Thursday, September 20, 2018

Was our Missouri eviction conducted for the ulterior purpose of causing us to miss the filing deadline in our federal "Jail Case" -- even though it failed to do so?

Trent and Sharon Cowherd
We recently passed the third anniversary of our unlawful eviction in Springfield, MO -- the event where deputies broke my wife Carol's arm and then brought bogus "assault on a law enforcement officer" charges against her, in an effort to cover for their wrongdoing.

The anniversary is significant for a couple of reasons: (1) It brings us closer to filing a federal civil-right lawsuit, within Missouri's five-year statute of limitations for such actions; (2) It's a good reason to ponder this question: Why were our landlord (Trent Cowherd) and his lawyer (Craig Lowther) so determined to proceed with an eviction that was unlawful on 10-12 grounds, and why was Sheriff Jim Arnott willing to go along with it?

With the passage of time, and the gradual accumulation of evidence via Carol's criminal case, we've developed a theory about what caused the Missouri "eviction gang" to act in such an irrational fashion. In short, we believe it is related to the statute of limitations in our pending federal case on my unlawful arrest and incarceration in Alabama. ("The Jail Case"). If our theory is correct, it points to coordination between bad actors in both Alabama and Missouri.

The question in item No. 2 above has been foremost in  our minds because . . . well, the actions of the "eviction gang" were so senseless, nutty, and contrary to Missouri law. Here, in our view, is what a rational landlord would have done in our situation: We had a lease that was to go month-to-month after one year had expired. Our rent had always been timely paid, and we were quiet, model tenants, so there was no reason to want us gone. In fact, after we received a Notice to Vacate (which was not timely, according to terms of the lease, or under state law), I called the landlord's office, and a woman named Megan admitted they had no grounds to force us out. They claimed we were due to sign a new lease, since my mother was exiting as co-signer, but there was no such provision in the lease, and they didn't try very hard to show one existed -- when it didn't.

When I noted they were breaching our contract, the response was, "I don't have to renew a lease with you, and we're deciding not to renew the lease." That, of course, did not explain their attempt to breach the contract. Regardless, they filed an eviction action.

Now, how easily could this situation have been resolved? Language in the lease called for it to go month-to-month, so why not . . . you know . . . let it go month-to-month. We have timely paid our rent elsewhere for three years, so that history suggests we were a good bet to pay Trent Cowherd -- had we been given a chance.

Here is what I've never understood: If Cowherd had followed his own lease, we definitely could have timely paid for several months. If we had hit a rough patch and were late or failed to pay, Cowherd could have given us a Notice to Vacate then, and we would have taken care of any pending bills and left.  I don't think an eviction would have been necessary, but if it had been, Cowherd could have given us a Notice of Eviction at the proper time, and we would have left, without any grounds to  challenge it. Following through on the eviction would not have been necessary because we would not stick around where we aren't lawfully entitled to be.

So, why did Cowherd and Co. fail to follow the simple, rational, lawful path? Well, let's keep this date in mind: Oct. 23, 2013. That's the date Alabama deputies broke into our home in Birmingham (without showing or stating they had a warrant), beat me up in my own garage, and hauled me to the Shelby County Jail, where I stayed for five months -- probably becoming the first person in history to be arrested for blogging.

Now, the statute of limitations (SOL) on civil-rights lawsuits (under Sec. 1983) is two years, so on the surface, it appears our "Jail Case" had to be filed by Oct. 23, 2015. And, what do you know, our eviction was scheduled for a little more than a month from that date -- Sept. 9, 2015.

It's clear the Alabama bad guys thought Oct. 23, 2015, was the key filing date in our lawsuit because almost all of them cited it in their responses, seeking dismissal because our case was filed -- guess what -- five months later. (Documents re: defendants' claims on the SOL, or our response to their claims, can be viewed here, here, and here.) Why five months later? Because I was incarcerated for five months, and federal law (which governs accrual of Sec. 1983 cases) holds that in cases involving allegations of false arrest and imprisonment, the limitations period begins when the imprisonment ends, which was March 26, 2014.

Alabama bad guys, as it turns out, are ignorant about the law, which seems to be a common affliction with them. We explained the law in a July 2018 post, noting the most concise description of it can be found at Restatement of Torts, a volume on the U.S. common law:

“For false imprisonment, the statute [of limitations] begins to run only when the imprisonment ends, since the period of imprisonment is treated as a unit." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 899, (1979). See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. at 389,127 S. Ct. 1091 ("The running of the statute of limitations on [common-law] false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule—dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned."). The Restatement.

Notice the U.S. Supreme Court finding in Kato. That tends to be controlling law, even in Alabama.

We are left with these question: Did the Alabama Gang, thinking Oct. 23, 2015, was the drop-dead filing date for our "Jail Case," persuade the Missouri Gang to proceed with an unlawful eviction -- under the theory that throwing us out in the streets and wreaking havoc in our lives would cause us to miss the deadline for our federal lawsuit. And to make matters even "better " for us, did they intentionally rough up Carol and break her arm -- more or less incapacitating her for five months, which included eight hours of trauma surgery and months of extensive physical therapy?

Our guess is that the answer to both questions is yes. If we are right about that, it's another sign that we've been dealing with a truly perverse, evil group of individuals.

We do find a slight note of comedy in the notion that the actual drop-dead deadline for our filing was March 26, 2016 -- and we made it with room to spare. I kind of like the idea of the bad guys concocting a scheme that was based on a false premise -- or more accurately, a bad reading of the law -- all along.

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