Man seeking $3 million in suit
Published 9:43 pm Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A Suffolk man has sued various city departments and employees, seeking $3 million in damages stemming from his arrest for a crime he didn’t commit.
Rickey J. Fletcher was arrested July 11, 2006, on charges of aggravated sexual battery and fondling a child under his supervision. The charges arose from accusations made by his girlfriend’s 11-year-old daughter, who said he rubbed her lower back with his penis for about five seconds when she went in his bedroom to ask if she could go outside to play.
At the time, Fletcher had two security officer jobs, was a martial arts instructor for young people, and owned his own home, where he and his girlfriend lived together with her children.
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Fletcher said he thinks the girl accused him because he tried to discipline her.
“She didn’t like it,” he said.
Before he was arrested, Fletcher said, nobody asked him to come in for an interview about the alleged crime. He simply was arrested at his job as a security officer at Deco Security, contracted with U.S. Joint Forces Command, in front of a general and the head union representative, he said.
When the matter went to trial in Suffolk Circuit Court, a judge dismissed the charges after hearing the testimony of the girl and her mother, saying their statements conflicted too much and that the girl was unable to say how she wound up in Fletcher’s lap.
However, Fletcher said, even though the charges are dismissed, he continues to suffer hardships because of the ordeal.
Fletcher was released from both of his jobs upon his arrest. As a result, he lost his home to foreclosure, his credit was ruined, and he expended his life savings trying to keep his home, pay the bills, and clear his name.
“There was no evidence, nothing,” Fletcher said. “Nothing was there to justify it.”
Fletcher continues to suffer mental anguish as a result of the time spent in jail, he said. Police still harass him, he claimed, even though the record has been expunged. He’s also suffered the loss of personal esteem and his good reputation, according to the suit.
“They ruined my life,” he said. “House gone, two jobs gone, friends gone.”
Fletcher said he’s not angry with the child, who is now listed as an endangered runaway with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Instead, he is angry with the professionals who he says failed to thoroughly investigate his case.
The lawsuit names the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nicole Belote-Womble, Virginia Department of Social Services, two social workers, Suffolk Police Department, now-retired Chief of Police William Freeman, Detective Joyce Williams, and the mother and child who accused him as the defendants.
The charges were the result of improper investigation by Social Services, Suffolk Police Department and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, the suit alleges.
“The inconsistencies should have been apparent to those investigating this matter and should have resulted in a more comprehensive investigation to determine whether or not charges should have been filed against Rickey J. Fletcher,” the suit reads.
Fletcher is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.
“We certainly wouldn’t comment on any pending legal matters,” said Debbie George, Suffolk spokeswoman.
Three of the people and entities sued already have filed motions for dismissal of the complaint.
Joyce Williams, the police detective, filed a motion stating that Fletcher missed the statute of limitations on actions for negligence in Virginia, which is two years. The charges against Fletcher were filed July 11, 2006, but Fletcher’s suit was not filed until Oct. 3, 2008.
A separate motion for dismissal says that Belote-Womble is entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity for acts taken by her within the scope of her duties, according to precedent set by a 2003 Virginia case, Andrews v. Ring. The same motion says the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is not a legal entity subject to suit under Virginia law.
A hearing will be held on the matter Jan. 22 in Suffolk Circuit Court. A special judge is being brought in because Suffolk’s Circuit Court judges have declined to hear the case, citing possible conflicts of interest.