A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the City of Pembroke, Mayor Judy Peterson and former Police Chief Mark Reid, stemming from the arrest of a special needs man in July 2017.
According to court documents filed Jan. 28, U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell in Paducah granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss all complaints of conspiracy, assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest and outrage filed by plaintiff Leonia Sanders on behalf of her adult son, Ronald Sanders.
According to the lawsuit, Leonia Sanders claimed that the city along with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Pennyroyal Mental Health Center “betrayed her and Ronald, and with the help of county and municipal law enforcement, conspired to kidnap her son by making him a ward of the state.”
The motion to dismiss was granted due to the lack of “enough factual matter to raise a plausible inference of wrongdoing,” the court document states.
According to New Era archives, Ronald Sanders was arrested July 26, 2017, on charges of public intoxication while visiting a friend at home in Pembroke. Sheriff’s deputies told the homeowner they had received a call of a man trespassing at Bluegrass Apartments.
On a copy of the 9-1-1 call, the chief identifies himself as “Reid” then tells dispatch he received a call about a black male wandering around the apartments with a boom box on his shoulder and a brown paper bag.
“He usually doesn’t cause much trouble,” the chief said on the call. “He just sings and wanders around, but she said he’s been drinking today.”
Reid then identified Ronald Sanders and said they would probably find him wandering in the area. Deputies found him at his friend’s house.
He was arrested, held overnight in jail and released to his mother the next day.
Leonia Sanders said his arrest was unlawful and filed a complaint against the Christian County Sheriff’s Office. She also talked to the mayor about the incident.
That October, Ronald Sanders was charged with third-degree criminal trespassing after he was allegedly seen trespassing at a woman’s house in Pembroke. According to a memo in that court file, Reid, the complaining witness, stated Ronald was seen trespassing at a woman’s house on Rosetown Road.
Leonia Sanders said at the time that the woman had been picking Ronald up occasionally and bringing him to her home, until she asked her to stop.
“Chief Reid told her to stay off my property and told Ronald to stay off of her property,” Leonia told the New Era in 2018. “But you’re talking to someone with a 51 IQ, he doesn’t understand.”
Ronald Sanders was arrested a third time in February 2018 when Christian County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at Pennyroyal Mental Health to serve the mother and son a judge’s order to take Ronald Sanders to an institution in Madisonville because of a missed court date.
Video of the encounter showed that Ronald Sanders ran from deputies into traffic on Fort Campbell Boulevard and was arrested.
Leonia Sanders said the initial sobriety test of Ronald Sanders and all of his arrests were unlawful and that it was a conspiracy to get her son out of Pembroke. A team of civil rights activists protested on the family’s behalf during each court appearance, including a guardianship hearing to remove Ronald Sanders from her home.
After a series of court dates, all of the charges against Ronald Sanders were dropped and Leonia Sanders received guardianship of her son in May 2018; however, she filed a lawsuit against Pembroke, Reid, Peterson and 12 other mental health employees and attorneys, stating they all conspired to violate her son’s civil and constitutional rights.
The City of Pembroke, Peterson and Reid’s attorney immediately filed a motion dismiss.
The judge granted the dismissal of all complaints last month, including the complaint of outrage against Reid and Peterson.
In the motion, the judge stated that “plaintiffs fail to allege facts sufficiently extreme to support an outrage claim,” noting that “the Court concludes that Chief Reid’s conduct was not so outrageous” to go beyond all possible bounds of decency.
The court concluded the same for Mayor Peterson’s alleged statement to Leonia Sanders that Ronald Sanders “was a black kid with a boombox, dancing in the street, which made people in the community afraid,” the motion states.
It goes on the state that “while Mayor Peterson’s response may have been unkind, her conduct is not sufficiently extreme to sustain an outrage claim under Kentucky law.”
In Kentucky courts, “a claim for the tort of outrage requires the plaintiff to prove conduct which is so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”
Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or email@example.com.