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Amherst pays retiree $90,000 to settle malicious-prosecution lawsuit

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Police charged Donald Margolis with violating a statute that had been declared unconstitutional eight years earlier—even when the alleged "victim" had told them nothing improper had happened. That's malicious prosecution.

Amherst pays retiree $90,000 to settle malicious-prosecution lawsuit
Donald Margolis happy in his vintage 1973 MG

Cleveland, OH – This month, the City of Amherst, Ohio paid Donald Margolis, a married, retired smallbusinessman and United States Air Force veteran $90,000 to settle his lawsuit against Officers Brian Griffin, Deven Small, Jeffry Zemenek, Kyle Ancog, and Chief of Police Mark Cawthon among others, for alleged federal civil-rights violations, malicious prosecution, false arrest, and civil liability for criminal acts, over Margolis's 2022 ordeal.

Mr. Margolis was age 77 at the time of the incident. His federal civil-rights complaint alleged the following:

  • On August 24, 2022, in a kind and innocent gesture, Mr. Margolis let a boy sit in his vintage MG sportscar. Amherst police investigated and learn directly from the boy that nothing improper happened.

  • Despite knowing nothing improper happened, police wrongfully arrested, searched, charged, and jailed Mr. Margolis—for a non-existent crime the Supreme Court of Ohio had declared unconstitutional eight years earlier.

  • Mr. Margolis was forced to retain defense counsel to prepare for a criminal trial.

  • On October 14, 2022—four days before his scheduled trial—Mr. Margolis’s counsel moved to dismiss the case based on the fact that the Supreme Court of Ohio had invalidated R.C. 2905.05 as unconstitutional in State v. Romage, 138 Ohio St.3d 390, 396, 7 N.E.3d 1156 (2014).

  • The court agreed, dismissing the charge and sealing the record. The court noted, "“Since it is not a law, there is no charge. Since there is no charge, there is no charge to be dismissed. Case closed.”

  • Mr. Margolis was finally released from house arrest.

  • When Mr. Margolis’s wallet was returned to him, his cash had been replaced by a debit card valued at only $900—so-called "law enforcement” stole about $400, the complaint alleges.

  • Mr. Margolis has been sleepless and devastated since the incident.

Chief Cawthon defended Amherst police's mistreatment of Mr. Margolis, telling the Elyria Chronicle Telegram that in "his view the law remains on the books and he believes there was probable cause to charge Margolis."

Subodh Chandra, Mr. Margolis's lead counsel said, "What happened to Mr. Margolis was horrifying and wrong. He will be happy to put this whole sorry incident behind him."

"To the best of our knowledge, no one in Amherst city government has been held accountable for this atrocity—not a police officer; not the prosecutor."

The case was captioned Margolis v. City of Amherst, et al., N.D. Ohio Case No. 1:23-cv-01648 and was assigned to U.S. District Judge Charles Esque Fleming. The operative complaint may be read here.

Chandra Law is experienced obtaining justice for victims of police misconduct and malicious prosecution. And the firm helped pioneer work in holding individuals and companies accountable for civil liability for criminal acts, securing the two leading Supreme Court of Ohio decisions favorable to crime victims on the topic.

If you think that your rights have been violated, you may contact us to discuss your options.

At Chandra Law, your case is our cause.®

Related Practice Areas
First AmendmentPolice Misconduct & BrutalityMalicious Prosecution, Abuse of Process, and False Arrest

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