

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