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The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a jury’s $730,000 award to a Black Secret Service agent unconstitutionally detained by two white U.S. Park Police officers during a traffic stop as he waited to accompany a Cabinet secretary’s motorcade in Maryland.

The court agreed Wednesday that the two officers, Gerald Ferrevra and Brian Phillips, violated Agent Nathaniel Hicks’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure, saying the officers acted without justification.

In its published 3-0 decision, the court said the white officers did not have qualified immunity from a lawsuit because the unlawfulness of their detention of Hicks was “clearly established” at the time, The Daily Record reported.

The U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland, awarded Hicks $525,000 in punitive damages and $205,000 in compensatory damages.

Senior Judge Barbara Milano Keenan wrote for the court that qualified immunity doesn’t apply to “violations of the Fourth Amendment involving unjustified, warrantless searches and seizures by line officers performing routine criminal law enforcement duties.”

“The officers in the present case confronted nothing more than established principles of Fourth Amendment law with extensive judicial guidance regarding the right of individuals to be free from unjustified, warrantless searches,” Keenan wrote, The Daily Record reported.

The white officers’ attorney, Ned Parent, said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is being considered.

Yiyang Wu, Hicks’s appellate attorney, said via email “Nathaniel Hicks is pleased that the Fourth Circuit affirmed [Senior U.S. District] Judge [Paul W.] Grimm’s decision and that the federal jury’s finding that the defendants violated his constitutional rights were upheld.”

James Wright photo

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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  1. Unfortunately, this took place before body cameras. It certainly would have been interesting to watch this interaction. I would side with the Secret Service agent, because his version of events seems truthful and was supported by his supervisor, who testified under oath. The fact that the second cop on the scene pulled over Agent Hicks a second time was egregious and lends even more credence to Hicks’ version of events.

  2. The pursuit of an appeal to have the ruling overturned doesn’t seem to be about the money but an attempt to set a precedent involving Americans 4th Amendment rights. Overturning the ruling would allow all law enforcement to violate the 4th amendment of citizens without any judicial persecution…..stay tuned

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