Philadelphia man busted for firearm possession claims cops racially profiled him

By Jim Boyle | May 12, 2014

A Philadelphia man who spent 13-and-a-half months in prison says three police officers

racially profiled him when a traffic stop resulted in convictions for drug possession and carrying a gun.

Devin Williams, of the 2000 block of Dickenson St. in Philadelphia, has filed a civil suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, seeking at least $75,000 in damages from the city, Police Chief Charles Ramsey and three officers.

According to the complaint, on March 3, 2012, Williams, a black man, had arrived home after his friend, Michael Jacobs, who is white, picked him up at the bus stop. While Williams ran inside to change his outfit, Jacobs sat outside in the car. The claim says that two plainclothes officers in an unmarked car viewed Jacobs counting a sum of cash while waiting for Williams.

The officers then witnessed Williams get into the car with a white bag that held another change of clothes. Jacobs and Williams drove away briefly before the officers pulled them over, an action they performed without probable cause, Williams says. Williams was ordered out of the vehicle and frisked while Jacobs remained behind the wheel, court documents say.

The search yielded several small bags of marijuana in Williams' pocket. While in the police car, Williams stashed his handgun underneath the passenger seat. The officers found the weapon, however, and charged Williams with four felonies and a misdemeanor, including possession of a prohibited firearm, receiving stolen property and carrying a firearm in public.

Williams spent more than a year in prison before a Philadelphia judge ruled that the search was unlawful because there was no reasonable reason to stop the car. He claims that the officers violated his rights when they treated him differently than the driver and conducted a wrongful search and seizure and selectively enforced the law.

Represented by Matthew Weisberg, Williams is seeking an amount in excess of $75,000 in statutory and compensatory damages and injunctive relief that would require closer monitoring and training of the officers.

The case ID number is 140202074.

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