Florida Woman Sues 12th District Drug Task Force For $10 Million

Thursday, October 07, 2004

A Fort Walton Beach, Fla., woman is suing the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force for $10 million for false arrest.

Andrea Willis said in the Federal Court suit that she was on a small plane that landed at the Dayton, Tn., airport, and she said she found herself under arrest for alleged money laundering.

Ms. Willis said she is a commercial pilot and on Oct. 7, 2003, had gone along on a flight with a friend, Jack Marshall, to gain some flight experience.

She said she "did not know the purpose of the flight other than that it somehow involved Mr. Marshall's son, John Marshall, and she "believed it to be business related."

She said that when she got to the plane, she found that John Marshall was a passenger along with another man she had once met but did not know.

Ms. Willis said he turned out to be James Ollie McMillon, a man with an extensive criminal record who was working undercover with the drug task force.

The suit says McMillon had an arrangement with the task force that would pay him a "bounty" of 20 percent of all the property confiscated as a result of criminal arrests.

The complaint, filed by attorney John Cavett, said such an arrangement "is otherwise unknown to reasonable law enforcement agencies. It greatly enhances the chances of false arrests such as that inflicted upon the plaintiff."

Ms. Willis said she went into a building at the airport and, when she tried to leave the room, her exit was blocked and she would have to sit down. She said that later a sheriff's officer had her remove all her personal items and place them in a Ziploc bag. Then she was searched.

She said then another officer "stormed into the room, pointed an automatic rifle at the plaintiff and yelled at her to get on the ground. While she lay on her stomach she was handcuffed." She was later taken to the Rhea County Jail.

She said she was finally told she was being arrested for money laundering. Officers said the plane was carrying some $250,000 in diamonds, jewelry and gold coins.

The suit says the charge against Ms. Willis was later dismissed.

It says, "Defendant McMillon apparently created a crime and lured John Marshall to Rhea County. Defendant McMillon had never spoken to the plaintiff. He had no reason to expect her to be in the plane. No one had ever told him anything whatsoever about her. No other defendant had ever spoken to or even heard of her. Despite this the defendants arrested and charged the plaintiff with money laundering, put her in jail, and prosecuted her."

Other defendants are Rhea County Sheriff Mike Neal, John Argo of the
Rhea County Sheriff's Office, Sequatchie County Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock, Dunlap Police Chief Clint Huth, Rhea County, the city of Dunlap and Sequatchie County.

Here is the full suit:

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
AT CHATTANOOGA


ANDREA WILLIS )
)
Plaintiff )
) Case No. _______
v. )
) JURY DEMANDED
MIKE NEAL, Individually and as Sheriff )
of Rhea County, Tennessee, and as a Member )
of the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force; )
JOHN ARGO, Individually and as a Member )
of the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department and )
As a Member of the 12th Judicial District Drug )
Task Force; RONNIE HITCHCOCK, )
Individually and as Sheriff of Sequatchie County,)
Tennessee, and as a Member of the 12th Judicial )
District Drug Task Force; CLINT HUTH, )
Individually and as Police Chief Of Dunlap, )
Tennessee and as a Member of the 12th Judicial )
District Drug Task Force; JAMES OLLIE )
MCMILLON, a/k/a JAMES OLLIE )
MCMILLIAN, a/k/a/ JAMES OLLIE )
MCMILLION, JR., Individually and as )
Member of and Agent for Rhea County, )
Tennessee, and Agent of and Member of Dunlap )
City Police Force, and Agent for and Member )
Of the Sequatchie County, Tennessee Sheriff’s )
Department, and as a Member of the 12th )
Judicial District Drug Task Force; RHEA )
COUNTY, TENNESSEE, THE CITY OF )
DUNLAP, TENNESSEE, and SEQUATCHIE )
COUNTY, TENNESSEE. )
)
Defendants )

