Ratliff sues city, police
The NAACP leader says her rights were violated when she was arrested in 1996
Thursday, 30 January 1997
Mary Ratliff, local and state NAACP president, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the city and Columbia police officers.
Ratliff claims they violated her constitutional rights when she was arrested without sufficient evidence for a crime she did not commit, her attorney Matt Woods said.
“The basis of the claim is that it was malicious prosecution,” Woods said. “They prosecuted her when they had no reason to believe that she even did the crime.”
Ratliff was acquitted Oct. 24 on charges of government obstruction. She is suing for damages, expenses incurred from the trial and loss of reputation.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, states the media attention Ratliff received because of the arrest “resulted in significant damage to her public persona and to her reputation causing a stigma which could not be undone solely by a not-guilty verdict in her favor.”
City Attorney Fred Boeckmann said Wednesday he had not heard about the suit and could not comment.
Ratliff is asking for “fair and reasonable compensation,” which means the jury would decide how much money should be paid in damages after hearing the facts. The most she could receive is $300,000, Woods said.
Police officers Rob Sanders, Mike McFarland and Dennis Veach are accused of acting in “actual malice” toward Ratliff and deliberately disregarding her constitutional rights. Ratliff believes their conduct was racially motivated.
An internal police investigation of the incident maintained the officers acted appropriately.
Ratliff’s lawsuit says the Columbia Police Department “made a deliberate and conscious choice” in continuing to use an ineffective and untimely system to review police conduct.
“The city needs to take a serious look at the Columbia Police Department,” Ratliff said.
Both Ratliff and her daughter Pamela Hardin were arrested for resisting and interfering with police business when an officer tried to question Hardin’s 8-year-old son about throwing rocks at cars Feb. 6, 1996.
The incident began when a worker at an insurance company called to report that a boy was shooting rocks at her car with a slingshot near Hardin’s beauty salon, A Touch of Elegance. It escalated when additional police arrived and Hardin was arrested. Ratliff was later summoned.
The boy was found guilty Oct. 24, and Hardin was convicted of obstructing government procedures Oct. 9.