Federal trial set for civil suit over ‘unconstitutional’ APD traffic stop

A federal trial date has been set for a civil lawsuit filed against APD officers over an alleged "unconstitutional" traffic stop and roadside interrogation.
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 3:04 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - A federal trial date has been set for a civil lawsuit filed by a New Mexico man and a Dry Prong woman who are suing two Alexandria Police Department officers, the department’s chief of police, and the City, for what they claim was an “unconstitutional” traffic stop and roadside interrogation.

A jury trial is set for Feb. 20, 2024, before Judge Terry Doughty in the Alexandria federal courthouse.

Mario Rosales and Gracie Lasyone were stopped on June 15, 2022, off the intersection of Jackson Street and Dorchester Drive, by two APD officers, Jim Lewis and Samuel Terrell. The 20-minute incident was caught on body camera and dash camera video.

Rosales, who was driving a red Ford Mustang with News Mexico plates and a valid registration sticker, turned left at the intersection with his turn signal on. That is when he and Lasyone were pulled over by Lewis and Terrell.

The couple claims they were stopped without legal justification, neither demonstrated suspicious behavior, neither were suspects of a crime and neither had a criminal history. The two were interrogated about drug crimes, Rosales was frisked, and the couple was prohibited from recording the interaction.

Ultimately, Rosales was cited for failure to signal, which the video shows he did, as well as failure to register a vehicle and another allegation related to registering a vehicle. All three charges were dismissed on Aug. 9, 2022.

In an interview with News Channel 5, Rosales said he knew the image the officers were trying to portray, that of a drug smuggler.

“I mean, you see New Mexico plates,” said Rosales. “Here I am in Louisiana, and that’s whenever I snapped. I’m like, ‘They think I’m a drug smuggler. That’s what this is about, I bet.’”

The couple said since the incident, they have lost their sense of “security” and “trust” in the police department and believe their First and Fourth Amendment rights were deprived.

In response to the lawsuit, attorneys for the City and the police department claim that the couple’s constitutional rights were not violated. The defendants said that the actions of the officers were “objectively reasonable,” and that the individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. They also claim there was “reasonable suspicion for officers to approach the vehicle” and detain the pair, though they do not detail the nature of the cause.

Before the February jury trial, there are a handful of deadlines for filings set throughout the year.

Attorneys H. Bradford Calvit, Joshua Dara, Jr., Michael O’Shee, Morgan Briggs and Steven Oxenhandler are acting as defense for the APD officers, department and the City.

Rosales and Lasyone are represented by Joseph Beck, III, as well as Institute for Justice’s attorneys Anya Bidwell, Marie Miller and Patrick Jaicomo.

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