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City of Cleveland and police officers sued for detaining child for over three months for no reason

Then-juvenile Dalonte White was prosecuted for a crime he did not commit―even as police sat on critical information implicating a different suspect.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - A complaint filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court today by Dalonte White alleges that the City of Cleveland and various individual police officers violated White's constitutional rights when it detained him for over three months without probable cause in 2015. At the time, he was a juvenile.

The complaint alleges that police officers wrongly arrested White for a violent home invasion in April 2015, even though he did not match the description of the main offender. The offender was described as 6'0", for example, while White was 5'4", and the offender was suspected to have a dog bite or gunshot wound to his ankle from the burglary, while White had no such wound. The police based their arrest on the victims' photo identification of White, but the photo array the victims were shown was unfair because it used an old photo of White with medium-length braids that made him look more like the offender, who had dreadlocks, and because White's was the only photo in the array with braids or dreadlocks.

Worse, the complaint alleges, the police acquired information about a different suspect who did meet the offender's description, but failed to disclose this information to White's attorney for nearly two months while White languished in detention. That information included not only a police report showing the other suspect had, on the night of the home invasion, shown up a local hospital for a gunshot wound to his ankle, but also that the victims had identified that suspect in a later photo lineup.

The complaint alleges that the police officers' continued prosecution and detention of White and their failure to disclose information favorable to White's defense violated White's constitutional rights to be free of unreasonable seizure and to due process. The complaint also alleges that the City of Cleveland failed to properly train its officers to do their jobs correctly. While detained wrongfully, White suffered not only the loss of his liberty, but also a broken jaw when another inmate kicked him in the face.

A Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court judge ultimately found that no probable cause existed to prosecute White, but he continued to be confined to home detention (and then was ordered back to detention), until the prosecution dismissed the case a few months later.

"There are so many things wrong with how the police officers and Cleveland handled this case," said Sandhya Gupta, one of White's attorneys. "That two different police officers told the victims not to circle the photo of the other suspect in a photo array, for example, and then failed to disclose this identification to the defense blatantly violates long-established Supreme Court law. It's even worse since Dalonte was a child. Instead of being at home with his family and going to school, he was languishing in detention, where he was kicked in the face and suffered a broken jaw."

White's claims against the Cleveland and the police officers include alleged violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and state-law claims for malicious prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment, among others.

The complaint may be read here. The case as assigned to Judge Richard Ambrose and is Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. 17-880097.

Sandhya Gupta, Subodh Chandra, Patrick Haney, and Marvin Brown of The Chandra Law Firm LLC, www.ChandraLaw.com, represent White.

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