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West Virginia Man Seeks $1.5 Million for Wrongful Arrest
A man was wrongfully arrested last June at a Rainbow Family Gathering after police mistakenly believed he was transporting $90,000 worth of methamphetamines and liquid THC. He is now filling charges against Sullivan County.
After a Sullivan County grand jury cleared him of all charges in November, Michael Sullivan and his attorney Troy L. Bowlin, II filed lawsuits against Sullivan County and the companies that provided drug field testing kits to law enforcement. According to documents filed last Friday in the U.S. District Court in Greenville, Sullivan is now seeking more than $1.5 million for damages and fees incurred from his wrongful arrest.
In December, the Times-News reported that the field testing kits used by the officers of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office allegedly revealed that the materials Sullivan was transporting were meth and liquid THC. Sullivan was booked into jail while police seized nine different substances and sent them over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab. However, subsequent testing of the materials revealed that they were not narcotic substances.
After the arrest Sullivan was incarcerated for three weeks, the Times-News reported that he was perceived as a flight risk; therefore, he wasn’t able to secure bond from a local agency. According to Sullivan, when he was stopped for a seatbelt violation on Flatwoods Road, the materials police seized were merely cornstarch and aromatic oil that he mixed to serve as an insect repellant.
Sullivan describes himself as a naturalist and an herbalist; he lives on an environmental co-op farm in Stumptown, West Virginia. He was attending the Rainbow Family of Living Light’s national gathering for prayer and world peace. This event had approximately 7,000 people in attendance on July 4th; they congregated east of South Holston Lake in the Cherokee National Forest.
Michael Sullivan is being represented by Morristown attorney Troy L. Bowlin in both lawsuits in connection to the wrongful arrest. “What is happening is that law enforcement are utilizing a field test drug kit which has been marketed and misrepresented as a valid test for whether or not something may or may not be a controlled substance, “ said Bowlin. “In Mr. Sullivan’s case, it incorrectly indicated it was methamphetamine.”
One of the lawsuits is seeking over $500,000 in compensation, punitive damages, fees and interest from several defendants including the Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey and the county itself. The other lawsuit is seeking over $1 million and it’s been filed against the manufacturers and distributors of the drug field testing kit that incorrectly identified Sullivan’s materials as narcotics. The court filing states that the field drug testing kits are advertised and marketed as “about 99% reliable.” The lawsuit argues that the claims and marketing about the kits reliability are an intentional and reckless misrepresentation without regard to the rights of the general public.
Attorney Bowlin said that our justice system has allowed these tests to be used and that his client is not the only victim. “Hundreds of people have been incarcerated.”
Troy L. Bowlin, II represents clients throughout Hamblen County, Tennessee in a variety of legal matters including: personal injury, criminal defense, business law, family law, bankruptcy, wills and estates, and juvenile law. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and the Appalachian School of Law in Virginia. He is a proud member of the American Association for Justice, the Tennessee Bar Association, Knoxville Defense Lawyers Association, the American Trial Lawyers Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney at The Law Office of Troy L. Bowlin, II, please call (423) 581-2667 or visit the firm’s website online at http://www.lawofficeoftroybowlin.com.