Press Releases

August 9, 2016

ArchCity Defenders and Dowd & Dowd sue Ferguson and Stephanie Karr for $20 Million for Malicious Prosecution of Ferguson protesters

Despite a lack of evidence, falsified police reports, an unconstitutional “failure to comply” ordinance- Ferguson went to trial against and lost; four acquitted protesters are now suing for violation of their civil rights.


St. Louis, MO (August 9, 2016) — ArchCity Defenders filed a malicious prosecution federal class action lawsuit against the City of Ferguson, Stephanie Karr,  J. Patrick Chassaing, Tim Harris, Sean Gibbons and John Doe Defendants on behalf of four plaintiffs, who were unlawfully charged, arrested, detained and prosecuted without evidence, on the basis of an unconstitutional “failure to comply” municipal ordinance.


“In the wake of Michael Brown’s murder two years ago, people in St Louis and across the nation have protested against state violence and peacefully expressed their first amendment rights,” said Thomas Harvey, Executive Director of ArchCity Defenders. “However, in the City of Ferguson, unlawful and retaliatory practices, referenced in the DOJ’s report, highlight prosecuting attorney Ms. Karr, and assistant prosecuting attorney, Mr. Chassaing’s obvious violations of the U.S. Constitution.”


Two years ago, in the protests that ensued following Brown’s death, Jasmine Woods, Michael Powers, Keith Rose and Michael Lhotak were present at lawful, peaceful assemblies in Ferguson and were arrested, held in jail, and then charged with “failure to comply” with a police order –  a claim that was not supported by the evidence. Despite the unconstitutional ordinance, falsified reports, and the absence of proof, defendants Karr and Chassaing, private attorneys retained by the City of Ferguson, continued to prosecute the plaintiffs. To add insult to injury, in May 2016, Chassaing is quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as saying, “[t]hese cases were pursued in order to deter others participating in future protests…”.


Karr and Chassaing have cost taxpayers over $120,000 since August 2014. In March 2015, the DOJ’s report on Ferguson exposed and established Karr and Chassaing’s practices as retaliatory and abusive.  Additionally,  Karr comes from a tangled web of conflicting interests for her roles as Ferguson Prosecutor, private attorney and Ferguson City Attorney.  


“It is really beyond belief that the City of Ferguson, and its lawyers, pursued these ‘failure to comply’ cases even after the Department of Justice told the whole world that what they were during was unconstitutional. We are going to hold them accountable for depriving our clients of their constitutional rights,” remarks Doug Dowd, of renowned St Louis law firm, Dowd & Dowd.


Two years from the anniversary of Mike Brown’s murder, many are asking, “what has changed”? In Ferguson and in the St. Louis region, ArchCity Defenders continues to see and represent individuals whose civil rights have been violated. This lawsuit seeks to hold accountable those responsible for such abuses.


In April of 2016, Woods, Rose, Powers and Lhotak were tried and the next month, were acquitted by a St Louis County court on charges of failure to comply. Plaintiffs in this case seek declaratory, injunctive and compensatory relief totaling $20 million in pursuit of their First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights being violated.


In the past two years, ArchCity Defenders has represented hundreds of individual clients through holistic legal representation as well as brought impact litigation against the City of St. Ann, Velda City, Ferguson and Jennings for persistent and egregious violations of residents’ civil rights.


ArchCity Defenders is non-profit civil rights law firm providing holistic legal advocacy and combating the criminalization of poverty and state violence against poor people and people of color.  

Media Contact: Rebecca L. Gorley

Phone: (855) 724-2489 ext. 1025