SAGINAW, Mich. (WJRT) - An attorney calls a federal judge's order unusual after a ruling that says the arrest of a Saginaw man violated his constitutional rights and the city is not properly training its officers on probable cause.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court two years ago. A man was arrested in his home and accused of breaking windows in a couple of Saginaw buildings.
The charges were eventually dropped. The man then sued the Saginaw police officers and the city of Saginaw, claiming his rights were violated. A federal judge apparently agrees.
"There aren't many times when a federal judge looks at a circumstance and says these police officers violated this man's constitutional rights," said Tom Waun.
The arrest happened on the night of Jan. 5, 2020, while the Saginaw Police Department was looking for a person who had smashed windows in a couple of buildings. Officers followed footprints in the snow to a home on Holden Street, where David Little lives.
"Do you have some shoes that you may have been wearing outside that we tracked here to your door? There's the bike, yeah, those shoes right there, put your hands behind your back," Saginaw Police Officer Steve Lautner said to Little on a body camera recording of the arrest.
Little was arrested and spent five days in jail. But 15 months after he was criminally charged, the charges were dropped when prosecutors discovered a witness in the case told police the suspect was Black. Little is White.
Little sued the city and the two police officers for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against an unlawful entry and seizure, along with malicious prosecution. The city's attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
"The judge ruled not only that they were not entitled to have the case dismissed, but he ruled as a matter of law they violated Mr. Little's constitutional rights, because he did not give them permission to come into the home," said Waun, Little's attorney.
Waun said police need one of three things to occur to come into someone's home: A search warrant, an emergency situation or permission from the homeowner.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington ruled none of those things happened and that the officers violated Little's constitutional rights.
"The court also found that the city of Saginaw, through its policies, procedures and lack of training, were responsible because they didn't train them appropriately on what probable cause was -- and if they had done so, the arrest wouldn't have occurred," Waun said.
The Saginaw Police Department declined to comment on the judge's ruling. The attorney representing the city in Little's lawsuit doesn't comment on pending litigation.
The case now proceeds to a potential trial for possible punitive damages.
The Saginaw police officer who arrested Little has been identified as Steven Lautner and he is still with the police department. The other officer involved is Jordan LaDouce, who has since left the department.
No one else has been charged in the property damage case after the charges were dropped against Little.