August 1, 2017
ArchCity Defenders filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Ferguson alleging Constitutional violations of the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments on behalf of Fred Watson, a Navy veteran and father. Mr. Watson, whose story was highlighted in the Department of Justice’s 2015 investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, was cooling down after a pickup basketball game when defendant Eddie Boyd III, a Ferguson police officer with a history of misconduct, harassed and unlawfully arrested him. Since then, the City of Ferguson charged Mr. Watson without probable cause, mishandled his case, and entered guilty pleas without his authorization. Mr. Watson lost his job and housing as a result of the City of Ferguson’s decision to pursue this case.
“Fred Watson’s story highlights the rampant injustice in our criminal legal system and the limitations of reform. For five years, the City of Ferguson has pursued baseless charges against him. It did so knowing that the police officer who arrested him has a long record of police misconduct. It pursued these charges even after the entire nation focused its attention on the systemic civil rights violations in Ferguson’s police department and municipal court. Despite having replaced the municipal judge, police chief, city manager, and prosecuting attorney, the City of Ferguson continues its relentless attack on Mr. Watson to this day. Mr. Watson does not need promises of change; he needs to be made whole,” said Blake Strode, Skadden Fellow and Civil Rights attorney for ArchCity Defenders.
“The last five years have been pure hell. This situation not only has had me question my life, but my faith and my being. There have been no signs of justice. I haven’t seen anybody owning up to wrongdoing. The fight is still about protecting the City, not about providing justice to its citizens. In my opinion, there’s been no legal ramification for those responsible for this,” said Fred Watson, Plaintiff, and Client of ArchCity Defenders.
“We know it takes more than the Department of Justice to bring transformational change to St. Louis. We have to be vigilant because neither the efforts of the DOJ nor the focus of the national media has given Mr. Watson a sense of justice, or countless others like him,” said Thomas Harvey, Co-Founder and Executive Director of ArchCity Defenders.
Since 2009, ArchCity Defenders has represented thousands of clients in the St. Louis region and filed systemic litigation in state and federal court on behalf of those whose civil rights have been violated. In 2014, ArchCity Defenders published a study showing the racist and predatory scheme by which courts, jails, and police generated millions of dollars through issuing tickets, collecting excessive court fines and fees, and holding people in debtors’ prisons in open violation of the Constitution and the fundamental principles of American law.
Z. Gorley, Communications Director at ArchCity Defenders