Attorney says Criminal Court Clerk's Office made mistake
A Seymour teenager who says he was wrongfully arrested several weeks ago because of a mistake made in the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk's Office is demanding $50,000 in damages, according to paperwork filed Tuesday with the county's law department.
The move comes a little more than a month 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.
"My fear is that this is the tip of the iceberg and we need to get to the bottom of it," said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. "Not only does it appear that his civil rights were violated but it looks like the county will have to write a check."
McCroskey did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday. County Law Director Richard "Bud" Armstrong declined to comment.
According to the paperwork filed Tuesday, here's what happened:
Authorities initially charged Joshua Michael Kitts with drag racing on Chapman Highway last December. He pleaded guilty but prosecutors agreed to set aside the plea for six months, so long as he paid a combined $292.50 in fines and court costs, completed a safe driving school, and didn't get another ticket during that time.
Although he complied, McCroskey's office erroneously sent a letter to the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, saying his license had been revoked, according to documents filed by Kitts' attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs.
In late June, the state then sent Kitts a letter, telling him that his license was revoked. His family contacted the criminal clerk's office, which again sent "erroneous information" to the Tennessee Department of Safety – unbeknownst to Kitts.
The teenager, who thought the problem was fixed, was pulled over Nov. 15 on Old Sevierville Pike because a light in his car was out. When the Knox County deputy checked his license, he was told it was revoked.
Kitts, 19, was taken into custody for eight hours before posting bond. His car was towed and he also "missed a number of days of work as a result of his wrongful arrest due to these unfortunate and inexplicable errors," his attorney wrote in the demand letter filed Tuesday.
"It is significant to note that Joshua Kitts' wrongful arrest based on errors in the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk's Office is not an isolated event," Isaacs wrote, adding that he is seeking $50,000 to compensate Kitts "for his senseless and unnecessary wrongful arrests and the violations of his civil rights . . . ."
He continued: "In conclusion, no citizen of Knox County . . . should have to endure the anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress of being wrongfully arrested based on repeated errors by a governmental entity."
On Monday, Knox County prosecutors dismissed the Nov. 15 arrest because Kitts "was arrested in error," according to his warrant.
Isaacs declined to comment Tuesday, adding that he would "let the paperwork speak for itself."
Officials say much of the mistakes made in McCroskey's office appear tied to poor training, outdated information, and her refusal to cooperate with other county departments. Her 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 long denied most of the problems.