An elderly couple will receive $500,000 from Baltimore taxpayers to settle a lawsuit alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution by city police investigating allegations that the couple had kidnapped their grandchild.
Aubrey and Lena Knox charged that they were not only subjected to a police search of their house, but intrusive interrogations, threats and false imprisonment. Throughout the couple’s ordeal, their grandchild was living lawfully in Virginia with the child’s father, the Law Department conceded in a settlement memo approved today by the Board of Estimates.
Three officers – Sgt. Gregory X. Eames and Detectives William Epperson and April Fullwood-Jackson – were defendants in a federal lawsuit filed by the Knoxes.
According to the settlement memo, the couple first encountered the police on August 10, 2007, when two officers responded to a 911 call from the child’s mother claiming that her child was illegally held by the couple.
The Knoxes permitted the officers to inspect their house and, “having concluded that the child was not present and there was no basis for the complaint, the officers left the Knox home.”
Returning later to the residence was Sgt. Eames, who interrogated the couple “for several hours.” The police investigation continued until the department “confirmed with Virginia police that the child was in Virginia, lawfully with the child’s father, and that the mother had relinquished physical custody of the child more than a year earlier,” the memo said.
Despite the report from Virginia police, the child’s mother insisted that the child was held by the Knoxes, and Detectives Epperson and Fullwood-Jackson opened a new investigation.
Attacked in Jail
The detectives told the couple to return the grandchild to Maryland. “When the Knoxes did not produce the child, Det. Epperson filled out an arrest warrant for Mr. Knox and then arrested him at a store. Ms. Knox was subsequently arrested, and the couple were detained overnight at Central Booking.”
The memo continued: “During that night, Mr. Knox, who is in his 70s, was attacked by other prisoners and seriously injured, resulting in significant medical treatment and expenses.”
In May 2010, the couple filed a lawsuit against the city and the officers seeking $15 million in compensatory damages and $110 million in punitive damages.
“Because of the serious nature of the injuries involved, the conflicting factual issues and legal concerns including whether there were sufficient facts to establish probable cause to arrest the plaintiffs” – the city agreed to pay $500,000 in return for “a complete dismissal of the litigation against all defendants.”
This isn’t the first case involving a settlement with an elderly resident alleging excessive police force.
Last April, a 90-year-old retired school principal was awarded $95,000 by the city to settle her lawsuit alleging assault, false imprisonment and other misconduct by Baltimore police.
Today’s settlement was unanimously approved by the Board of Estimates without discussion.