In the 12th legal action against Sentinel in recent months, attorney John Long is seeking class-action status for Nathan R. Mantooth and all others who have been or might be arrested because Sentinel staffers say they have violated terms of their misdemeanor probation sentences.
Long is also seeking a preliminary injunction to stop Sentinel from seeking the arrest of anyone sentenced in Richmond County State Court without an independent legal review of each warrant.
Long contends Mantooth and two other recent clients who say they were falsely jailed represent the tip of an iceberg because an estimated 10,000 Sentinel warrants have not yet been served.
Mantooth pleaded guilty Jan. 23 in State Court to a traffic offense, improper lane change. According to court documents, he paid his $420 fine and completed a court-ordered defensive driving class by the end of the month.
According to the lawsuit, Mantooth took time off work Jan. 31 and Feb. 15 to go to the Sentinel office and show proof that he completed the driving course and to attend to anything a probation officer might want of him. On both occasions, he was told his case had not been entered into the computer system yet.
On Feb. 26, Sentinel employee Kayla White swore under oath that Mantooth had violated his probation by not completing his driving class, not reporting to the probation officer and not paying Sentinel $103. Though Sentinel has access to court records with Mantooth’s phone number and address, he contends he was never notified of any violation of his probation.
On March 18, when Mantooth was pulled over in Columbia County for driving without a seat belt, the officer had to arrest him on the Sentinel warrant. He was jailed for a day, had to pay $103 to Sentinel to get out of jail and was disgraced by the publication of his picture on jail media sites, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of private companies being empowered to have people jailed to collect debts the companies claim are owed and the constitutionality of a judicial function being turned over to for-profit businesses.
The lawsuit estimates that more than 1,000 people could be potential members of the proposed class-action petition.
Cases against Sentinel are assigned to Judge Daniel J. Craig, who has scheduled a hearing today in a similar lawsuit filed on behalf of a man who claims he was falsely arrested and jailed on a Sentinel warrant.