A Vineland man filed a federal lawsuit last month against city police, asking for $75,000 in damages after he was charged with possession of meth that turned out to be rock salt.
James Buzby III was driving from a friend’s house in 2017 in Vineland when he was pulled over by Officer Jonathan Rodriguez, who mistook two small pieces of rock salt for methamphetamine, leading Buzby to be placed on house arrest for five weeks, then jailed for four months, according to the suit filed June 11 in U.S. District Court.
Neither Buzby’s lawyers nor Vineland police responded to requests for comment.
After asking for Buzby’s license, registration and insurance during the traffic stop, Rodriguez told Buzby he had an outstanding warrant for his arrest out of Camden County and then searched the car, finding what he believed to be meth, according to the complaint.
Buzby was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance, according to the complaint. He asked that the substance be tested, and Rodriguez told him it tested positive for a controlled substance via a field drug-testing kit, and would be sent to a police lab for further testing.
Buzby was arraigned the next morning and put on house arrest because the previous night’s arrest was a violation of his probation, according to the complaint. He was then incarcerated in Camden County jail for four months on the drug charge.
But Rodriguez never tested the substance found in Buzby’s car, according to the complaint. It was later tested and found not to be drugs at all, and Buzby was released from jail, according to the complaint. All charges were dismissed against Buzby around Aug. 21, 2017.
During his time in jail, Buzby lost his health insurance coverage, and his current insurance won’t pay for his Hepatitis C treatment, according to the suit, and he “is suffering and will continue to suffer irreparable injury and damages as a result” of the arrest.
The lawsuit, which names the Police Department and Rodriguez individually, asks for a judge to find that Buzby was wrongfully imprisoned, falsely arrested, maliciously prosecuted and that his due-process rights were violated. He is seeking $75,000 as well as statutory, punitive and compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.