Dispatch: False arrest case results in record judgement

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that a woman falsely arrested was awarded one of the largest judgments in recent history.

From the story:

    The photograph didn’t match.

    The description didn’t match

    The handwriting didn’t match.

    But State Highway Patrol Trooper James R. Mendenhall, a go-getter with a spotless record, arrested the woman anyway.

    Michelle L. Black-Hosang denied wrongdoing, but Mendenhall believed she was in cahoots with two other Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles employees, taking bribes to provide commercial driver’s licenses to people who had not passed the test.

    The arrest put Black-Hosang in jail for two days and got her fired. Six months later, Mendenhall was promoted to sergeant

Six years later, the Dispatch reports, a federal jury has unanimously said that Black-Hosang was falsely arrested and that Mendenhall’s actions will cost taxpayers. The jury has awarded Black-Hosang $350,000 for her suffering and losses — the largest award in a false-arrest case that federal judges here can remember.

The potential for false arrest exists every bit as much due to the toxic stew of municipal firearms laws across the state of Ohio and due to ambiguous language in the state's concealed carry law. As Buckeye Firearms Association's Central Ohio Chair points out, the outcome of this case provides plenty of incentive for passage of Rep. Aslanides' soon-to-be-introduced legislation to overhaul state firearms laws.

Click on the "Read More..." link below for more.

The story continues:

    Graham said Mendenhall ignored evidence that supported Black-Hosang, failed to tell a prosecutor of that evidence when seeking advice about arresting her and, on the stand, "Mendenhall’s testimony was fraught with contradictions." ……

    During the investigation, Flipping told Mendenhall that a black woman he met at an East Side bar agreed to help him get a commercial license for $200. Fees for the tests total $64.50.

    Shown a photograph of Black-Hosang, Flipping told Mendenhall she wasn’t the one.
    Asked if the woman who sold him his license had light spots on her arms, hands and face, Flipping told Mendenhall she did not. Black-Hosang had obvious skin spots. ………

    Seeking advice on whether he could arrest her, Mendenhall told then-Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor Joe Garber about the paperwork and said Flipping told him he hadn’t taken the written test and that Black-Hosang indicated she knew Flipping. Mendenhall didn’t tell Garber what Flipping said about the photograph or her skin or that the handwriting on the two forms was different.

The legislature and Governor Bob Taft need to act immediately to save Ohio’s concealed carry license holders from a similar nightmare by removing the ridiculous “plain sight” car-carry requirement inserted into Ohio’s law. We already know of cases where a license holder was wrongly arrested due to the ambiguity in the law even though the citizen was acting in a manner they believed to be legal.

Defining the term "plain sight" is not enough because it will not stop an officer willing to act in a disingenuous manner to get an arrest. Only removing the provision and allowing Ohio’s most law-abiding citizens to carry a gun concealed in a car can we keep citizens safe from persecution (yes, I meant persecution, not prosecution).

Ohio lawmakers and Governor Taft have an obligation to protect license holders by allowing concealed carry of firearms while in vehicle. It works in Florida, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Tennessee and the rest of the 46 states where concealed carry is legal - why do they think it won't work here?

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