Contract worker seeks $75K over malicious prosecution during land feud

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Jun. 9, 2009, 9:46am

MARSHALL – Contracted to make improvements on land in Henderson and Van Zandt counties in 2005, Gary Carmichael was arrested after an adjacent property owner filed criminal charges alleging he intentionally damaged their property.

Alleging malicious prosecution, Carmichael filed a lawsuit against Fredric V. Geisendorff and Billie Geisendorff on June 5 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

Col. Kent Coker hired Carmichael to begin improvements on his land in 2005. According to the suit, sometime after the improvements began the Geisendorffs claimed an ownership interest in acreage that was located on the same farm-to-market road and abutted to Coker's land. The estate of A.D. Carmichael owned the land at issue.

According to Carmichael, the defendants went as far as listing the land for sale though a real estate agent even though they knew they did not own the property.

The Geisendorffs were warned that they did not own the land in question and were told to stop advertising they were the owners.

During the improvements on Coker's land, the defendants called the sheriff's department and claimed that Carmichael committed the criminal trespass and criminal mischief by hiring a bulldozer to clear land.

The plaintiff maintains he "had not cleared any of the Geisendorffs' land. Rather he had cleared Col. Coker's land pursuant to a written contract with Col. Coker."

The property owners claimed they incurred losses of between $100,000 and $200,000 due to Carmichael's acts. Carmichael states that he only removed native vegetation and trees that were worth less than $700 per acre.

Carmichael claims that due to the criminal complaint and exaggerated property damage, he was charged with a second-degree felony.

According to court records, the arrest warrant affidavit "acknowledges that ownership of the property has been in dispute for the past 15 years."

Carmichael was arrested and bond set for $100,000, court papers say.

The plaintiff states that the criminal case against him lingered and he spent years worrying that he would be tried for a second-degree felony. Carmichael states that the "defendants refused to drop the charges unless Plaintiff somehow expedited the sale of defendant's property."

Carmichael states that the defendants attempted to use the criminal charges against him as "leverage to obtain a quick sale of the disputed property."

The plaintiff was able to obtain an order of expunction in 2008, based on the alleged inaction of the Van Zandt County district attorney.

With the recently filed lawsuit, the plaintiff is suing the defendants for malicious prosecution, arguing the "defendants did not have probable cause to initiate or procure the prosecution of the plaintiff. "

The lawsuit is seeking more than $75,000 in damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, lost income, harm to reputation, and attorney's fees.

Arguing the defendants acted with malice, Carmichael is also seeking exemplary damages.

Tyler attorneys Charles H. Clark and Gregory S. Porter of the law firm Clark and Porter are representing the plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge T. John Ward will preside over the litigation.

Case No 2:09cv181

More News