A 22-year-old Kent man has sued Pierce County and members of the Sheriff’s Department, contending he was falsely arrested for rape three years ago.
Michael Melvin Mays and his mother, Belinda Mays, seek undisclosed damages in the lawsuit, which was filed on their behalf April 4 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma by attorney Ernest Morris.
The lawsuit contends the defendants “derailed the promising future of Michael Mays when they subsequently unfairly targeted and racially profiled Mr. Mays for investigation of the rape of a young teenage girl without legitimate basis for reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause.”
County spokesman Hunter George declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer declined to address specific allegations in the suit, other than to say Mays was not arrested until after county prosecutors decided to charge him with second-degree child rape in 2011.
“We sent the case to the prosecutors, and he was summoned to court,” Troyer said.
The charges against Mays were dropped the next year, court records show.
Mays was a recent graduate of Bonney Lake High School and had been accepted to college when he was charged in July 2011 with forcing a 13-year-old girl to have sex with him, court records show. Authorities apparently were alerted to the alleged sexual assaults by the mother of one of the girl’s friends.
The girl later told a forensic interviewer that Mays forced himself on her on three occasions, and a medical examination showed the girl had been involved in sexual activity, court records show.
Mays told detectives he knew the girl but denied having sex with her. Prosecutors charged him with three counts of second-degree child rape, and he was ordered jailed in lieu of $10,000 bail, the records show.
Deputy prosecutor Michelle Hyer moved to dismiss the case in March 2012 after an inconsistency was discovered in the girl’s story.
“The victim has described on several occasions … a tattoo on the defendant’s arm with what she believed to be a picture or image,” Hyer wrote in court pleadings. “Pierce County sheriff’s forensics photographed the defendant’s torso, and no tattoo is visible. Such an inconsistency would make it difficult for the state to proceed.”
The charges were dismissed, but prosecutors reserved the right to refile them if more evidence surfaced. So far, it hasn’t.
The Mays’ lawsuit contends charges never should have been filed in the first place. The plaintiffs contend authorities pursued Mays as a suspect because he is black and the girl is white.
“At all times the PCSD investigated Mr. Mays with an eye towards making sure he was charged with the heinous crime of rape of a minor child while deliberately ignoring evidence that Mr. Mays was clearly innocent of the alleged crime,” the lawsuit contends.
Belinda Mays unnecessarily incurred significant expense in hiring an attorney to defend her son for nearly eight months, the suit claims.
“Furthermore, the defendants’ reckless identification of Mr. Mays as a child rape suspect was injurious to his reputation by marking him as a danger to the community,” the lawsuit states.