Attorneys for Marlowe Jones, the Pasco County man charged and acquitted of battery on a law enforcement officer during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in 2020, have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of New Port Richey.
The lawsuit, which also names the former police chief, the mayor and other city officials, is seeking $2 million in damages.
The 43-page complaint lays out a list of alleged misdeeds by New Port Richey officials that have been a backdrop to City Council meeting public comment sessions for more than a year.
“Since 2010, NPR (New Port Richey) has been sued numerous times ... due to the brutal, unlawful, and unconstitutional way (the city) has treated individuals of color, individuals who are of faiths other than conservative Christians, such as those of Jewish faith, and others in the community who do not look or think like the politicians and individuals that govern the city,” the lawsuit alleges.
The suit states that several city police officers have been “under scrutiny for participating in racist, harassing, and anti-Semitic behavior.” It also recounts now-familiar stories of New Port Richey police officers praying with a group of the Proud Boys at a local restaurant and a city officer who made a remark about Anne Frank during a code investigation at the home of a Jewish woman.
Before his retirement last year, former Police Chief Kim Bogart, who is named in the lawsuit, spoke at length to the City Council giving his perspective on those incidents, which he described as more innocent than discriminatory. He also defended various decisions he made about several officers including letting go an officer who had appeared in social media posts with a Confederate flag.
The lawsuit also takes aim at Mayor Robert Marlowe, whom the suit states at council meetings “often went on tirades complaining about citizens exercising their constitutional rights and the ‘nonsense’ of the Sunshine laws imposing obligations” on the city. The suit further accuses Marlowe of calling Black Lives Matter protesters “asses,” criticizing their marches as hurting local businesses and calling citizen comments at meetings “garbage.”
Marlowe said Friday that he has not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit and that he would not comment on pending litigation. City Manager Debbie Manns, Bogart and other police officials named could not be reached for comment. City attorney Timothy Driscoll did not return a call seeking comment.
The suit cites historical incidents that it claims demonstrate a pattern of discrimination and also asserts that the city continues to harass Jones, including during an incident when they came to his home with guns drawn. He was acquitted on the assault charge stemming from the Black Lives Matter protest by a jury in May.
“Our client was wrongfully arrested and made to endure a criminal trial before being acquitted,” said attorney Kevin Ross of the éclat Law group of Altamonte Springs said in a news release. “We believe that the defendants’ actions have caused our client to suffer substantial harm. Our goal is to seek justice for Mr. Jones and ensure that he receives the compensation he deserves.”
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The civil complaint argues that city officials deprived Jones of his constitutional rights and claims, among other causes, false arrest, malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and battery during his arrest.