Wrongfully Jailed Michigan Man Wins $3.5 Million: ‘I Kept Saying, It’s Not Me’

Michigan – Over and over again, the man protested: “You got the wrong guy.”

But the police didn’t listen.

They arrested him at work in front of his colleagues, hauled him off to jail and held him for 15 days believing he was someone else: a fugitive wanted for attempted murder.

Six years later, the patient man — 43-year-old Marvin Seales of Harper Woods — got his payback. On a Friday afternoon in a federal courtroom in Detroit, after just one hour and 50 minutes of deliberations, a jury awarded Seales $3.5 million for the injustice he suffered in a case of mistaken identity.

The fugitive that police were looking for had used the name “Marvin Seals” as an alias, though they arrested the real “Marvin Seales” instead and held him for attempted murder.

It was a mistake that could have and should have been avoided, the jury concluded as it delivered what’s believed to be the largest verdict for a wrongful arrest case in Michigan’s history.

“I didn’t anticipate things would go this way at all,” Seales told the Free Press in a Saturday interview. “I wasn’t expecting no trial, no judge, no jury — I didn’t think anyone was going to believe me.”

That’s because, he explained, no one believed him from the start: not the arresting police officers, the booking agents at lockup or the county jail staff — all of whom he repeatedly told the same thing.

“Y’all got the wrong guy … It’s not me.’ ”

Arrested at work
The defendants in the case are the City of Detroit and Detroit Police officer Thomas Zberkot, who executed the arrest warrant that landed Seales in jail.

The incident occurred in 2012, though the lawsuit took years to resolve because of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy, which halted the case for two years until the city exited bankruptcy, and numerous appeals by the city.

The city long argued that officer Zberkot acted properly, noting police often deal with people who deny that they’re the person wanted in a warrant but who turns out being them anyway. They argued that the “It’s not me” line is very common in police work, that it’s not uncommon to arrest someone under an alias name, and that Zberkot had probable cause to arrest Seales given the information that he had at the time.

The defense also argued, though not successfully, that Seales never protested his arrest and that there was no willful or deliberate attempt by police to violate his constitutional rights.

The jury disagreed.

“The whole theme in this case is ‘Nobody listened to Marvin’ … if they just listened to him when he was in the Detroit lockup, this wouldn’t have happened,” said James Harrington of Geoffrey Feiger’s law firm, who represented Seales. “The only people who listened to him were the jurors. They were true heroes.”

Here, according to hundreds of court documents, trial transcripts, lawyers and Seales himself is what triggered the multimillion-dollar verdict.

On Jan. 18, 2012, Marvin Seales was working his technician job at the Reinhart Food Service warehouse in Warren when a team of plainclothes police officers showed up. He was in a large walk-in cooler when three officers approached him.

“They asked if I knew what this was about. I said, ‘whatever it’s about, y’all got the wrong guy.’ And they said, “Come with us, ‘ ” recalled Seales, who was escorted out of work by the officers while his supervisor and colleagues looked on. He kept quiet as they led him away.

“I was too embarrassed. I kept my head down ” he recalled.

Seales quickly learned that police were looking for a fugitive named Rodrick Siner, who was wanted for assault with intent to murder stemming from a 2010 drive-by shooting. Siner used several aliases, including ‘Marvin Seals,’ though he looked nothing like the Marvin Seales who was arrested at the food warehouse and his last name did not have a letter “e” at the end.

Among the arresting agents was Detroit Police officer Thomas Zberkot, whose job was to execute arrest warrants issued by 36th District Court. He told Seales that there was a warrant out for his arrest.

Seales protested repeatedly, telling Zberkot that he was not “Roderick Siner” and that they had the wrong individual. He gave police his wallet, which contained his Michigan photo identification card, his Social Security card and several credit cards in his name.

“They told me all my credentials could be fake,” he recalled.

Seales was initially taken to the DPD’s 3rd Precinct lockup, where he was fingerprinted and processed. There, he continued telling personnel that he was not Roderick Siner, but to no avail.

From lockup, he was transported to the Wayne County Jail, where he continued to plead for help, this time telling the Wayne County Sheriff’s personnel that they had the wrong individual.

Despite his protests, he remain jailed for two weeks.

“I was very scared. I’d never been in a county jail. That first minute felt like an hour. The hour felt like a day. The day felt like a month,” Seales said. “I was locked up with the real serious criminals.”

For full story visit: https://eu.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2018/07/30/wrongfully-jailed-millions-jury-award/853374002/

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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