EGYPT, Ark. – Stephen Warren has filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the City of Egypt, Mayor Jerry Cook, Clerk/Recorder Joy Lingo, and (ex) Police Chief Gerald Goza.
Warren was arrested for disorderly conduct after he requested records – most notably, phony qualifications forged by Goza – from the City of Egypt. Warren sued and in a settlement, the city dropped the charges and turned over the records in Dec. 2019. Once available, records showed Goza had at least two fraudulent documents including a forged RADAR certificate and a fake diploma. He had been fired from Cash Police Department in 2010 for not having a GED. Since then, Goza has been arrested for impersonating a police officer. But a newly filed federal lawsuit looks to hold more than just Goza accountable.
Filed by Mark Rees and Zach Morrison of Rees Law Firm, the action seeks equitable and monetary damages against all of the parties both individually and in their official capacities.
“We’re trying to protect the citizens and the most vulnerable people from these overzealous, illegal police activities that the city knew and allowed,” Mark Rees told NEA Report.
The lawsuit alleges that during the summer of 2019, Warren noticed Goza pulling over an unusually large amount of people and writing an excessive quantity of tickets. He also had been told of unprofessional conduct and illegal searches being performed by Goza. So, he started to question Mayor Cook about Goza’s qualifications. The lawsuit alleges Cook warned that there would be trouble for both Warren and his friends if he chose to continue to question or press the issue regarding the city’s police department or Goza’s qualifications.
Warren didn’t back down. His tenacity increased as he then questioned Cook on if the mayor himself had ever informed the city council about Goza being fired, having civil judgments against him, or, “his misdemeanor criminal convictions.” When Warren indicated he would inform the council, the lawsuit says the defendants all began a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and worse. Some of those allegations included that he was mentally ill, armed with guns, and a danger to the entire community by unfairly targeting “City Hall and officials.” City officials were building a case against Warren, with the lawsuit saying Cook and Lingo even had discussions about having him involuntarily committed to keep him from obtaining information about the city.
Warren feared for his safety so much, he stayed with relatives out of town during this period. He equipped all of his vehicles with recording devices to protect himself.
The situation came to a head on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 when Warren went to city hall to turn in a time-sheet, as he had done previous work for the city. He also submitted a FOIA request to Clerk Lingo. As shown on video and reviewed by this reporter, Lingo incorrectly asserted that the FOIA request needed to be submitted in writing (it does not) and that she had up to three days to comply with the request (incorrect, as well. Records are to be open and available for inspection upon request). When Warren tried to explain this to her, she called 911 and claimed Warren was making a scene.
Craighead County deputies arrived and did not take action after finding Warren seated at a table in the lobby with his computer. However, Goza showed up a short time later and arrested Warren for disorderly conduct. The lawsuit says this was to the surprise of the plaintiff and the deputies. It also is alleged that Goza grabbed and pulled Warren’s arms in a painful way and despite Warren asking him to stop, he continued his assault. Goza then had Warren’s legally parked vehicle towed from a city parking spot. Goza stated the mayor wanted him arrested.
During another 2019 incident, Warren was on his bicycle at the post office when Goza pulled up behind him. Warren handed Goza a copy of the statute detailing under what circumstances an officer can make a misdemeanor arrest without a warrant but Goza let it fall into his lap. The lawsuit says Goza picked up the paper, dropped it outside of the car on the ground, and then immediately threatened Warren to pick it up or be arrested for littering. Warren complied but the encounter continued. The GED-less police chief then followed Warren along the sidewalk and bantered with him until becoming angry. Goza physically assaulted Warren under the guise of an arrest, saying Warren would “respect” him and his authority. He said he was placing him under arrest for another disorderly conduct charge. But once Warren was handcuffed and in the back seat, Goza changed his mind and released him. It wouldn’t be for long, as he continued following Warren and once again, became angry enough to arrest him for disorderly conduct.
“He is going to learn to keep his mouth shut,” Goza told jail employees about the arrest, according to the lawsuit.
Following this, a No Contact Order was sought and granted for Goza, Cook, and Lingo that prevented Warren from having guns. It also prohibited him from coming within 100 yards of Lingo. Effectively, this barred him from city hall and city council meetings.
“The police and the city knew what they were doing was illegal but continued down the path because of the revenue the city was making,” Rees said.
The lawsuit alleges the following violations:
- First Amendment by preventing Warren from speaking at city council with unlawful arrests, detainment
- Fourth Amendment by seizing plaintiff without probable cause on at least two occasions
- Fifth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment violations against Warren by entry of the protective order, taking away substantial rights he held as a citizen
- It also alleges Lingo violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by demanding Warren write a FOIA request even though he informed her he has dyslexia.
- Eight Amendment violation through the use of unreasonable force by Goza
- The Arkansas Civil Rights Act by discriminating against a person with disabilities.
- Defamation for false statements made by Goza, Lingo and Cook (damaging Warren’s reputation)
- Assault and Battery for Goza’s actions
- False Arrest/Malicious Prosecution
- Abuse of Process
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
The attorneys are looking to hold both the individuals and the city responsible. The lawsuit asks for damages, attorney’s fees, and equitable relief to prevent Goza, Cook, and Lingo from “further engaging in the kinds of action they have taken against the Plaintiff.”
To read a copy of the federal lawsuit, click the link.