Palm Beach News

Lawsuit: Riviera Beach Police Harassed and Humiliated Citizen Who Complained About Them

A civil lawsuit filed last week in Palm Beach County claims that since June 20, 2010, Riviera Beach police have been waging "a campaign of terror and harassment" against resident James Terry in violation of his liberty and property rights."

His attorney, Craig Lawson, says police have been harassing Terry "we think because he started filing citizen complaints after the initial complaint [in 2010], and it's been downhill from there."

He said that Terry had a prior conviction (in 2007, for cocaine-related charges) but that "they're police officers. They do whatever they want to do."

The lawsuit claims that:

-- In June 2010, cops "without reason or provocation" accosted the Terrys' friend Alvin Green on their property during a Sweet Sixteen party. When Shakena Green began to videotape them, one officer approached her in a "hostile, threatening manner." When James Terry stepped outside to see the commotion, he was arrested for resisting arrest without violence and police "attempted to humiliate Mr. Terry by saying that he could not control his wife." During the arrest, the disabled Mr. Terry [he has back problems, his attorney says] was thrown to the ground and had to go to the emergency room.

-- The parties then filed citizen complaints with the Riviera Beach Police Department. The charges against them were nolle prossed that August.

-- September 24, 2010, an Officer Rott saw Terry at a store, stopped him, "boasted" that nothing would ever come of his complaints, and threatened to arrest him.

-- October 14, 2010, Emily Hosuton was stopped after leaving the Terrys' house; she filed a complaint saying that officers told her they were stopping everyone who exited because the Terry house was a "dope house."

-- March 2011, Terry "almost intentionally struck" by a police cruiser while walking his dog. They briefly "seized" Mr. Terry and then spent that night shining spotlights into his home.

-- Also that month, police stopped Tammy Lick after she left the Terry home and charged her with loitering and prowling.

-- March 2011, cops took pictures of BBQ grills on Terry's property.

-- March 26, 2011, cops "ransacked" the Terrys' home after a confidential informant said he was sold drugs by someone named "JT." Police found a traffic citation in the yard and cocaine under a tank and used that to arrest Terry for trafficking in cocaine. Terry alleges they had the wrong home -- not the one listed on a search warrant. Charges were eventually nolle prossed.

-- An Officer Crus "seized, arrested, and threw Mr. Terry to the ground" while he was outside his parents' home. Crus turned off the in-car camera and prodded Terry with a stick.

Lawson notes that Terry was arrested in August -- on charges of selling oxycodone near a school, possession of cocaine and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon -- but suggests it's part of the cops' retaliation scheme: "Guess who was there leading the investigation of the search warrant? Officer Rock. He was yelling at Terry: 'What effect is this going to have on your lawsuit now?'"

The lawsuit claims false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and retaliation.

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