Pubdate: Mon, 17 May 2004
Source: Tullahoma News (TN)
Copyright: The Tullahoma News 2004
Author: Wayne Thomas


A second lawsuit has been filed by Winchester attorney Jere Hood in
connection with meth raids by area law enforcement. Hood filed the suit in
Franklin County Circuit Court against Franklin County and Citizens Community
Bank on behalf of his client Felecia Sells.

In the suit, which only gives one side of a legal argument, the attorney
states that drug investigators from the Franklin County Sheriff's Department
filed a notice with the Register of Deeds Office on a house at 303 Tennessee
Avenue, Cowan on Dec. 19, 2003 and Feb. 13, 2004 that stated "A clandestine
laboratory for the manufacture of illegal drugs and/or hazardous chemicals
was seized at this location on the date of Oct. 30, 2003 (and a similar
notice on the Feb. 13, 2004 date)."

"This letter serves as a warning and notification that although the
clandestine drug laboratory was seized and processed by law enforcement from
the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and disposed of by licensed hazardous
waste contractor, there may be hazardous substance or waste products at or
on our property."

The suit alleges that "prior to the filing of the notices in the Register of
Deed's Office, no testing was performed to indicate the level of
contamination and the extent to which any potential health hazard maybe
posed by the alleged seizures in either incidence and the practice and
procedures implemented by deputies or investigators of the Franklin County
Sheriff's Department acting under color of the law and governmental
authority constitutes a taking of a valuable property right without any due
process of law. The notices on their face are defective in that they are
addressed to persons who were not property owners of the property in
question in either of the notices, although the name of the true owner was
clearly indicted on the tax card attached to said notices and filed of
record in each case." The suit also alleges, "that the posting and filing of
documents referred to has severely restricted and taken away from any
effective use of the property and has destroyed it's market value to that is
a liability rather than asset to the owner."

The suit continues to allege that, "the property in question is now
uninsurable and therefore cannot be utilized for occupancy. It has no
collateral market value since banks will not loan money on the property."

In the suit, the attorney alleges that "there is no statutory authority in
place in the State of Tennessee for the posting of such notices by Franklin
County, Tennessee, through it's deputies, investigators and other personnel
of the Sheriff's Department nor is there a statutory procedure set forth for
the indexing and filing of such letter/notices hereinabove filed with the
Register of Deeds Office. Therefore such posting and notice filings are
therefore illegal and contrary to law."

In the suit, the attorney asked that "upon a final hearing of this cause,
the plaintiff be deemed to have suffered a wrongful taking and/or inverse
condemnation of her valuable property together with incidental reasonable
costs, disbursements and expenses, including a reasonable attorney,
appraisal and engineering or other fee actually incurred because of the
activities of this proceeding." The lawsuit alleges that Sells is entitled
"to damages for the negligence and wrongful taking and/or inverse
condemnation of plaintiff's property and demunition of it's value and it's
restricted usage without due process or other lawful statutory authority."

The suit asked that Sells be awarded $45,000 along with attorney fees. Hood
filed a similar suit on behalf of George Reid and his wife following a
similar raid on the Centennial Grocery store. In a raid on that location,
deputies posted a similar notice on the property when they allegedly found
components of a meth lab.
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