Federal court denies motion to dismiss Albany false arrest case

The U.S. District Court rejects arguments that a civil rights case should be dismissed before trial

Richard Hayes is contending he was falsely arrested and imprisoned by an Albany police investigator in a shooting case in which he was not involved. (Special photo)

Richard Hayes is contending he was falsely arrested and imprisoned by an Albany police investigator in a shooting case in which he was not involved. (Special photo)

ALBANY — A federal court judge has denied summary judgment which would grant qualified immunity to Charles Flowers, criminal investigator of the Albany Police Department, in a civil rights complaint.

On Jan. 11, 2013, Richard Hayes first filed the complaint against Flowers in Dougherty County State Court, alleging arrest without probable cause, false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. On Feb. 18, 2013, the case was moved from State Court to U.S. District Court after Flowers asserted that the matter fell under the U.S. Court’s federal question jurisdiction and supplemental jurisdiction, court documents state.

According to the documents, Flowers does not dispute Hayes’ innocence of the original warrants against him, which included aggravated assault and gang participation, but sought summary judgment to dismiss the case because of immunity and the merits of the case.

Officials say that on Oct. 22, 2009, while acting in his role as police investigator, Flowers arrested Hayes, then 17, in a shooting assault against James Green the previous September, although no one present at the incident stated in affidavits that Hayes was involved. The arrest warrant prepared by Flowers stated that Hayes “did walk in the 2200 blk (sic) of S. Madison St. with Antonio Williams while he (Williams) shot an unknown caliber handgun at James Green (Gangsta Disciple),” the court document states.

Flowers argued that he was entitled to qualified immunity because he had probable cause to arrest Hayes, the court document states, and Flowers said his belief that he had probable cause was supported by the arrest warrant and grand jury indictment.

U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands, noting that the federal court is required to arrive at a decision “in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party,” which in this case was Hayes, rejected all of Flowers’ arguments in his request for the summary judgment to dismiss the case, which would have kept it from going to trial.

“This is a strange case,” said James Finkelstein, Hayes’ attorney. “James Green was shot at and missed, Antonio Williams has pleaded guilty and the only thing my client ever did was to stand on a street. He was not aiding and abetting anyone.”

Finkelstein said he took on Hayes’ case primarily because of the lack of oversight he’s seen in cases investigated by the Albany Police Department, calling many such cases unjust or unwarranted and the result of incompetent investigators.

“They seem to think that once the warrants are issued their job is finished,” Finkelstein said. “Once the City Commission has paid out enough money on cases like this one, maybe it will get their attention and they’ll get the police chief talking to his investigators,”

Albany City Attorney Nathan Davis called the ruling a “setback.” He said he believes it is a setback that can be overcome at trial.

“This is an early skirmish in the whole process,” Davis said.