Man sues Annapolis police over $1,500 seized by officer

Phil Davis

An Annapolis man who had $1,500 in cash improperly seized from his vehicle by city police is suing the department, an incident that led to the retirement of the officer involved.

Kennethel Cherry-Bey, 41, and his attorney claim the incident and the city’s response showed the Annapolis Police Department and Mayor Mike Pantelides “fostered an environment of lawlessness, unaccountability and disregard for procedure and the rights of citizens.”

Cherry-Bey claims the department, Chief Scott Baker and three officers caused “emotional trauma, humiliation, distress and damage to personal property” when police detained him over the course of a few hours from Dec. 24 to Dec. 25, 2016.

In response to a story by The Capital, the city later confirmed that Cpl. Duane Daniels seized $1,500 in cash from Cherry-Bey’s vehicle. The city repaid the money in April following an internal review.

Baker, who took over as chief after the mayor fired Michael Pristoop in February, called Daniels’ action “not acceptable” when the incident became public in July. Daniels retired after a review by the county State’s Attorney’s Office determined there were no grounds for criminal charges.

Pantelides, who will leave office next month after losing a re-election bid to Democrat Gavin Buckley, said in July that he thought the police veteran would have been fired if he hadn’t retired. The lawsuit notes that assessment.

“The Chief Executive Officer, the Mayor of the City of Annapolis indicated that the conduct of the Defendant Corporal Duane Daniels should have resulted in his dismissal, however the environment that was fostered at the Annapolis Police Department by the Defendants were such that no adverse action was taken against Defendant Corporal Duane Daniels,” attorney James Sweeting III wrote in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on Nov. 3, online court records show. Sweeting and Cherry-Bey have not responded to requests for comment.

In July, however, Sweeting said his client lost work, and friends and family didn't believe him when he said the money was taken by police.

City officials have known for some time a lawsuit was pending.

Assistant City Attorney Gary Elson said the city has yet to be served with the lawsuit, but he said he does not believe the city is liable.

“We don’t feel responsible for the damages he’s claiming,” Elson said.

Attempts to reach Daniels were unsuccessful.

Police said officers found Cherry-Bey slumped over the steering wheel of his car while parked at the 24/7 Fuel Mart, a convenience store on Forest Drive. The officers said they suspected Cherry-Bey of being high on PCP. He was held in a police cruiser for a period of time before an officer took him to the hospital, police said.

Months after the incident, city officials confirmed that Daniels seized $1,500 in cash from the vehicle, and released videotape of him placing the money in his hat.

The city sent Cherry-Bey a $1,500 check months later. Police said Daniels paid the city back before he left the department.

The lawsuit says Daniels and two unnamed officers violated Cherry-Bey’s constitutional rights, specifically the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures and deprivation of property without due process.

“The Annapolis Police Department and Chief Baker enacted or perpetuated a policy, practice or custom that authorizes the seizure and confiscation of personal property without notice or an opportunity to be heard,” the lawsuit reads.

Cherry-Bey is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

He has had several run-ins with law enforcement prior to and since the December incident.

Online court records show he was found guilty of second-degree assault in August for an incident on June 18, six months after the incident with the money. He is appealing his conviction.

Cherry-Bey also unsuccessfully sued then-Mayor Alfred Hopkins and the city in 1996, court records show.

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