Criminal Justice

Lawyer's suit claims raid was retaliation for successful defense; city sees allegations as baseless

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The city of Roanoke, Virginia, is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a lawyer who claims that police raided her home in retaliation for successfully defending her stepson on murder charges.

The motion to dismiss, filed July 21 in Roanoke federal court, said the suit filed by lawyer Cathy Reynolds has multiple baseless allegations regarding the September 2019 raid, the Roanoke Times reports.

Police said they obtained a warrant for the raid based on information from a confidential informant who said a juvenile murder suspect in another case had been seen at the home.

In her April 19 suit, Reynolds said the search warrant was based on fabricated or uncorroborated information.

The youth was later arrested in a different location. Publications with prior coverage of Reynolds’ suit are the Roanoke Times, the Washington Post and Reason.

A SWAT team from the Roanoke City Police Department arrived at Reynolds’ home in an armored vehicle and used it to rip the screen door from the home, even though Reynolds had offered to let them enter, the suit said. The operation tore vinyl siding from the exterior of Reynolds’ newly remodeled home. Officers then opened another unlocked door to enter.

SWAT officers searched drawers, detached appliances from the walls of the home, flipped mattresses, tore clothes from closets, tore cushions off furniture and emptied open soda cans onto the floor, the suit said. The search caused thousands of dollars in damage.

Reynolds, who is Black, said police did not retaliate against two white lawyers involved in her stepson’s defense. She alleges that the raid was motivated by racial animus.

Her suit, filed under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, seeks damages for an unreasonable search, violation of her First Amendment right to advocate for acquittal, and violation of the right to equal protection.

The city’s brief in support of the motion to dismiss said SWAT officers were unaware that Reynolds had granted consent to officers on the scene while others secured a search warrant. The search was conducted to find “a small young man” who weighed only 110 pounds, the city said.

“This involves checking to see if drawers pull out to expose a recessed area where a small person could be hiding, as well as checking between mattresses, under cushions, and behind appliances, again, where a small motivated young man could hide,” the brief said.

The city’s brief said all claims related to the search should be tossed because permission was given to police. In any event, Reynolds did not present factual support for her claims that false statements were used to obtain a warrant or that the raid was motivated by retaliation and racial animus, the city said.

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