After receiving a complaint over a minor furniture sales dispute, Bartow County Sheriff’s Investigator Kathy Sinclair obtained a warrant for an innocent and unrelated woman. After the criminal charges against Rhonda T. Walker, of Cartersville were dismissed, she filed a federal lawsuit alleging Fourth Amendment violations against Investigator Sinclair.
On the eve of trial, the parties settled the case with a payment of $100,000 to Walker. Attorneys for Walker dismissed her suit today after receipt of settlement funds.
The suit alleged Walker was wrongfully arrested and prosecuted for theft for failing to deliver furniture purchased on Facebook from a woodworking shop in LaGrange, even though she lived over 100 miles away and had no connection to any furniture, according to Zack Greenamyre and Samantha Funt of Atlanta firm Mitchell & Shapiro LLP.
The prosecution was a case of mistaken identity. The Bartow County Sheriff’s office was contacted after an unrelated party placed a deposit for bedroom furniture from the LaGrange woodworking shop, but had not received the purchased furniture by the delivery date.
Investigator Sinclair seemingly identified Rhonda Walker as the target of her investigation because she shared the last name of Walker with the furniture sellers, Tammy Walker and Mark Walker of LaGrange. But Rhonda Walker did not sell furniture and did not live in LaGrange.
Sinclair claimed that she received Rhonda Walker’s phone number from Tammy Walker in LaGrange and then obtained a warrant for the person with that phone number. But in her deposition, Officer Sinclair admitted that did not make sense and most likely did not happen.
Cartersville Rhonda Walker alleged she suffered financial and emotional damages as well as loss of liberty based on her arrest. Walker is pleased with the result of the lawsuit, but remains frustrated that neither Investigator Sinclair nor the Sheriff’s Office have seemingly taken
responsibility for what happened. “The lack of accountability and discipline is discouraging,”.
Walker said. “Most people would lose their jobs for this kind of thing.” “I’m an accountant by profession, and it is just hard to get a new job when the first Google result for my name is my arrest record. I had to file suit just to clear my name,” she said.
“The Fourth Amendment requires that law enforcement conduct reasonable investigations,” said Zack Greenamyre, one of Rhonda Walker’s attorneys. “That means that officers, like the rest of us, should not jump to unreasonable conclusions—especially when someone’s liberty and
reputation is on the line.”
“Breaking clear procedural and constitutional guidelines cannot be an acceptable method of investigation by an officer of the law,” added Samantha Funt, also representing Ms. Walker.
“Officers have a plethora of tools they can use to verify a suspect’s identity. If Sinclair had conducted even a simple check, this would never have happened.” Sinclair remains employed by the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office. Sinclair was not disciplined
for her role in arresting and prosecuting the Cartersville Rhonda Walker.