Woman sues local CHP over arrest
Ruth Jackson of Quincy filed a lawsuit Friday, Aug. 27, against two current Quincy Area California Highway Patrol Officers and one officer who used to be stationed here.
The lawsuit names Officers Lacey Heitman, Jim Weaton and former Quincy Area Commander Paul Davis, recently promoted to captain and stationed in the Ukiah office, as defendants.
The civil complaint listed seven causes of action: "false arrest; false imprisonment; battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent hiring, training, and supervision of officers; negligent infliction of emotional distress," and unlawful search and seizure.
The complaint requested compensation for physical, mental, economic and punitive damages, along with attorney costs.
A narrative section of the complaint reported Wheaton and Heitman pulled Jackson over Sept. 12, 2009, after she exited the Oktoberfest event at the Blairsden Barn, where she was working as a volunteer.
The complaint indicated Jackson drove 150 feet to a stop sign and turned left onto Highway 70, before being pulled over less than half a mile later.
The brief said Jackson was told she failed to make a complete stop at the intersection, which she argued was not the case.
The narrative continued, with Jackson opening the trunk of her car to get her driver's license out of her purse, and the officers noticed the alcohol bottles she stored there, which she was bringing home from the event to recycle.
According to Jackson's complaint, the officers ignored Jackson's explanations that she was volunteering at the event and Wheaton informed her he suspected she was impaired and that Jackson took a portable breathalyzer test, which came up with a blood alcohol level of 0.00.
"Wheaton then informed Mrs. Jackson that he now believed that she was under the influence of an unnamed prescription medication or narcotic."
The complaint said Jackson told officers she hadn't taken a prescription drug in over 12 hours and had never used narcotics. In addition, it indicated Jackson told officers she had 12 foot surgeries in the last several years and had trouble with "fine balancing tests."
The complaint said officers did not make any accommodations to account for this issue, and told Jackson she failed the tests.
According to the narrative, Jackson was arrested at 10 p.m. and was never contacted by a certified drug recognition expert at this or any other point during her encounter with the CHP.
"The results of their search yielded no alcohol, illegal drugs, or paraphernalia of any kind."
The document did note a blood pressure medication bottle, with Jackson's husband's name on it, was seized and found to contain four common Aleve pain relief tablets.
A press release quoted Jackson's daughter, attorney Julia Jackson who is handling the case, expressing her belief "that Mrs. Jackson was targeted by CHP because she was leaving an event called Oktoberfest, and they assumed that any person attending such an event would be an automatic DUI."
The complaint alleged Jackson was taken to the CHP office in Quincy, where additional field sobriety tests were conducted, before Jackson requested permission to speak with her husband, local attorney Michael Jackson.
It added that the defendants denied the request and "told her that if her husband was truly worried about her, he would call CHP and they would tell him where she was."
"Based on video recording of Mrs. Jackson in custody and witness statements regarding her demeanor and behavior only minutes before her arrest, we feel that no reasonable person could have believed that she was under the influence," Julia Jackson argued in a press release.
The court document continued, "Mrs. Jackson was transported in handcuffs to the Plumas County jail in Quincy" for blood testing, which detected no drugs.
The narrative said the results arrived after Jackson spent a night in jail, "where she was force to use the restroom in view of other officers in the jail and sleep on a wooden bench carved with a swastika."
The complaint alleged that two days later "an unidentified CHP officer read a police blotter over the local radio station, identifying Mrs. Jackson by her name, age and residence and asserting that she had been arrested Sept. 12 for driving under the influence of OxyContin.
"No blood testing had yet been performed on Mrs. Jackson's blood, and no previous determination of any alleged specific drug had been made at the time of her arrest."
In her press release, Julia Jackson said the radio report was "especially shocking because they named a specific drug, one widely associated with abuse, when no drug testing had been initiated and no drugs had been fond in Mrs. Jackson's car or on her person."
The complaint indicated the district attorney declined to prosecute the case upon receiving the evidence.
A section of the court documents about allegations of negligent hiring, training and supervision indicated, "Defendants were on notice of training issues surrounding the performance of new CHP recruits."
"On Sept. 3, 2009, the Plumas County League of Women Voters held a public meeting to address growing community concerns regarding alleged aggressive, intimidating and hostile treatment of the community by CHP officers."
The complaint indicated Davis was at the meeting "and spoke directly with Mrs. Jackson and other members of the community about the practices of Defendant Davis' officers in the community, including allegations of harassment, illegal surveillance of legal establishments, stopping and detaining citizens without an articulable suspicion of criminal activity, and falsifying probable cause to initiate traffic stops."
Julia Jackson concluded, "We live in a county with only 20,000 people, and the dissemination of false or factually inaccurate information can be very damaging, both personally and professionally.
"Immediately following the radio report, Mrs. Jackson began receiving unsolicited phone calls and letters from people indicating that they had 'heard' she needed help with a drug problem.
"The entire process, from beginning to end, has been humiliating and deeply hurtful to her."
The press release concluded with a statement by Ruth Jackson, explaining she filed the lawsuit because of her own treatment and her feeling that "my case seems to be symptomatic of the arbitrary, high-handed and arrogant way that many members of our community have been treated by CHP officers in the past few years."
"Law-abiding citizens should not need to feel afraid or intimidated by law-enforcement officers any time they are out in public."
"Our country was founded on the premise that a person is innocent until proven guilty, but too often the CHP seems to act as though they can declare a person guilty without due process."
The press release ended with the statement, "Mrs. Jackson reports that, to date, CHP has not issued her an apology, either privately or publicly."
Current Quincy Area CHP Commander Bruce Carpenter chose not to comment for this article, as he wasn't working in the Quincy area at the time of the events connected to this suit.
CHP Media Relations Information Officer II Jaime Coffee, based in Sacramento, also declined to comment, explaining that the highway patrol's legal staff hadn't received notice about the case yet.