COMPLAINT

Comes the Plaintiff, Andrea Willis, by and through counsel, and for her Complaint against the Defendants, MIKE NEAL, individually, as Sheriff of Rhea County, Tennessee, and as a member of the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force; JOHN ARGO, individually, as an officer of the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department and as a member of the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force; RONNIE HITCHCOCK, individually, as Sheriff of Sequatchie County, Tennessee, and as a member of the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force; CLINT HUTH, individually, as Police Chief Of Dunlap, Tennessee and as a member of the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force; JAMES OLLIE MCMILLON, a/k/a JAMES OLLIE MCMILLIAN, a/k/a/ JAMES OLLIE MCMILLION, JR., individually and as an agent for Rhea County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Department, as agent of the Dunlap City Police Force, and agent for the Sequatchie County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Department, and as a member of the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force; RHEA COUNTY, TENNESSEE, THE CITY OF DUNLAP, TENNESSEE, and SEQUATCHIE COUNTY, TENNESSEE, states as follows:
1. Plaintiff is a citizen and resident of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida.
2. Mike Neal is the duly elected Sheriff of Rhea County, Tennessee. Upon information and belief he is a resident of Rhea County, Tennessee.
3. Ronnie Hitchcock is the duly elected Sheriff of Sequatchie County, Tennessee. Upon information and belief he is a resident of Sequatchie County, Tennessee.
4. Clint Huth is the duly elected Police Chief of Dunlap, Tennessee. Upon information and belief he is a resident of Sequatchie County, Tennessee.
5. Upon information and belief James O. McMillon is a citizen and resident of Rhea County, Tennessee.
6. Rhea County, Tennessee, is a municipal corporation or county in the State of Tennessee.
7. Sequatchie County, Tennessee is a municipal corporation or county in the State of Tennessee.
8. The City of Dunlap is a municipal corporation within the State of Tennessee.
9. The actions complained of herein occurred in Rhea County, Tennessee. Jurisdiction is appropriate in this Court pursuant to 28 USC §§ 1331, 1343, and 1367 in that this action is founded upon 42 USC §§ 1983 and 1988. Ancellary state law claims are also brought in this proceeding pursuant to 28 USC § 1367.
10. Venue is proper in this Court pursuant to 28 USC § 1391 because the actions complained of herein occurred in Rhea County, Tennessee and because the Defendants reside in and/or may be served in Rhea County, Tennessee and Sequatchie County, Tennessee.
11. The Plaintiff is a commercial pilot in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Shortly before October 7, 2003, a friend of the Plaintiff’s, Jack Marshall, who is also a commercial pilot, asked the Plaintiff if she would like to accompany him on a flight to Dayton, Tennessee. Mr. Marshall knew that the Plaintiff desired flying experience in order to obtain a job as a commercial pilot of large passenger planes. In order to obtain the extra hours, the Plaintiff agreed to accompany Mr. Marshall on the flight.
12. The Plaintiff did not know the purpose of the flight other than that it somehow involved Mr. Marshall’s son, John Marshall. She believed it to be business related. When she got on the plane in Florida on the morning of October 7, 2003 she found that there were two passengers aboard, one being John Marshall and the other being an individual the Plaintiff had once met but did not know.
13. The plane left Florida and landed at the Mark Anton Airport in Rhea County later that day. After landing, the Plaintiff left the plane and went into a building at the airport in order to use the restroom. Jack Marshall and one of the passengers also entered the building with her.
14. After going into the building, one of the Defendants blocked the exit from the restroom and told the Plaintiff that she would have to sit down and remain seated. She, Jack Marshall, and the third individual did so. Two of the Defendants sat down in the room with the Plaintiff but did not identify themselves, explain why the Plaintiff was being detained, or otherwise speak with her. Approximately 30 minutes later an individual, believed to be one of the Defendants, entered the room. He did not identify himself but the Plaintiff noticed that he had a Sheriff’s badge hanging from a lanyard around his neck. He asked the Plaintiff to remove all of her personal items and he placed them in a Ziploc bag. He then proceeded to search the Plaintiff. While being searched, or shortly thereafter, the Plaintiff noticed that the two individuals who had been sitting in the room with them had produced Sheriff’s identification badges also.
15. The Plaintiff was instructed to sit down. Shortly thereafter one of the Defendants or an agent of the Defendants stormed into the room, pointed an automatic rifle at the Plaintiff and yelled at her to get on the ground. While she lay on her stomach she was handcuffed. After some minutes she was removed from the floor and placed in a chair. Sometime later she was taken out of the building, placed in a patrol car and taken to the Rhea County jail.
16. When the Plaintiff was brought to the Rhea County jail she again asked to use the restroom but was refused. She was told to go into a visitation room and after doing so the room was locked. At this point she had not been told why she had been arrested or detained.
17. Approximately 3 to 4 hours later she was removed from the visitors lounge and placed in another room for questioning. Again she asked to use the restroom and again she was refused. One of the Defendants questioned her and then, for the first time, stated that she was under arrest for money laundering. She was informed of her “Miranda Rights”. She was then questioned.
18. After concluding the questioning the Plaintiff was allowed to go to the restroom for the first time. The Plaintiff was also told to undress and was given a uniform to wear. At that time the Plaintiff asked to use the telephone but was refused.
19 The Plaintiff was placed in a cell, given a mat, a blanket, and some food and drink. Approximately 4 hours later she was taken out of the cell in order to be booked. She again asked to use the telephone but was refused. After being booked, she was placed back in the cell. Approximately 2 hours later she was taken out of the cell, told that a bond had been posted for her, and was allowed to leave.
20. The Plaintiff was charged in Rhea County, Tennessee, by the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department, with the offense of money laundering. The Plaintiff hired counsel to represent her in the case.
21. The affidavit of complaint, executed by a member of the 12th District Judicial Drug Task Force, states as follows:
“On the above date a Beachcraft leer jet flew into the Mark Anton Airport in Dayton. Andrea Deane Willis was co-pilot of the plane. The plane was carrying approximately $250,000 in diamonds, jewelry and gold coins. Ms. Willis departed the plane and entered the building at the airport. She was apprehended and placed under arrest at that time.”

