Longview business man sues city, county for violating his civil rights

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Dec. 8, 2009, 2:00pm

MARSHALL – A Longview business owner claims the city and its officials are trying to put him out of business and are deliberately attempting to deprive him of his civil rights.

Jon Eric Jacks, owner of a car wash in Longview, claims he never received any notifications that he was violating city ordinances, yet charges stacked up against him eventually leading to a criminal record.

Acting as his own lawyer, Jacks filed a federal suit Dec. 3 against the city of Longview, City Manager David Willard, City Prosecutor Terry Jackson, Municipal Court Judge Larry Merriman and Health Inspector A. J. Mason.

The suit also names Gregg County as a defendant, along with District Attorney Carl Dorrough, Assistant District Attorney Zan Brown and Gregg County Court Judge Rebecca Simpson.

The suit was filed in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

Jacks states that "certain officials of the city of Longview began a systematic effort" to deny him of his civil rights by interfering with his business or attempting and threatening to "put Plaintiff out of business altogether."

The plaintiff believes the officials actions began in 2004 as retaliation after the city planner pleaded nolo contendere to an assault/disorderly conduct charge.

In January 2006, the plaintiff states he entered into an agreement with the Longview Environmental Health Department that the plaintiff would be called if any health related issues arose at his car wash.

However, by late 2006, Jacks states he became the target of an environmental health officer and a Longview police officer. Jacks alleges the police officer intentionally canceled his trash collection service which caused the environmental officer to write six citations for excess trash. Later, Jacks claims he requested an internal investigation but was told there was none.

According to the lawsuit, Jacks was stopped by the Longview police in early 2007 for a defective tail light. He was arrested but was not told the charges. He paid the full fine and learned in July of this year that the arrest was over a failure to appear charge, although Jacks claims he had never before been arrested or posted bail.

Jacks alleges that the city prosecutor told him in 2007 that they did not have to provide notice of violations. A few days later, Jacks retained a lawyer who discovered there were six cases pending against him.

By December 2007, Jacks states a trial was held regarding the violations.

"During trial, Jackson [the city prosecutor] once against states that 'the city does not have to give notice of violations.' Once again Jackson showed blatant disregard for the due process rights of the Plaintiff," the lawsuit claims.

Jacks appealed the causes to Gregg County Court in January 2008. Once in Gregg County, Jacks argues that the original charges were "upped" to misdemeanor charges with more extensive fines and jail time.

Jacks filed motions to dismiss each of the causes arguing that he did not receive required notice of each violation. However, his motions were denied.

Jacks claims that after facing up to $12,000 in fines and up to three years in jail and a judge that "apparently didn't know the appeals process," he finally agreed to a plea bargain.

The plaintiff agreed to pay $918 in fines to Gregg County and states he completed the payment in March 2008. But by July 2009, Jacks learned warrants were issued for the six appealed cases.

Jacks requested the six warrants to be dropped along with a falsely issued warrant concerning grass on property that Jacks did not own.

Jacks states he gave notice that a federal lawsuit would be filed if the violations and warrants were not dropped.

He says he met with the city prosecutor and district attorney in August to discuss the issue.

According to Jacks, the prosecutor "was not happy that the city of Longview didn't get any money from the judgments of the appeals court of Judge Simpson."

Jacks claims he also told the officials that he "thought they were trying to do something illegal."

By October, the city prosecutor filed a motion to vacate and remand the six previously appealed cases. A hearing was held over the motions and "acting without clear jurisdiction on a clearly untimely filed motion by Jackson, who lacked standing, Judge Simpson vacated the Court's prior judgments on all six cases, including the cases previously dismissed."

The cases are ongoing.

The plaintiff claims the defendants have violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful seizure of his person and Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.

Jacks states he was subjected to seven counts of double jeopardy, eight counts of lack of due process, and one count of illegal arrest and conspiracy by the city officials.

The plaintiff is asking the federal court to issue an injunction to prevent the city from continuing with these actions. He is also seeking damages for emotional distress, loss of liberty, mental injury, pain and suffering and pre- and post-judgment interest.

Jacks is seeking attorney's fees, even though he is acting as his own attorney.

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

Case No 2:09cv00375

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