FORT WAYNE – While Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries has admitted the jails old weekend arrest system violated inmates constitutional rights, a federal case arising from the issue appears to be headed for trial.
Filed in February 2010 by LeTasha Myatt, the class-action case alleges Fries violated her Fourth Amendment rights when she was arrested in September 2009. She alleged Fries policies violated the rights of all those arrested without warrants on the weekends and held more than 48 hours without having a judge review the cases.
The 48-hour time limit was set by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991.
Weeks after the case was filed, Fries and Allen County Superior Court changed the jails policies, bringing in criminal division judges and magistrates, as well as Circuit Court Judge Tom Felts, on a rotating schedule of Saturdays to review cases brought in on Friday nights.
In court documents filed in the case, Fries admitted the jails earlier policies violated inmates Fourth Amendment rights guarding against unreasonable searches and seizures. He also admitted the change in policy was in direct response to the lawsuit filed by Myatt.
By January 2011, both sides were ironing out how much the violations would cost the county as they determined who made up the lawsuits class of plaintiffs – which was anyone arrested without a warrant between Feb. 29, 2008, and March 20, 2010, as well as anyone caught up in court holidays during that period.
The Allen County Sheriffs Department was to pay for notifying the class members, according to court records. The deadline for class members to submit claims was last September, according to court documents.
Depositions of some of the class members were scheduled for this spring, and a mediation session was scheduled between the two parties before mediator John W. Whiteleather in June.
But on June 26, Whiteleather filed a letter with the court saying that the two sides were so far apart, they were unable to reach a settlement.
Frankly, the difference between the ending position of the parties was quite significant, he wrote.
In a report to the court filed last week, Myatts attorneys wrote that both sides were so far apart, the case needs to be set for trial and will probably proceed in that direction, according to court documents.
Myatts attorneys argue that the class members are entitled not just to compensatory loss of wages-type damages but also to compensatory damages for loss of liberty, according to court documents.
Similar cases were filed by Myatts attorneys at the time against the LaGrange County Sheriffs Department and the Whitley County Sheriffs Department. Those lawsuits are still pending.