22. On February 5, 2004, the Plaintiff’s case was dismissed.
23. The Plaintiff’s false arrest and prosecution by the Defendants came about as a result of a relationship between the named members of the 12th Judicial Drug Task Force, the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department, the Sequatchie County Sheriff’s Department, the Dunlap City Police Force, Defendant Rhea County, Tennessee, and Defendant Sequatchie County, Tennessee, and Defendant James Ollie McMillon.
24. Defendant McMillon apparently created a crime and lured John Marshall to Rhea County. Defendant McMillon had never spoken to the Plaintiff. He had no reason to expect her to be in the plane. No one had ever told him anything whatsoever about her. No other Defendant had ever spoken to or even heard of the Plaintiff. Despite this the Defendants arrested and charged the Plaintiff with money laundering, put her in jail, and prosecuted her.
25. Prior to becoming an agent for the other Defendants, Defendant McMillon had been arrested over 40 times for offenses such as grand larceny, assault and battery, deceptive practices, theft by deception, fraud, passing worthless checks, felony conspiracy, possession of marijuana, possession of barbiturates, cocaine smuggling, possession of methaqualone, possession of cocaine for resale, larceny by trick, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, theft of services, and numerous arrests as a fugitive. His illustrious past includes arrests by the Chattanooga Police Department, Lumpkin County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department, Walker County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department, Monroe County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department, Cobb County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department, Jackson County, Missouri Sheriff’s Department, Okaloosa County, Florida Sheriff’s Department, Shallowmar County, Florida Sheriff’s Department, Ft. Walton Beach Police Department, Covenant Parish, Louisiana Sheriff’s Department, El Paso, Texas Police Department, Lexington County, South Carolina Sheriff’s Department, Dalton, Georgia Police Department, Murray County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department, Whitfield County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department, and Catoosa County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department.
26. Despite his past, the other Defendants in this case chose Defendant McMillon some months before the Plaintiff’s arrest to act as their agent in “rooting out crime” in Rhea County, Tennessee and Sequatchie County, Tennessee. These Defendants placed so much trust and confidence in Defendant McMillon that they allowed him to conduct his own investigations and locate potential criminals, with a stated interest in those who had property which could be forfeited. The other Defendants allowed Defendant McMillon to do so with no supervision whatsoever. As an incentive to Defendant McMillon, the other Defendants “hired” him on a “bounty” or commission system that allowed him to keep 20% of all of the property confiscated by the other Defendants as a result of the criminal arrests brought about by information provided to them from Defendant McMillon. This arrangement is otherwise unknown to reasonable law enforcement agencies. It greatly enhances the chances of false arrests such as that inflicted upon the Plaintiff. And this “one of a kind” arrangement ignores that fact that law enforcement agents of cities and counties in Tennessee are fiduciaries and have no right to turn confiscated property over to a private individual.
27. The Defendants, acting in their individual capacity and as agents of Defendant Rhea County, Tennessee, Defendant Sequatchie County, Tennessee and Defendant Dunlap, Tennessee arrested, detained and charged the Plaintiff with a crime despite the fact that there was no probable cause whatsoever. Indeed, the charging document—paragraph 21—does not even charge a crime or allege any criminal behavior
28. As a result of the false arrest, the Plaintiff has suffered damages including, but not limited to, attorneys fees and costs associated with her defense in the criminal case, emotional anguish, pain and suffering, and a diminution in her ability to become employed as a commercial airline pilot.
29. The Plaintiff sues the Defendants based upon the facts herein stated and asserts the following causes of action:
(a) Violation of 42 USC §§ 1983 and 1988.
(b) False arrest – T.C.A. § 39-13-302.
(c) Malicious harassment – T.C.A. § 4-21-701.
(d) Assault and battery.
(e) Slander and libel.
(f) Intentional and negligent infliction of emotion distress.
(g) Malicious prosecution.
(h) Abuse of process.
(i) Outrageous conduct.
WHEREFORE, the Plaintiff prays that:
1. Process issue and be served upon the Defendants requiring them to answer in accordance with law.
2. The Court impanel a jury to hear this cause.
3. The Plaintiff have a judgment against the Defendants, jointly and severely, for compensatory damages in the amount of $10,000,000.00, attorney fees, incidental costs, and court costs.
4. That the Plaintiff have general relief.
Respectfully submitted,

CAVETT & ABBOTT, PLLC

By: ________________________
John C. Cavett, Jr., TN BPR #9388
Attorneys for Plaintiff
801 Broad Street, Suite 428
Chattanooga, TN 37402
(423) 265-8804

COST BOND

I hereby acknowledge and bind myself for the prosecution of this action and payment of all costs in this court which may at any time be adjudged against the Plaintiff in the event said Plaintiff shall not pay the same.
Witness my hand this _____ day of October, 2004.


CAVETT & ABBOTT, PLLC

By: ____________________________
John C. Cavett, Jr. TN BPR #9388
Surety



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