A civil suit against the City of Hodgenville was dismissed with prejudice last month in LaRue Circuit Court. It may not be re-filed.
The suit was filed by a Hodgenville couple in August 2010 following a drug bust on Fairview Drive.
Mitchell Wayne Embree and Kayla Suzanne Vermillion claimed they were detained and searched unlawfully by Hodgenville Mayor Terry Cruse, who had accompanied officers to the scene. The evening culminated with Cruse chasing and tackling a suspected drug dealer who was running from police.
Cruse maintains the incident was handled by a city officer within proper legal channels.
Vermillion claimed she was driving a vehicle on Beech Street and Fairview Drive in Hodgenville on July 1, 2010. She and her passenger, Embree, claimed an officer stopped the vehicle after which Cruse removed Embree from the vehicle, placed him in the back of a police cruiser and searched him and the vehicle.
The couple claimed Cruse took $4,000 from Embree’s wallet “which he retained” and searched Vermillion’s purse and wallet. The money was returned, according to court documents.
The suit claimed the “unlawful search and seizure of plaintiffs was in direct violation” of their Fourth Amendment rights; that the acts constituted an unauthorized exercise of Cruse’s official functions and constituted official misconduct under state law; the actions constitute theft by unlawful taking and disposition of property; and the acts amounted to unlawful imprisonment of plaintiffs by knowingly and wrongfully restraining and depriving them of their liberty. The City was named in conjunction with the suit as Cruse was “acting in capacity as mayor.”
Neither Embree or Vermillion were charged in connection with the 2010 drug bust.
The suit claimed Vermillion and Embree suffered emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment, past, present and future as a result of the incident. They asked for compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and trial by jury.
The couple’s attorney, Kyle W. Williamson, said his clients were not trying to elude police, speeding “or breaking the law in any way” when they were stopped.
Then-Police Chief Johnny Cottrill told the Herald News that he obtained permission to search the vehicle and the money was taken as part of the investigation. Vermillion’s vehicle was stopped by officers while the drug bust was taking place, he said.
Cruse and the city were represented by Lee Cassie Yates Clagett, an attorney provided by the Kentucky League of Cities.
Cruse said the traffic stop and drug bust were done “by the book.”
He’s pleased with the outcome of the two-year-old case. He said he had a chance to settle the case earlier but chose to proceed in the litigation.
“I’m not in favor of settling things just to get it out of the way,” he said.
The City made a concession to Embree and Vermillion in the agreement.
The order of dismissal states: “Defendants stipulate the plaintiffs had probable cause to bring the aforesaid action.” The order prevents the City from bringing a countersuit against the couple.
Circuit Judge John “Jack” Seay handled the case.
Williamson declined comment.
Embree, 34, currently is incarcerated at Roederer Correctional Complex in La Grange.
He was one of five people arrested in McCracken County in December 2011 as part of a marijuana trafficking ring.