A Tale of Two Pleadings: 'Mistaken' Legal Document Unravels Intrigue in Inmate's Lawsuit
Written by: Sam Orlando
AUGUSTA COUNTY, VA - In a surprising turn of events in the Harris v. Rosemeier case, the inmate known for his victorious stand against government attorneys during an attempt to dismiss his case has encountered an unusual "mistake" in his legal proceedings, one that could potentially tilt the scales in his favor.
Lawyers representing the Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith and his deputies made a notable misstep by filing two different versions of their Answer to Marvin Harris's lawsuit. Breaking Through reviewed the filings from the Sheriffs' attorneys. Intriguingly, one version offers a far more detailed account of the controversial arrest events, aligning more closely with Harris's narrative.
In what they're calling a "mistaken" pleading, the defendants’ first response seemingly affirms almost all the use of force allegations made by Harris in his complaint. This version offers an intricately detailed narrative of the encounter, involving multiple instances of TASER use, a closed fist strike, and other uses of force.
Interestingly, in the subsequent, "corrected" filing, the defense presents a more generalized account of the incident, admitting to the use of force but without providing specifics. The defense maintains that any force utilized was "objectively reasonable and necessary."
While both versions admit the application of force, the marked difference between the detailed description in the mistaken filing and the intentionally vague language in the corrected version might suggest an attempt by the defense to downplay the extent of the force used during Harris' arrest.
Legal experts suggest that this discrepancy between the two filings could have significant implications for the case moving forward. The mistakenly filed version could be interpreted as an inadvertent admission of potential excessive use of force, a central tenet of Harris' complaint.
Although the defense moved to strike the first version of the answer, the fact that it was publicly filed means that anyone with internet access can read it, possibly strengthening Harris' claim of excessive force. Ultimately it will be up to a Federal Judge whether this "mistaken" pleading gets deleted.
Given that Harris has already demonstrated his remarkable legal prowess by successfully opposing a motion to dismiss, it is plausible to predict he might seize on this error to advance his case further, suggests Mike Donovan, President of Nexus Services, a local company that supports civil rights litigation.
The discrepancy between the two filings has also raised questions about the transparency and accountability of the officers involved in the incident and the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, according to Donovan. Harris, who has alleged that the sheriff neglected to take action against the officers despite multiple complaints, may use this "mistaken" filing to lend credibility to his allegations of a systemic lack of oversight within the department, Donovan said.
As the story unfolds, a new face has joined the legal battle on Harris's side, according to Court records. Noted attorney Amina Matheny-Willard has entered an appearance as Harris's attorney. Matheny-Willard is renowned for successfully challenging the use of Augusta County's noise ordinance to silence Black Lives Matter protestors last year, a win that echoes the themes of justice and voice that permeate Harris's case.
As we await Judge Jones's setting of a jury trial date later this month, this unexpected twist, combined with the formidable addition of Matheny-Willard, has added yet another layer to a case already fraught with claims of police brutality and racial bias. As the saga of Harris v. Rosemeier continues, it is increasingly seen as a testament to the resilience of self-representation and the potential for justice to triumph.