Jan. 21, 2004 – The governor's chief of security, several police officers and the V.I. government are accused by a teacher and her husband of violating their civil rights, assault and battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
Those are the charges laid out in the civil suit brought by Yvonne and Harry Freeman that was filed last Friday in District Court.
The action stems from an incident a little over a year ago at the second-term inauguration of Gov. Charles W. Turnbull on St. Thomas. The Freemans were manhandled by police and subsequently arrested at Emancipation Garden, the site of the inaugural ceremony.
The 52-year old Yvonne Freeman has taught at Joseph Gomez Elementary School for 25 years; her husband, 70, is retired.
In addition to the government itself, the suit names Kenneth Gittens, Turnbull's chief of security; Officers Cirra Turpin, D. Petersen and "Fru" Harrigan; and other unnamed police officers as defendants. Each is being sued as an individual for depriving the Freemans of their civil rights, and as a police officer for acting in his or her official capacity.
Andrew Capdeville, the attorney representing the Freemans, declined to comment on the case. The couple's lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages for medical costs, lost wages, property damage and pain and suffering, along with unspecified punitive damages.
The lawsuit states that Police Department personnel accosted the Freemans while the couple was at Emancipation Garden peacefully protesting raises that Turnbull had initiated and the Senate had approved for themselves. Without warning, the suit says, the officers touched or grabbed Yvonne Freeman in an offensive and unwarranted manner, and that she was shocked and frightened and tried to pull away.
Gittens, who was dressed in plainclothes and failed to identify himself, and other officers handled Yvonne Freeman roughly, the suit states, ripping her clothing and tearing her jewelry off. Officers lifted her bodily in the air causing her to lose a shoe, the suit says.
She was then publicly handcuffed and made to walk without her shoe to a police car which took her against her will to the nearby police station. (See "Freemans file lawsuit against VIPD officers".)
The suit further states that Harry Freeman was violently assaulted by police when he went to his wife's aid. A police office struck him in the head with a baton or other hard object and he, too, was forcibly taken to the police station, the suit says, despite his protestations to officers that he suffers from claustrophobia.
At the police station, after being confined against his will, Freeman was released, while his wife was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest, the suit says. The charges were dropped by Territorial Court Judge Brenda Hollar for lack of probable cause.
The Freemans' suit states that the police "deprived the plaintiffs of their constitutionally protected rights" of assembly, freedom of speech and due process of law; and from unreasonable search and seizure, illegal arrest and detention, and cruel and unusual punishment.
As a result of their experience, the suit says, Yvonne Freeman suffered bruising pain, neck and back injuries; and Harry Freeman suffered a head injury, laceration, bruising and pain, and continues to experience vision problems as a result of the blow to the head.
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