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Cottageville man claims wrongful arrest, asks for day in court

Cottageville resident James W. Carter is suing the town for their part in what he claims was a wrongful arrest by former Cottageville police officer Randall Price.

Carter was arrested in 2009 for receiving stolen goods. He alleges in court paperwork that Price threatened to “get him,” and manufactured false documents that led to his arrest. Carter was arrested for having air conditioners on his property that Carter claims the owner of the property stored there. Besides suing Price, Carter is also suing the town for “gross negligence.” “My client is suing the town for ever having hired Mr. Price,” said James B. Moore III, one of Carter’s attorneys in this case.

According to Moore, Carter had to wait to file suit until the criminal charge against him had been cleared through the justice system. “This charge was not dismissed by the town until May of this year. We were unable to file this malicious prosecution case until the charge was ultimately dismissed,” said Moore. “Mr. Carter denied these allegations from the beginning,” he said. According to Moore, Carter immediately hired an attorney after his arrest.

“Shortly before the charge against him was dismissed, the town requested that Mr. Carter sign a release, whereby the town agreed to dismiss Mr. Carter’s pending criminal charge in exchange for his agreement to not file a civil lawsuit against the town. He refused to sign it,” said Moore.

Officer Price is the same officer being investigated for fatally shooting former Cottageville Mayor Bert Reeves. Attorney Lake Summers represents Price in both matters. “We are still awaiting the results of the pending investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice concerning the lawsuit as it related to Mr. Reeves,” Price said. Summers confirmed that his client is being sued by Mr. Carter, but could not elaborate.

As for the town, newly-sworn in Mayor Tim Grimsley said the town has not yet received legal notification of the suit against them. He also says that the town’s retaining counsel will likely not handle this case. According to him, the S.C. Municipal Association will hire an attorney to represent the town in accordance with the town’s insurance. When asked if he knew where Mr. Price was currently working, Grimsley said, “I don’t know where he is.” The Town of Cottageville indefinitely suspended Price following the Reeves shooting.

Speaking on behalf of Carter, Moore says his client has two goals he hopes this suit will accomplish; to clear his name and to force the town into utilizing better hiring methods in its police department.

“Because the town receives roughly 60-percent of its annual revenue through police-issued tickets, we believe the town was actively searching for an aggressive officer. And that is what they got when they hired Officer Price,” said Moore. “Our position is that a simple Google search by the police chief at that time would have revealed the Tarnished Badge series featuring Officer Price published by The Post and Courier in 2005.”

“The town needs to be forced into what most other municipalities consider common practice,” he continued. “They should conduct standard psychological evaluations and full background checks on officers before they are hired to police Cottageville and protect its residents.”

Carter is seeking unspecified damages in this suit. A jury of Colleton County residents would award an amount to him if he should prevail in civil court.

Heather Walters (1474 Posts)