Putnam man files false arrest suit against Ravenswood, officer

By Lawrence Smith | Feb 6, 2009


RIPLEY - A Putnam County man is suing a Jackson County municipality and one of its police officers alleging he was falsely arrested on obstruction charges last year.

On Jan. 30, Michael Fleming Karr filed suit against Jonathan A. Pinson, a patrolman with the Ravenswood Police Department, and the city of Ravenswood in Jackson Circuit Court. In his complaint and suit, which he filed pro se, Karr, 43, of Buffalo, alleges his constitutional rights were violated when Pinson arrested him for obstructing a police officer after Karr refused to produce identification while riding as a passenger in vehicle.

According to court records, Karr, along with another unidentified person, was accompanied in a station wagon driven by Jennifer Scragg, attorney for the Putnam County Commission and a part-time Putnam County prosecutor. Pinson stopped Scragg at 12:39 a.m. on Feb. 2, 2008, for "an equipment violation."

While waiting for Scragg to produce her license and registration, Pinson inquired as the identities of the other passengers. When asked to provide his ID, Karr, who was riding the front seat, declined.

Despite requests by Scragg and the other passenger to comply, Karr still refused to provide ID. Thereupon, records show, Pinson asked Karr to exit the vehicle, and placed him under arrest.

After arresting Karr, Pinson took him first the Ravenswood Police Department and later to the South Central Regional Jail in South Charleston. Karr was released from South Central later that day after posting a $500 bond.

After his release, Karr filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on Pinson's lack of probable cause to arrest him. In his motion, Karr cited the state Supreme Court's 2003 ruling the case of State v. Srnsky.

In Srnsky, the Court held that in order for an obstruction charge for failing to produce ID to be valid, there must be an "express statutory" obligation for the production of ID or the officer must communicate "the reason the citizen's name is being sought in relation to the officer's official duties." Records show, Jackson County Magistrate Jackie Casto granted Karr's motion on May 22.

Because Pinson acted "maliciously, unlawfully and without reasonable or probable cause and without warrant or process of any court," Karr says he was "unlawfully confined and imprisoned for approximately eleven (11) hours."

The imprisonment, Karr alleges, resulted in him "sustain[ing] anguish of mind, loss of liberties and monetary expenses." Also, it subjected him to "deprivation of rights and privileges" under the 4th and 5th Amendments to the United States Constitution and Sections 6 and 10 of Article III of the West Virginia Constitution.

In addition to those against Pinson for false arrest, Karr makes a claim against the city of Ravenswood for negligent supervision.

He is seeking unspecified damages, costs and fees.

The case has been assigned to Judge David W. Nibert.

Jackson Circuit Court case number: 09-C-10 (Karr civil), Jackson Magistrate Court case number: 08-M-144 (Karr criminal)

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