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Woman sues sheriff for alleged false accusation, damages

Published: 9:13 AM, 04/24/2013 Last updated: 9:13 AM, 04/24/2013

Author: Nelson Morais
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

NEWPORT-Sheila K. Creveling, owner of a residence at 1443 River Chase Trail, in Newport, had an attorney file a civil lawsuit on her behalf on Thursday, April 18, that seeks a total of $90,000 in punitive and compensatory damages from Sheriff Armando Fontes because she was falsely accused of involvement in drug activity.

In response, the sheriff called the lawsuit "frivolous" and with "no merit".

The lawsuit states that "on or about" May 28, 2011, the defendant Fontes, "or his agent," falsely swore in an affidavit for a search warrant that Creveling was "in possession and control of certain evidence of a crime."

It also claims that the sheriff "or his agent" also stated that "Sheila K. Creveling has in her possession, Oxycodone, a Schedule 2 controlled substance, and money derived from the sale of the controlled substances at her residence located at 1443 River Chase Trail, Newport, Tennessee."

Creveling also lists in the Complaint an address in Deland, in Volusia County, in Florida.

The lawsuit also alleges that "on or about" Aug. 3, 2012, the defendant and/or his agents broke into the River Chase Trail residence and "as result of the breaking into the house, the doors were damaged."

It further alleges, "That upon leaving the premises no one secured the doors or otherwise secured the house and outbuildings. That they basically left the building open to anyone who cared to enter the buildings and steal or damage the contents of the structures."

The Complaint further states that Sheriff Fontes or his agents "had a duty" to inform the Plaintiff (Creveling) "of the illegal activity going on at the house she owned and they failed to do so." The Complaint states that law enforcement was aware of the illegal activity as early as May 31, 2011.

It also states that the property was unprotected from Aug. 3, when agents entered Creveling's residence through Aug. 11.

The Complaint alleges "damage to the structures on her property as well as items and fixtures that were stolen from the property."

The Complaint describes the actions of the sheriff and his agents as "wanton, willful and/or grossly negligent."

It also states that "both search warrants should be amended to remove" Creveling's name, or else be "Redacted and Expunged" to remove her name.

Creveling is seeking $15,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages, a jury trial, and the cost of the lawsuit and attorneys' fees.

In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Sheriff Fontes stated, "Our judicial system is designed in such a way that every person who wishes to file a civil lawsuit against anyone for any reason has a right to do so, even if there is no proof, as in this case. This suit is a civil allegation against me which has no merit. Our department conducted a major drug investigation involving a group of individuals who were using the named residence in the (lawsuit) as a hub to distribute thousands of pills. All of these individuals are in federal custody and are currently pleading guilty as a result of an outstanding job by my department. Since I am the sheriff of Cocke County, people who wish to sue as a result of the work my officers and I are conducting always name the sheriff in the lawsuit.

"Sheila Creveling, who after the investigation was conducted and persons were arrested, contacted our department and informed us she was the legal owner of the residence and that she resided in Florida. Creveling was never named in any part of the criminal investigation. These accusations made by Creveling have no merit, are incorrect, and are not consistent with the events documented by the Cocke County Sheriff's Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

"I have no regrets that our agency with the help of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shut down a major drug dealer selling and distributing thousands of Oxycodone pills, which are resulting in the death of our young people, resulting in home burglaries, and resulting in the robbery of our communities' businesses. I believe this case, like so many other frivolous cases filed against many great sheriffs across Tennessee, will be thrown out by the court system. As the sheriff of this community, I will continue to pursue those who are victimizing our loved ones by committing illegal acts, and I will do so in accordance to the law. I will not allow frivolous lawsuits to deter the great work we are doing to protect the citizens of this community."

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