NORTHFIELD - A Somers Point man charged with DWI in November despite registering a blood alcohol content of 0.00 percent has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the arresting officer.
In the complaint, Tyrone Foxworth and attorneys Andrew F. Erba and Gerald J. Williams claim that Officer Kristina Ramsi "falsely arrested and caused Mr. Foxworth to be maliciously prosecuted, in violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments of the Constitution."
Northfield Police Chief Robert James, meanhwile, defended the officer Tuesday.
James said that while there may not have been enough evidence to sustain a conviction, there was enough probable cause for Ramsi to charge Foxworth with DWI.
"Officer Ramsi is an officer of the highest standards and enjoys a good reputation in the community," James said. "She's a very, very good officer and a very caring individual."
The DWI charge was dropped by Northfield Municipal Prosecutor Michele Verno at Foxworth's second court hearing in March, after saying she could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. At a February hearing, Verno told a judge that she had every intention of moving forward with the charges.
The complaint states Foxworth seeks unspecified compensatory and exemplary damages, plus attorney fees and costs. Ramsi is the only listed defendant.
Foxworth was arrested shortly before 3 a.m. Nov. 27, Thanksgiving morning, after he approached a multijurisdictional DWI checkpoint along Shore Road while driving with two friends.
Standard procedure is for every fifth vehicle to be flagged and pulled over, according to police. The complaint states that Foxworth was instructed to pull into a secondary check area by Absecon Officer James Laughlin.
In a previous court hearing in which the charges were dropped, Judge Matthew Powals made sure to enter into the court record that there was "no observed improper behavior" on Foxworth's part.
When Ramsi asked if he had been drinking, Foxworth said he answered no, according to the complaint. Ramsi then requested that Foxworth perform several sobriety tests, including various "balance" tests and a "horizontal gaze" test - the complaint claims that "neither of the tests can accurately provide probable cause for this determination (of DWI)" - after which Foxworth was arrested and charged with DWI and reckless driving.
The complaint claims that Ramsi, "for reasons unrelated to the administration of justice, nevertheless decided to arrest the plaintiff and charge him ... despite the lack of any evidence that he had commited the crimes."
A Breathalyzer test at the Northfield police station 15 minutes later resulted in a blood-alcohol reading of 0.00 percent. In addition, no blood or urine was taken for drug testing as no drug-recognition expert was available.
James had said that Northfield - which does not have its own drug-recognition expert - had been "utilizing an officer from another agency that had already been released for the night. We were unable to locate (another) one. ... We followed procedure and followed the guidance of the legal adviser on call that weekend. (Foxworth) was in one of the last cars to go through the checkpoint."
While the complaint claims that "in order to 'justify' her conduct, (Ramsi) prepared a report of arrest in which she falsely stated that the plaintiff was under the influence of alcohol and his breath smelled of alcohol." A copy of the report obtained by The Press of Atlantic City states that Foxworth was suspected of being "under the influence of alcohol/drugs" but does not specifically mention the officer detecting alcohol on Foxworth's breath.
Foxworth's former attorney Justin Laughry said in March that one of the passengers in Foxworth's car may have been drinking, leading to the possible odor of alcohol.
The complaint goes on to say that Foxworth spent "a substantial expense of money" on legal representation and that he suffered "emotional and physical distress, including but not limited to public humiliation and damages to his reputation."
The complaint was filed July 11 and discussed in a closed session at the Aug. 11 Northfield City Council meeting.
The city of Northfield has yet to file a response in court, but James said that he expects the city "to mount a vigorous defense. The intrusion upon Mr. Foxworth was minimal, to the point where he was taken home by officers."
Foxworth - a black man who had previously led a rally against racial profiling targeting the Linwood Police Department after a DWI arrest in 2003 - had questioned whether profiling played a role in the arrrest, but the complaint makes no reference to race.
He referred all comment on the complaint to his attorneys, who could not be reached for comment.
This is the third complaint filed this year against a Northfield police officer in the federal court system.
One case involves claims of a "physical altercation" between plaintiff Daniel Rothman and Patrolman Martin Peary during an arrest on disorderly conduct charges, and the second involves claims that an off-duty Lt. Daniel Mitchell Jr. kicked plaintiff Stephon Lawton in the face during an arrest in Atlantic City in 2008. Those case are still pending.
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