A U.S. district judge has dismissed a federal case filed by a Cabot woman who was arrested in 2014 after she was accused of stealing tornado relief goods.
The case stemmed from a May 17, 2014, incident where former Mayflower officer Mark Alan Winchester arrested Melissa Brown for allegedly stealing food and goods meant for tornado victims following an EF4 tornado that swept across Arkansas on April 27, 2014. Felony theft of property charges against Brown were later dropped in Faulkner County Circuit Court.
Brown filed the suit with the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock on May 17, 2016. In her initial complaint, she sought relief from the City of Mayflower, Mayflower Police Department, Faulkner County Sheriff's Office, Greenbrier Police Department, Damascus Police Department, Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland, Mayflower Police Chief Robert Alcon, officers Jeremy Lance Hanson and Wesley Tyra and Winchester.
Brown stated the defendants violated her First, Fourth and 14th amendment rights and requested a jury trial. Brown also stated in her complaint that the defendants caused her to suffer economic damage causing her “to become physically and psychiatrically ill,” noting she “continues to suffer from severe and disabling shock, distress, anguish, sorrow, depression and loss of enjoyment of life.”
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright signed an order Monday that dismissed the complaint with prejudice, meaning the case is permanently dropped and cannot be brought back before the court.
Winchester, who was fired from his position as a Mayflower officer on Aug. 26, 2014, said the case filed by Brown was a "waste of time."
Winchester was fired from the Mayflower Police Department for allegedly breaking the whistle-blower statute after he accused Brown of theft and failed to inform other law enforcement of the conflict of interest he had regarding the case — that his son had been in a relationship with Brown that ended before the investigation and her arrest.
According to Winchester’s termination letter, he had “lost effectiveness as a police officer with the Mayflower Police Department and within the 20th Judicial District.”
Winchester was awarded a settlement last year after filing a whistle-blower suit against city officials following the incident.
The civil suit accused Alcon and Holland of conspiring to terminate his employment after he wrote a letter to aldermen exposing "what appeared to be a cover-up by city officials," including theft of city fuel by members of the police department, a driving while intoxicated offense by an officer and officers working for Exxon during their shifts with MPD during the Exxon oil-spill clean-up and other allegations.
The settlement totaled $64,999.
Winchester also has a pending defamation suit against former 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland. The suit was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court in October.
"The core of this whole thing is prosecutor misconduct," Winchester said Wednesday. "They have so much power. I have filed [a] defamation suit against Cody in Pulaski County. He got mad at me for texting him while he was asleep. That's it. All in one day I uncover city corruption and conveniently a letter from Cody to not [accept] case files from me anymore [arrives]."
Hiland has asked for this case to be dropped.
"The Complaint in this case, filed on October 5, 2017, was filed more than three years after Hiland's letter, and more than three years after the events alleged. Thus, Winchester's defamation claims are barred by limitations," Hiland's motion to dismiss reads.
HIland also notes in his motion that he submitted a letter to Alcon stating he would no longer accept case files submitted by Winchester because Winchester did not include exculpatory evidence in his case file against Brown.
At this point, there is no ruling or court date set in the Pulaski County complaint.