An Atlanta man has filed suit against Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree and two investigators, alleging the detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest based on false statements.
David Cunningham filed the Richmond County Superior Court lawsuit Dec. 16 against Roundtree, Sgt. Ken Rogers and Deputy Walter Garrison.
Lt. Allan Rollins of the department’s public information office said Monday the department does not comment on pending litigation.
Cunningham, the 29-year-old son of an Atlanta Police Department officer, spent 10 days in jail before the criminal charges against him were dropped. He had been charged as one of the men who smashed the glass jewelry case at Costco and made off with more than $80,000 in jewelry on July 16, 2014.
Four other men have been indicted on charges in the Costco theft – Brian D. Bickham, Dean Summers, Demetrius S. Pennamon and Nikevion M. Curtis, who pleaded guilty in October and received a sentence of five years in prison followed by three years on probation.
The men who hit the Costco left in a white Buick, which investigators located in an Augusta hotel parking lot. Fingerprints lifted from the car were identified as those of Bickham, Curtis and Summers, according to the lawsuit.
The Buick was a rental car last rented by a woman in Forest Park. She told Garrison she had loaned the car to a man named “David.” According to the lawsuit, Garrison showed her printouts of a Facebook page with photographs of Cunningham but the woman was unable to identify Cunningham as “David.”
Rogers took photo lineups to nine different potential witnesses, none of whom chose Cunningham’s photo as one of the thieves, the lawsuit contends.
But in an affidavit Rogers wrote to obtain an arrest warrant for Cunningham, the lawsuit contends, Rogers falsely stated Cunningham’s print was found on the Buick, that the woman who rented the vehicle positively identified Cunningham as “David,” that the cab driver who may have driven the suspected thieves from a hotel in Augusta to a hotel in Thomson said one of the men identified himself as “David”, and that one of the thieves caught on video inside the store looked like Cunningham and had the same “peculiar walk”.
Cunningham was at work at Urban Angels Music Studio at the time of the Costco theft – which the lawsuit maintains could be verified by using Cunningham’s phone’s GPS coordinates, several eyewitnesses also at the studio and video from the studio’s security cameras.
On July 29, 2014, Curtis, 17, confessed to the crime and named the others. Cunningham, according to his lawsuit, was not named. The next day, Rogers learned that the woman in Forest Park who rented the getaway car was Bickham’s girlfriend.
But, according to the lawsuit, it wasn’t until Aug. 5 that charges against Cunningham were dropped. On Aug. 5, Rogers and Garrison confronted the woman, who admitted there was no “David,” and the district attorney’s office informed sheriff’s investigators that the names of alibi witnesses and the studio footage had been provided.
Cunningham is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for claims of violation of civil rights, false imprisonment, the lose of a lucrative production deal, damaged reputation, and extreme anxiety and emotional distress.
The lawsuit also accuses Roundtree and the officers of negligence and violation of the Georgia Open Records Act.