Fight escalates over car confiscated from innocent man by county

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

It was about three years ago that Detroit resident Robert Reeves inadvertently got on the wrong side of law enforcement officials in Wayne County.

And a lawsuit has just now been filed seeking a court decision that would punish officials who have waged their campaign against him.

It got started, according to a report from the Institute for Justice, when Reeves, an auto mechanic and construction worker, in 2019 visited a job site where there were pieces of construction equipment that allegedly had been stolen from Home Depot.

He arrived in his 1991 Chevrolet Camaro, but police, disregarding his statements that he knew nothing about any thefts, and ignoring that there was no evidence against him, seized his car.

And they demanded a $900 “retribution” fee to get it back.

Facing no charges, he joined two other Detroiters in a lawsuit challenging Wayne County’s confiscation procedures.

Then, the IJ reported, “Within days of filing suit, Wayne County prosecutors slapped Robert with two bogus felony charges. With IJ’s help, Robert hired an attorney and fought back. Months later a judge dismissed the case, citing a lack of evidence. But that didn’t stop the county, which refiled the identical charges against Robert. Once again, he mounted a defense and won.”

That leads up the current civil rights lawsuit against the county, which IJ said is “to put an end to its campaign of harassment and intimidation.”

“The government cannot use bogus criminal charges to attempt to silence its critics,” explained IJ Attorney Kirby Thomas West.

“At the core of the First Amendment is the idea that Americans are free to criticize their government without fear of intimidation or retaliation. And yet, that’s precisely what Wayne County prosecutors have done in their no-holds-barred attempt to derail Robert’s lawsuit. In more than thirty years of work, the Institute for Justice has not seen such a brazenly unconstitutional litigation tactic. We’re confident that with this second lawsuit, the courts will not only end the retaliation, but also hold those responsible to account.”

The IJ reported that the charges against Reeves all along had been “bogus.”

They claimed, without evidence, that he participated in receiving and concealing stolen property.

Both times, the county attorney “asked the judge overseeing Robert’s class action to suspend his suit, arguing that he could not challenge the county in court so long as he was accused of felonies. None of these legal tactics were based on evidence: They were roadblocks designed to intimidate Robert into giving up his case,” the IJ said.

“Whether it is in a court of law or the court of public opinion, the First Amendment protects Americans’ right to criticize their government without fear of retaliation,” noted IJ Litigation Fellow Christian Lansinger. “When government officials abuse their powers to interfere with this right, they must be held accountable.”

The criminal charges repeatedly were dismissed, and now Reeves is pursuing an action intended to halt the county’s agenda.

“They’ve taken my car and tried to throw me in jail, but I’m still standing,” he said. “I’m not going to take the county’s threats sitting down. This isn’t about money or payback. This is about making sure the county can’t do this to anyone else.”

His newest claims charge that the county’s retaliation violate the state and federal constitutions.

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