Monday, November 11, 2013
By Jim Dalgleish - Assistant Local News Editor
BENTON HARBOR - Their day in court is near for three Benton Harbor men suing the city of Benton Harbor over allegations surrounding the drug arrest fraud scandal involving two former police officers.
Tim Mason, Quacy Roberts and Shannon McKinney and their lawyers are preparing for a Dec. 3 trial in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. They allege the city failed to curb, and even encouraged, officers Andrew Collins and Bernard Hall, who served federal prison time for planting drugs on suspects.
The trio estimates some 80 other people wrongly arrested have settled out of court. But Mason, Roberts and McKinney said the settlements allowed the city to avoid fault.
"All we are saying is you did things wrong. Just admit to it," Mason said in an interview.
The plaintiffs allege Collins and Hall, with Hall as supervisor, were not rogue cops.
They intend to show a jury that the city and then-Police Chief Al Mingo encouraged the pair through pay and recognition in order to bring up arrest numbers and increase civil forefeiture takes - the money and goods police departments can claim from drug suspects.
The city and Mingo have denied there is truth to the allegations.
The trio said the department and city ignored countless citizens complaints that Collins and Hall were breaking the rules.
Hall was sentenced in 2009 to 30 months for conspiracy to violate civil rights. Collins was sentenced that year to three years for crack cocaine possession. Both men have completed the prison sentences.
Indictments alleged the officers falsified search warrants affidavits, secured warrants without probable cause, embezzled money from the department, filed false police reports and unlawfully seized money and property for their own use.
The case broke open in 2008 when a department investigation uncovered a large stash of cocaine, heroin and marijuana in Collins' locker.
The case led the Berrien County Proscutor's Office to seek the dismissal of dozens of drug cases, some of which led to prison sentences.
Mason, 32, said Collins arrested him in 2008 for marijuana possession, but the case fell apart before it got to trial.
McKinney, 36, said Collins planted marijuana on him, leading to a 125-day jail sentence. Roberts, 37, spent a year in jail for cocaine possession.