The sound of freedom accompanied by the flashing red, white, and blue lights in your rearview can really throw a wrench in your day. Finding yourself arrested and carted off to jail is even worse, causing a major life disruption.
But imagine having dealt with all that and finally having a judge say you’re free to go only to be held almost a whole month after that.
New Orleans resident Rodney Grant can attest to that because it happened to him. District Judge Camille Buras said that Grant was free to go but the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and Louisiana Department of Corrections decided to hold onto him a little longer.
Grant is now suing the sheriff’s office, Louisiana Department of Corrections, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc and others associated with both departments.
The lawsuit alleges that the named parties violated his 14th Amendment rights by keeping him in jail long after he was entitled to be released.
Things went downhill for Grant when he was arrested on an expired 15-year-old simple burglary warrant on June 27, 2016 while trying to obtain a drivers license. He pleaded guilty three days later to the charge and was sentenced to one year with credit for the seven years he served at Dixon Correctional Institute for a different crime.
Grant’s attorney, William Most, filed the lawsuit and explains that with time served, Grant should have been released that day or the next but that did not happen. Criminal District Judge Camille Buras even contacted the sheriff’s office and requested they expedite Grant’s release. It did not happen.
According to the lawsuit, instead of an immediate release, the New Orleans man was held a week and a half at Orleans Parish Prison before being transferred to the custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections (LDOC). The LDOC hid Grant at the privately run Madison Parish Correctional Center in Tallulah.
Alfred Marshall, a friend of Grant, spoke to Judge Buras and told her on July 15, 2016 that Grant was still incarcerated. The judge called Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Warden Chris Stinson to demand his release. Buras then vacated Grant’s sentence July 18.
Once again, it did not happen.
On July 25, Buras emailed two Department of Corrections employees asking why the lawful order wasn’t followed. Finally, the LDOC released Grant on July 27, 2016 and gave him a bus ticket back to New Orleans.
The sheriff’s office said in its filing Grant failed to show it violated a clearly established constitutional right, or that its conduct was “objectively unreasonable in light of any clearly established law.” The Department of Corrections said Grant didn’t show it violated any federal or state laws.
On Aug. 14, U.S. District Judge Nannette Brown denied the request to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the New Orleans' resident. In her ruling Brown stated the claims made by Grant and his attorney made it “plausible” that the sheriff’s office and LeBlanc “engaged in a policy of unconstitutionally over-detaining persons and that policy was the driving force behind the alleged violation of plaintiff’s constitutional right.”
The sheriff’s office disagreed. An attorney for the sheriff’s office, Blake Arcuri, said, “Laura Rodrigue and I are preparing to litigate the remaining claims as we speak.” Attorneys for LeBlanc did not immediately respond to a request for comment.