Another wrongful arrest leads to more legal action

(WBIR) A second person who says she was wrongly arrested because of a mistake made in the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk's Office is asking for $50,000 in damages.

Jodi Denise White, who spent 31 hours in jail in January 2013, said authorities took her into custody during a traffic stop on a violation of probation warrant more than a year after she completed the probation requirements.

Her lawsuit, filed Monday, suggested that the mistake originated from employees who were not properly trained and supervised.

"Plaintiff suffered harm and damages as a direct and proximate result of Defendant's breach of duties, including (but) not limited to emotional and psychological anguish, distress and anxiety," the lawsuit states.

Her attorney, William Taylor, listed the county and the Knox County General Sessions Court, which operates under the umbrella of the Criminal Court Clerk's Office, as the defendants.

The lawsuit comes almost three months after WBIR 10 News first broke a series of stories detailing a systemic problem inside Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey's office that has led to wrongful arrests, cases set aside due to errors, and residents temporarily losing their right to vote.

White, who was featured in one of the stories, initially pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in March 2011. A year later she completed the terms of her probation, yet learned that a warrants was still showing as pending in the county's criminal database.

PDF: Jodi White lawsuit

Records show that she talked with officials in the General Sessions Court and was assured that the warrant was dismissed.

Then in January 2013, she was stopped in Lenoir City for speeding.

"They took us out of the car, searched the car and then came back and told me I had a violation of probation warrant," White, who was with her boyfriend at the time, told WBIR during an interview last October. "I hadn't been on probation in two years, so I knew it wasn't true. They still arrested me and Knox County came and got me."

She was released on a $500 cash bond, which officials returned to her the next day when they let her go.

However, her car was towed when she was taken into custody for 31 hours. That cost her more than $150, which she never got back, she said.

White, 33, is second person who has taken or plans to take legal action against the county for a wrongful arrest.

In late November, a lawyer for a Seymour teenager filed a demand letter with the county asking for $50,000 after he was arrested for driving on a revoked license that wasn't supposed to be suspended.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who was served with the lawsuit Friday morning, said he's concerned about the pending legal action, particularly since McCroskey has routinely said that the problems stemming from her office have been exaggerated.

"This is money that doesn't go into the classroom or pay down our debt," said Burchett, who has little control over the local court system, but does manage the overall county purse strings. "(The problems are) unneeded – unnecessary."

McCroskey, who maintains the department that oversees the official records for the Fourth Circuit Court, General Sessions, and Criminal Court, has come under fire since a WBIR investigation reported that many of the mistakes appear tied to poor training, outdated information and her refusal to cooperate with other county departments.

Court workers often enter the wrong data into the records management system, lose crucial paperwork and provide defendants, prosecutors, and authorities with bad information.

McCroskey has denied much of the allegations, often telling county leaders and the media that she wasn't even aware of them.

Still, more problems continue to pop up.

On Thursday, for example, a Knox County judge gave three men accused of stealing items from the Stokely Athletics Center another chance to clear their records after attorneys discovered a clerical error that wrongly listed each of them as convicted of theft charges.

The trio initially pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft last June and were given judicial diversion, meaning that if they don't get in trouble for a year they can ask that the offense be expunged, according to Assistant District Attorney General Samyah Jubran. The defendants at the time also were each ordered to pay almost $1,800 in restitution and court costs.

Recent background checks, though, noted that the defendants had convictions on their records. General Sessions Judge Tony Stansberry on Thursday ordered officials to correct the mistakes immediately.


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