The “Operation Candy Crush” lawsuit will move forward in federal court following an appellate decision in the plaintiffs’ favor. Defendants argued for dismissal of the suit, which arises from a 2018 sting operation. Both the District Court and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, allowing the suit to continue in litigation.
“Operation Candy Crush”
The lawsuit centers around a Rutherford County sting operation nicknamed “Operation Candy Crush.” In 2018, officers arrested 17 local businesses owners and shut down their facilities, alleging that they dealt in illegal substances. In reality, each business merely sold CBD products, which are legal in Tennessee. Law enforcement eventually dropped all charges. The business owners suffered an array of damages as a result of the sting, including lost sales, seized merchandise, property damage, and humiliation in their community.
Rutherford County officials initially characterized the event as a mistake. However, further investigation suggested that the officials knew the sting was legally shaky, and specifically targeted small businesses that were less likely to fight back.
The business owners joined together as plaintiffs represented by the Nashville civil rights attorneys at David Randolph Smith & Associates. The firm launched a lawsuit against the Rutherford County officials who planned the sting. Defendants include Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh, Assistant District Attorney John Zimmerman, and District Attorney General Jennings Jones.
Plaintiffs allege that Fitzhugh, Zimmerman, and Jones conspired to target law-abiding businesses. The complaint indicates that the defendants pushed the operation forward even after receiving information that it was unlawful. Plaintiffs allege that this operation violated their Fourth Amendment rights against false arrest, unlawful seizure, and unlawful prosecution.
Motion to dismiss denied
Defendants Fitzhugh, Zimmerman, and Jones quickly moved for dismissal of the “Operation Candy Crush” case. The defendants argued that plaintiffs’ complaint did not state sufficient grounds for a Fourth Amendment violation, and must fail.
In March, District Court Judge Aleta Trauger denied defendants’ motion to dismiss. Judge Trauger ruled that plaintiffs alleged sufficient specific facts to support their case going forward. The defendants then appealed Judge Trauger’s decision to the federal appellate court. This week, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the denial, allowing the case to continue.
The Court of Appeals found that plaintiffs’ allegations formed a sufficient basis for a constitutional issue. According to one judge, plaintiffs’ complaint indicated that the defendants were “objectively unreasonable” as they “push[ed] the operation forward without probable cause.”
The Court of Appeals’ decision means that the plaintiffs may move forward with litigation. If the parties fail to reach a settlement, the case may go to trial.
If you or a loved one have suffered harm as the result of a civil rights violation, call the experienced Nashville attorneys at David Randolph Smith for a free case evaluation.