New lawsuit alleges OPSO illegally detained 2 men for 5 months

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NEW ORLEANS – A new lawsuit alleges that the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office illegally held two men for five months after their release dates.

Jessie Crittindon and Leon Burse both remained in jail much longer than they should have, according to the lawsuit brought by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center of New Orleans.

Both men had been “had their criminal charges resolved and were immediately entitled to release” in August 2016, but neither was set free until January 2017, according to the Justice Center.

Officials with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, the East Carroll Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections are named as defendants in the suit, which alleges violations of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as violations of the Louisiana Constitution and state law, including due process, false imprisonment, and emotional distress, according to the Justice Center.

“It is the responsibility of these public officials to make sure that they have legal authority to hold persons in custody,” MacArthur Justice Center attorney Emily Washington said. “These defendants knew that Mr. Crittindon and Mr. Burse were entitled to release. Not only did they fail to set them free, but they blatantly ignored months of outreach by these men and their families. They were repeatedly informed that people were being over detained and they took no action.”

Both Crittindon and Burse were in the custody of the OPSO, but they were being housed in the River Bend Detention Center in Lake Providence, Louisiana through an agreement with the Sheriff of East Carroll Parish, according to the Justice Center.

“One of the most basic rights we have as citizens of this country is personal liberty,” MacArthur Justice Center co-director Katie Schwartzmann said. “The government cannot lock a person in jail without a valid court order. To deprive these men of five months of their lives – hours they would have spent with their families and loved ones – is unconscionable.”

The OPSO has issued a short statement in response to the lawsuit:

“The OPSO will file appropriate responsive pleadings and will vigorously defend this matter. The agency does not comment any further on active litigation. “