I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Motorhome Diaries Folks File Motion to Suppress, tort claim letter

The Motorhome Diaries folks have fired their next barrage against Jones County.  First, from an article in the Laurel, Mississippi Leader-Call that sums up the situation:

Pete Eyre, Adam Mueller and Jason Talley were traveling through Jones County on I-59 North on May 14 when they were stopped by Jones County deputies.

In Laurel Justice Court in September, deputy James Atkins testified that he pulled the group’s RV over because he could not read the temporary tag. He said the three were later arrested because they were disruptive and didn’t obey his commands when they were asked to show identification. The three were found guilty of their respective charges. Their bond payments were enough to cover the fines on their charges and no jail time was required.

According to a letter from Jackson-based attorney Michael Cory, the agencies are being sued “for the unlawful conduct of their law enforcement officers who were acting within the scope of their employment in reckless disregard of the safety and well-being of the claimants and the reckless destruction of their property. None of the claimants were at the time of the event described below engaged in criminal conduct.”

Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge, deputies James Atkins, Abraham McKenzie, Carrol Windham, State Trooper Chris Walker, Highway Patrol Director Michael Barthay, Public Safety Commissioner Stephen B. Simpson and Chancery Clerk Larry Ishee are all listed in the lawsuit.

The suit seeks more than $250,000 in general damages stemming from the arrest.

It also claims that on July 23, following the Jones County incident, Eyre and Talley were detained by the Canadian Border Service Agency when trying to enter the country through the Vermont border.

Cory states in the letter that the two were denied entry into Canada due to “false reporting of a ‘gun’ charge on Eyre’s record stemming from the Jones County events.

“The false information generated by the unlawful conduct of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Highway Patrol has resulted in a severe and unwarranted restriction upon the claimants’’ ability to travel internationally,” the letter states.

The case represents classic police abuse of bogus traffic stops and disorderly conduct charges– someone doing something legal continues behaving legally when a cop says “stop,” and suddenly legal behavior becomes a crime under the influence of the officers magic wand (or baton).   In prior posts, I’ve described the initial stop, posted a plea that someone sue Jones County along with noting that the sheriff explained the stop by saying the MotorhomeDiaries folks had were activists with an agenda (oh, no! They probably even think we should allow everyone to vote!), and posted an eyewitness account of their Justice Court experience.

Here’s their notice under the state tort claims act.  The act requires a pre-suit notice for claims against the state for state-law torts (like false arrest or the like) that describes the claims, damages, and witnesses.  This one does that, and in the process tells the story of the stop as thoroughly as anything I’ve seen.  There are lots of details, including some funny ones:  “Deputy Atkins now claims that he was concerned that Mueller’s video camera could have been a disguised firearm.”  Here’s Motorhome Diaries Suit Letter.

These folks’ lawyers have also filed a motion to suppress, arguing that any police testimony or evidence (and I’m not sure what the evidence against the motorhome folks would be– that one beer from the motorhome fridge?) was illegally obtained.  Here’s that motion.

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