Sonte Rolinda Everson was awarded over $1 million by a federal jury in Grand Rapids on Monday evening. The jury found that Ms. Everson was arrested in retaliation for her criticisms of a former detective with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department.
Ms. Everson worked as a 9-1-1 dispatcher for the City of Battle Creek. She was arrested in both 2006 and 2007 following her criticisms of the detective’s actions in response to her report of a sexual assault by a Battle Creek police officer. The jury found that the arrest was in retaliation for Ms. Everson’s exercise of her First Amendment rights and that there was no support for the two arrests. The jury award included $300,000 in punitive damages as a deterrent against future retaliatory misconduct by other law enforcement officers.
Her lawyer of Nacht, Roumel and Walker (NachtLaw) in Ann Arbor, stated “This verdict is such a vindication for Sonte. We always believed her and knew that once a jury had a chance to look at the evidence that they would understand that she was a victim of sexual assault and realize how wrong it was that she was arrested. But this is also a victory for others. This jury sent a message that no one is above the law. Sonte Everson spoke out against the police and was retaliated against for doing so. This is a victory for the First Amendment.”
Ms. Everson responded to the verdict by saying: “I am grateful to God and my son and family who have stood by and believed in me. This has been a long ordeal. To survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, know that you have the right to stand up for your life, no matter who the perpetrator is. Justice will eventually prevail.”