A North Carolina cop was dubiously accused of sexually assaulting a woman while on patrol. His dashboard camera proved the assault didn’t take place, yet his colleagues claimed there was enough evidence for a warrant and investigated him. Now he’s suing for defamation.
Donald Ray Richardson, a former Alcohol Law Enforcement agent, says in his lawsuit (reviewed by The News & Observer) that he was targeted by his fellow police officers because he stepped outside his lane to investigate threats sent to the CEO of Bank of America. The CEO had been sent a letter by a man claiming he would “team with ISIS” to hurt him unless his credit card limit was increased. Richardson followed a tip and arrested the man who sent the letter.
This, Richardson says in his lawsuit, angered State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) director Robert Schurmeier. The Observer reported that Schurmeier allegedly became angry at Richardson for taking the case of the threatening letter. When a woman accused Richardson of kidnapping and raping her two weeks later, the former officer says Schurmeier and the SBI used the case to get back at him.
The woman claimed Richardson kidnapped and raped her at a gas station in Durham, North Carolina after he and other ALE officers searched her car. Video from the vehicle search showed no attack occurred, yet an internal investigation led to Richardson being suspended without pay and forced to never work in Durham again.
The warrant used against Richardson included a false claim from a Durham police officer who said he saw video of the attack, even though the video refuted the accuser’s story. SBI directors also saw the video and the warrant application and knew the information was false, yet continued their investigation against Richardson.
“In 2018 the state Office of Administrative Hearings ruled that the SBI had likely violated his constitutional rights as well as their own agency policies by suspending Richardson following a flawed internal investigation,” the Observer reported.
Richardson was awarded back pay and legal fees in that case, but has decided that is not enough. His attorney, Mikael Gross, told the Observer in an interview that “Somebody has to hold the agency accountable.”
“You can’t just say, ‘Yes, the agency violated his constitutional rights, but just give him his job back and that’s that,’” he added.
Spokespeople for Durham police and SBI would only give blanket statements to the Observer about not being able to comment.
“Because of the nature of the pending litigation, we are restricted in the response we can provide publicly,” SBI spokesperson Angie Grube told the outlet. “We will respond with our position in our filings with the court, which is where this matter will ultimately be decided.”
For his part, Schurmeier wrote in a report that the SBI did nothing wrong when it suspended Richardson and that he disagreed with the judge’s decision.
“… it has been reported that various SBI personnel were untruthful during the hearing of the personnel matter and acted in violation of agency policy during both the criminal and internal administrative investigations into these matters,” Schurmeier wrote, according to the Observer. “The SBI strongly disagrees with these reports and any such findings made by the administrative law judge.”
There is no indication whether the woman who falsely accused Richardson has been punished.