Lee Edward Anderson says that the Brevard County sheriff and several of his deputies fabricated evidence to arrest him.
An African-American Air Force contractor is suing a Florida sheriff and several deputies for allegedly violating his civil rights during a traffic stop.
According to FloridaToday.com, the lawsuit was filed last month by Lee Edward Anderson. While traveling through Brevard County in January 2018, Anderson was pulled over by local Sheriff Wayne Ivey and Deputy Zachary Ferreira.
The latter officer said he saw Anderson through a white plastic bag out his car window. A brief search of the area yielded a similar bag, allegedly containing crack cocaine.
Armed with what they said was evidence, the deputies searched Anderson’s car. They found nothing, but took him to jail anyway.
Although Anderson was arrested and charged for having drugs, the State Attorney’s Office tossed the counts for lack of evidence. FloridaToday says that video footage obtained from Ferreira’s patrol car doesn’t show anything being thrown from Anderson’s car window.
Now, nearly two years since the arrest, Anderson is suing Ivey and Ferreira for violating his civil rights. The complaint accuses the sheriff of violating the Air Force contractor’s civil rights, falsely imprisoning him on trumped-up charges. Anderson believes the reason he was targeted is because he’s black.
“In my opinion, he saw me as a crime,” Anderson said. “And he was going to arrest me no matter what.”
The lawsuit, relays FloridaToday, claims that Deputy Ferreira knowingly fabricated a story about Anderson tossing out a bag of crack cocaine.
Interestingly, Anderson’s suit and the traffic report suggest the stop was initiated over a faulty license plate light.
“Anderson stated very clearly that the windows to his vehicle were all up and that he never threw anything out of the vehicle,” the lawsuit says.
Once other deputies arrived to provide back-up, they conducted a search of the area and found a knotted plastic bag containing an unknown substance. Ferreira confronted Anderson with the bag, the contents of which a field test confirmed were crack cocaine.
Deputies took Anderson into custody. He was placed into the back of a patrol car, booked into Brevard County Jail and then held for about 36 hours. Anderson was released only after he posted a $2500 bond.
Since filing the suit, Anderson has maintained that the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department officials had race on their mind when they pulled him over.
“This isn’t supposed to happen in America,” Anderson said. “I was in the wrong place, wrong time, right color.”
Anderson quickly pleaded not guilty. The office of State Attorney Phil Archer dismissed the arrest charges two weeks later, as prosecutors didn’t believe there was enough evidence to make a case.
“The case underwent a careful and thorough review by experienced prosecutors to determine if they reasonably believed the alleged crime could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at tribal,” said State Attorney’s Office spokesman Todd Brown.
“When the process found that required evidence was not sufficient, prosecutors were ethically and legally obligated not to pursue prosecution of the defendant,” Brown told FloridaToday. “While there was sufficient probable cause to arrest the defendant, the standard of proof required to prevail at trial, is significantly higher.”
Brown added that a review of the evidence claimed against Ferreira was not, in fact, evidence of any wrongdoing.
“Nothing could be seen being thrown from the defendant’s motor vehicle on the in-car video,” he said. “Additionally, the defendant denied throwing anything from his motor vehicle and provides no further admissions. Under these circumstances, absent additional independent evidence, there was no reasonable likelihood of successful prosecution.”
Anderson and his attorney are still struggling to make sense of what happened.
“None of this makes sense,” said attorney Daniel Faherty. “There was no tag light out, there was no baggie thrown from his car.”
“In our opinion,” Faherty said, “it was a completely illegal stop. We are looking for the damages to his civil rights: [an] unlawful stop, unlawful search of his vehicle and his unlawful arrest, detention and incarceration.”