This would seem to be a simple case, a real no-brainer, based on the opening statement of an opinion by a federal appeals court judge.
“Rasheed Waters sat in jail for more than a year awaiting trial for a crime he did not commit,” wrote Judge Joseph A. Greenaway Jr. “He had a verifiable alibi, based on video surveillance, which he claims the arresting officer ignored.”
After viewing that video, a Montgomery County judge promptly dismissed the burglary charges that had kept Waters behind bars so unnecessarily.
So, Waters can sue the cops for his troubles, right?
No. Greenaway and two other judges on a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled his lawsuit falls short because Waters can’t prove the Cheltenham Township detective who filed the charges didn’t actually have probable cause to arrest him.
The appeals court ruling upholds a prior federal court ruling that freed the police department from Waters’ malicious prosecution complaint.
According to Greenaway’s opinion, Waters’ legal problems began in August 2012 when he, Waters, reported a burglary while house-sitting for his mother. One of the items stolen was a pistol.
Two months later, Waters was arrested on a burglary charges for the very crime he had reported. The charges were based on the testimony of a single witness “who would prove to be unreliable,” Greenaway noted.
He added that Waters wasn’t released even after he told Detective John Barr that he was shopping at the time of the burglary and that surveillance video from the stores would prove it.
Barr ignored the alibi, even after Waters’ lawyer got the video and told the detective about it, the judge noted. When the video was shown at Waters’ trial, the county judge immediately dismissed the burglary case “and admonished (the police) for bringing it forward,” Greenaway wrote.
Waters’ release from prison occurred 16 months after his arrest.
But in upholding the dismissal of Waters’ malicious prosecution suit, Greenaway found that police at least followed proper procedures in charging him and that the probable cause element was provided by the faulty witness’ testimony.
Also, the detective had no legal duty to investigate Waters’ claim of innocence, even after Waters told him about the surveillance video alibi, Greenaway found.