Lawsuit: Sagging Pants Mall Expulsion Led to Arrest; Cop Punched Sagger's Mother in Face

A Haitian-American family is suing the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office over a fight between family members and cops that resulted from a pair of sagging pants.

Frantz Leger, then 20, had previously been banned from the Wellington Green Mall because his pants were hanging too low. When he returned to the mall in December 2007, security guards and an on-site deputy identified him and arrested him for trespassing.

While deputies were escorting Frantz Leger into a patrol car, a number of his family members arrived on the scene and began to protest loudly. During the resulting struggle, Leger's father was arrested and his mother was punched in the face with a closed fist by a deputy. Arrests included Frantz Leger as well as his father, sister, mother, and cousin. The Palm Beach Post reports the presence of "about 20 deputies, two canine units and a helicopter." All charges were later dropped by the courts.

The suit claims two counts of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and a violation of equal-protection laws against three deputies and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. It also claims numerous false statements in police reports, including a report that one officer was "stabbed." Here's an excerpt of a report from Deputy Sheriff Laurence Poston, the first named defendant:

While searching the interior of [Frantz Leger's] car I saw another vehicle pull up and come to an abrupt stop near D/S Cordero's patrol car, 3 black females and 1 black male exited the vehicle and in a loud and excited manner approached D/S Cordero and D/S Gray... The older black male later identified as the father of Frantz Leger was extremely agitated and visibly upset...

At certain times the other member of the group were physically restraining the father of the arrestee as he appeared to want to fight. The father continued to yell obcenities at us and then accused us of being racist. The father made the statement several times that he would "fuck us up" as the other subjects attempted to hold him back. I interpreted these words as fighting words and as a threat to do harm to either myself or the other deputies on scene...
The mother of the arrestee... was yelling that we were only doing this because we were black. She continuously slapped her hand raised above her head screaming, "We're black, we're black" over and over again. I continued to instruct the subjects to leave the mall property which they ignored.

Rafael Ugalde, another deputy named in the suit:

The adult female, later identified as Marthe Leger, struck me with both hands in the chest area... and I stumbled backwards. At that time I felt it necessary, in order to prevent Marthe's continued aggressive actions towards me, I felt it necessary to strike Marthe in the facial area w/a closed fist to the left side of her face. I then grabbed her in a headlock and escorted her to the ground. Marthe continued to violently resist and struggle by flailing her arms and legs, kicking me in the process. Several other deputies had to assist me in restraining Marthe due to her violent outburst.

The suit's response: "Although neither Marthe Leger nor [the cousin, who is underage] did anything to any deputy, defendant, Ugalde, punched Marthe Leger in the face."

The family's lawyer, Allison J. Davis, has not responded to the Juice's request for comment. Leger was arrested for trespassing at the mall again in January of this year.

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph