Tulsa man files federal lawsuit for wrongful conviction


Wednesday, October 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A Tulsa man who spent 14 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma and other law enforcement entities.

Arvin Carsell McGee Jr.'s complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tulsa alleges an abuse of process, false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress and damage in his relationship with his son.

Besides the state of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office, the city of Tulsa and the Tulsa Police Department were named as defendants.

``We waited a long time to file this lawsuit, thinking maybe somebody will talk to us about this,'' said Jack E. Gordon Jr., one of McGee's attorneys. ``But no one said, `Gosh, Arvin, I'm sorry.' No one said, `Let's sit down and talk about this.'''

McGee was convicted in 1987 of the rape and kidnapping of a laundry worker. The 20-year-old victim was grabbed from behind and dragged into a restroom, where she was bound.

The attacker put her in her car and drove to a wooded area, where he raped and sodomized her. She escaped after being locked in her car's trunk.

The victim identified McGee as her attacker, but in 2002 DNA tests showed he couldn't have been the attacker.

``We are convinced for reasons that will become evident that the government singled Arvin out,'' said Gina Cowley-Crabtree, another of McGee's attorneys.

The victim allegedly changed the description of her attacker at least four times and the defendants narrowed the investigation to focus on McGee, the lawsuit states.

It also alleges that during a photo lineup, a suggestion was made to the victim that McGee was her attacker.

McGee had a hernia operation shortly before the attack, which the lawsuit claims limited him physically and rendered him unable to commit the crime.

Because he never admitted guilt, a requirement of a sex-offender treatment program, McGee lost prison privileges, including visitation with his son, Gordon said.

The son, who was born shortly after McGee was incarcerated, is now 14 and is included as a plaintiff because the wrongful conviction left him ``fatherless,'' the lawsuit says.

McGee and his son are seeking compensatory damages in excess of $75,000 each.

The state Legislature this year passed a bill to compensate people who were wrongly convicted of crimes and Gov. Brad Henry signed it in May.

The program limits compensation to $200,000 and requires a person to receive a full pardon by the governor or receive judicial relief based on actual innocence.

``I believe he's entitled to more than $200,000,'' Gordon said.

Deputy City Attorney Larry Simmons said he wasn't aware of the lawsuit. Assistant District Attorney Linda Greaves said the District Attorney's Office also hadn't been served official notice of the filing.

Using evidence from DNA tests, prosecutors charged Edward Alberty with the crime in September 2002, but the case was dismissed because the relevant statute of limitations had expired.

A federal lawsuit filed by Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson, who were wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of an Ada woman, ended in a settlement last November. Details of the settlement are sealed.