JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A jury has awarded a man who claims he was wrongfully arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office more than $370,000.
JSO said an investigation was "not warranted" after then-30-year-old Germaine Dubose complained about being stopped for illegal window tinting in July 2004, a stop he said resulted in two broken vertebrae and felony charges.
But a jury didn't agree, and now his attorneys are calling for more civilian oversight at JSO.
JSO has received 3,684 citizen complains from 2008 to 2013. The agency has found a violation of rules or regulations in about 5 percent, or 182, of those complaints.
Dubose said he hopes his experience will spark change.
His attorneys said attorneys representing the Sheriff's Office originally offered Dubose $500 to settle out of court.
A jury awarded him nearly 800 times as much.
It's something he and his attorneys are happy about, but he said it still doesn't make right what happened that day.
"He had his gun to my face," Dubose said of the officer. "I told him I had license, registration and insurance and I'll get out the car. He puts his gun in his holster and then tells me you're going to get the "F" out the car and it went from there."
Ten years later, Dubose can still vividly remember the day a JSO officer pulled him over as he drove this red Lincoln. The officers said his windows were tinted illegally, and Dubose was eventually charged with fleeing and eluding, and resisting arrest without violence.
Convinced he had done nothing wrong, he filed a complaint with JSO, which determined an investigation was "not warranted."
But Dubose decided to take the case to court.
"I just figured something had to be done about it," he said. "Basically, I was just suffering, so it wasn't something I could just let go like that."
"This is a case about prejudice," said attorney Thomas Fallis, who represented Dubose. "Not necessarily racism, I'm not saying that. But prejudiced in the sense of pre-judging."
Fallis represented Dubose, and last month a jury decided two JSO officers falsely arrested and battered Dubose. It awarded him $372,860.
"They understand that this verdict is important," Fallis said. "It's a precedent because not that many people, No. 1, sue them, as they should, and not that many people prevail as we did and to the extent that we did."
"It was a feeling of satisfaction, but it's not really a victory until there's some changes that are implemented," said Robert Slama, another of Dubose's attorneys.
Slama said the changes should ultimately lead to a civilian board to review complaints against JSO.
"Very often there's this attitude that policing should best be left to the police," Slama said. "Yet this is a community, and in the community we have to have input into the police just as the military, it's run by civilians."
Whether or not that citizen board is created, Dubose said it's still important to speak up.
"Don't let them just do you like that or what neighborhood you in or wherever you stay at," Dubose said. "Just don't let them stereotype. Always believe in what you believe in."
Sheriff John Rutherford issued a statement, saying in part, "The same people who do not trust the criminal justice and legal systems, which are bound by evidence, fact, and state law, will not trust a civilian review system. They are not bound by evidence, fact or state law. What citizen review boards do is politicize what should always be an evidence-based, fact finding, and legal process. I will not subject my officers to a less than legal process that does not rely on evidence, facts, or the law."
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