A group of young people who say they experienced an injustice for simply being caught at a house party in a Georgia town, where police found less than an ounce of marijuana are using the legal system to fire back at officials they insist wronged them.
In the early hours of the morning on December 31, 2017, police took 70 people into custody after police responded to a report about gunshots in an area of Cartersville, about 43 miles from Atlanta. One of the arresting officers, Joshua Coker reported the smell of marijuana and entered the residence announcing that everyone there was being detained.
Two unregistered guns, marijuana and cocaine were reportedly at the residence, which later turned out to be false.
However, the warrant to search the house was issued at 4 a.m., two hours after the officers entered.
Still some were taken into custody, spending days in jail, some were strip searched and claim they were not even given a cot to sleep on, according to Atlanta station WAGA-TV (FOX 5).
Of the 70 people arrested, 50 were Black. They have come to call themselves the “Cartersville 70” and seven of them have filed suit against the city of Cartersville, the Cartersville Police Department, and individual officers over the incident — a total of 32 defendants.
“You can’t undo the arrest, you can’t undo the domino effect that’s bee happening,” said Nija Guider shortly after she was arrested. Guider says she was fired from her job over the arrest, and the suit says after she lost her job she and her daughter were forced to go to a homeless pantry for food, because she struggled finding employment.
Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini sent an email to The Appeal declining comment because of the litigation. Cartersville police officials have yet to comment on the issue.
However, Sun Choy, a lawyer representing the city told The Appeal: “I am comfortable in saying that we believe that any plaintiff will have to overcome some significant legal hurdles if he/she pursues a claim.”
All charges made against the “Cartersville 70” since the filing date have been dropped, but many in the group have claimed the accusations have cost them their livelihood, including jobs and scholarships after their mugshots were released to the media.
“For some folks who never had a criminal record, and this comes at them, it’s a nightmare,” Gerry Weber, the lead counsel with the Southern Center for Human Rights told FOX 5 Atlanta. “Their lives were turned upside down, they lost their jobs, military deferments, one was kicked off the basketball team.”
The plaintiffs are asking for financial restitution, for their records to be expunged, and their mug shots to be removed from jail records, along with policy changes with Cartersville Police.