Lawyers for eight people who say they were harmed by Brookside police filed an amended lawsuit in Alabama on Wednesday, arguing that the city, the towing company used to seize the vehicles and 23 current and former police officers conspired to take money and goods to drivers.
The complaint seeks to establish four categories of people who were arrested and “extorted” by the City of Brookside, Jett’s Towing Co. or the agents. He claims those involved violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Hobbs Act – which makes it illegal to obstruct interstate commerce by theft or extortion. The complaint seeks restitution of property and damages.
“The City of Brookside forced plaintiffs and plaintiff classes to abandon their property and pay illegal fines out of fear, intimidation and under the cover of official law by imposing fines not authorized by law, seizing property without the legal right to do so…and by threat of imprisonment unless unlawful fines are paid or property is unlawfully confiscated,” the lawsuit states. “It’s extortion.”
The 46-page complaint claims that each of the named officers, under former police chief Mike Jones, “knew they were violating the constitutional, statutory and common law rights of the classes pleaded here, and did so. to create more revenue for the Town of Brookside so that they can, in turn, enjoy the fruits of that revenue in the form of salary, benefits, equipment, and the receipt of benefits from the policing services described here.
Brookside, just north of Birmingham, is already facing at least 10 lawsuits over its policing.
Mayor Mike Bryan said Wednesday night there was no conspiracy
“The city has just been made aware of this amended lawsuit,” Bryan said. AL.com. “We will review the details of the allegations with the city’s legal counsel. However, an initial review of the complaint reveals that any conspiracy allegations are false and baseless and the City vehemently denies these allegations.
Jett’s Towing owner Wayne Jett could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Allan Armstrong, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, said Brookside violated basic American rights.
“Citizens of this state and those traveling through this state should have the ability to freely access our roads,” he said. “The complaint alleges numerous constitutional violations, and we believe citizens should be protected from the illegal actions of the City of Brookside.”
The complaint seeks to establish four distinct sub-categories:
- The people were arrested by Brookside police more than a mile and a half outside the city limits.
- Persons whose vehicle was towed and impounded by Jett’s Towing after a traffic stop.
- People who were arrested by Brookside Police and fined more than the state allows.
- People detained by Brookside officers beyond a traffic stop.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers want, among other things, that all fines and convictions be canceled and that the seized property be returned. They are seeking damages against individual police officers for “fines, forfeitures and wrongful arrests, including damages for mental distress”.
In attempting to establish a conspiracy, the complaint alleges that the City of Brookside, its court, and its officers exist “to wrest payment of unlawful fines from the people.”
“The City of Brookside participates in business through a racketeering business model,” he says.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, originally filed on behalf of Cory Thomas, are Thomas; Tinette Jackson; Keyarah Smith; Ben Blackwell; James Donahue; Gerald Smith; Brittany Todd; and Zachary Harris.
The prosecution also names 23 current and former officers as individual defendants.
AL.com in January reported how Brookside used fines and forfeitures to bring in nearly half of the city’s revenue in 2020, and how its police department grew exponentially under Chief Jones. At least eight officers, including Jones, have since resigned or been fired.
The city is facing multiple state investigations and has appealed for outside help to rebuild the department.
“In the meantime, we will continue to deliver on our promises to reform policing in Brookside,” Mayor Bryan said Wednesday. “Military-style vehicles have already been returned to the state, our police cars have been repainted, and the City is investing in new, easily identifiable uniforms for police officers.”
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