A Black Lives Matter activist who was wrongfully arrested by New Port Richey Police Department (NPRPD) in 2020 and then acquitted earlier this year is now pursuing a civil claim against the city.
Marlowe Jones was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer during a protest in New Port Richey in 2020—a charge that could have landed him in jail for up to five years—despite no evidence of the crime ever happening.
The charges disrupted his life and his mental health for nearly two years, until he defended himself in court in May of this year and was found not guilty by a jury of his peers.
"I am seeking Justice for the nightmare me and my family went through from me being falsely and wrongly arrested and humiliated by the City of New port Richey and its corrupt NPRPD," Jones told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
Jones has obtained Natalie Jackson Law, the same firm that represented Trayvon Martin's family in their civil suit, to represent him in a claim against the city. Jackson is also running to represent Florida's 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The city has six months to respond to that "Notice of Claim.” If the city doesn't respond within that time period with some kind of reasonable response, which can include a monetary settlement, the law firm will file an official lawsuit.
Attorney Kevin Edwards at Natalie Jackson Law said that the evidence presented in Mr. Jones’ criminal trial showed several NPRPD inconsistencies that resulted in his acquittal.
"We believe this evidence will also prove his wrongful arrest along with other causes of action that we are currently considering filing suit for," Edwards told CL. "We look forward to helping Mr. Jones restore his name, getting his life back to normal, and receiving full justice for this unfortunate incident."
In May, prosecutors from the state attorney's office couldn't convince a jury that Jones had committed the crime he was accused of, mainly because they lacked any solid evidence.
Jones had done his best to break up the fight, and was trying to communicate to officers who arrived at the scene that the drunk man had been the aggressor. It was around this time that Rickus claimed Jones had struck him. During the trial, he struggled to identify that moment and changed his story on when it happened.
Andrew Darling, Jones' defense attorney, accused Rickus of fabricating the charge during the trial.
“That’s the thing about lies, when you make them, you have to remember them,” Darling said. “And officer Rickus couldn’t remember them, because he made too many.”
NPRPD's interactions with BLM protesters were fraught with controversial behavior, CL has found through several reports.
During a 2020 protest, the far right group the Proud Boys prayed with NPR police. An NPR police officer also shared intel to an armed right-wing vigilante on where to locate the BLM protesters. BLM protesters were charged up to $2,500 with noise ordinance violations during protests. Those fines were later dropped.
The police department has not yet responded to a request for comment on this story.
"I was acquitted by a jury of my peers because like I said from day one I was innocent," Jones said. "I was targeted because I was an African-American leader in my community making positive change."
Jones said he would say more at a later date, but shared this quote from Nelson Mandela: “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”