CINCINNATI (AP) — A lawsuit against police and government bodies in a flawed northern Ohio drug sting was rejected by a federal appeals panel Wednesday.
The three 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges upheld a lower court's ruling that the six people who sued didn't sufficiently show that their constitutional rights were violated. One judge, however, wrote a separate opinion critical of plea bargaining in the botched case.
The lawsuit came after the federal government dropped cases from the 2005 Mansfield drug investigation that used a corrupt paid informant who said he helped frame suspects. The 2008 lawsuit charged false arrest, malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence and other rights violations.
Wednesday's ruling said that while the plaintiffs showed "substantial evidence" of general wrongdoing in the case, they didn't prove their individual constitutional rights were violated.
"Simply put, to establish liability and to overcome a qualified immunity defense, an individual must show that his or her own rights were violated, and that the violation was committed personally by the defendant," Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote.
A message was left Wednesday for their attorney, Debra Loevey-Reyes of Chicago.
Among seven investigators sued was Lee Lucas, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent acquitted by a Cleveland jury in 2010 of charges he framed 17 people. The plaintiffs also sued Richland County, the city of Cleveland, and the United States.
The federal drug informant, Jerrell Bray, died in prison in 2012.
One of the appeals judges agreed with dismissing the lawsuit, but wrote in his concurring opinion that the botched drug case was an example of how suspects are often encouraged to plead guilty to avoid tough sentences that would be faced if they lost at trial.
"That the government itself was forced to vacate plaintiffs' guilty pleas after the extent of law enforcement's impropriety was revealed not only undercuts any claim that plaintiffs have somehow enjoyed an unfair advantage during the course of these proceedings, but also highlights the fallacy that guilty pleas are only entered by guilty people," Judge Damon J. Keith wrote.