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ACLU-DC Files Complaint Alleging Traumatizing Eviction by U.S. Marshals

by Prince Of Petworth February 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm 34 Comments

eviction
Photo by PoPville flickr user Bossi

From a press release:

“Today, the ACLU of the District of Columbia filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Marshals Service (which conducts evictions in the District) for its abusive conduct during what should have been a routine eviction.

The complaint describes that on the morning of June 19, 2015, multiple U.S. Marshals stormed into Donya Williams’ home in Southeast D.C. with guns drawn, despite no information to indicate anyone in the apartment would pose a threat. Once inside, they went to Ms. Williams’s bedroom. The complaint recounts: “She called out that she was getting dressed and had no clothes on. Nonetheless, two Marshals burst into the bedroom. Ms. Williams was completely naked.”

According to the complaint, when the Marshals insisted Ms. Williams come out of the apartment, she “grabbed whatever clothes she could and tried to put them on as the Marshals pushed her out of the bedroom. Ms. Williams had inadvertently grabbed a pair of pants belonging to her daughter, so when she put them on, they split at the crotch. Ms. Williams had not had time to grab underwear, and so her private parts were unclothed.”

In that state of undress, Ms. Williams was marched with her daughter past an eviction crew of twenty men and out to the building’s parking lot. Marshals taunted Ms. Williams, and eviction crew members and building office workers laughed at her.

The complaint goes on to outline thousands of dollars’ worth of Ms. Williams’ personal property and possessions that were damaged, stolen, or lost during the eviction.

“Under no circumstances should any law enforcement officer burst in on an unclothed person who poses no threat or expose her to public ridicule and humiliation,” said Scott Michelman, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU of the District of Columbia. “Losing your home shouldn’t mean losing your dignity.”

“The entire episode was both frightening and humiliating, and it did not need to be that way,” added Ms. Williams. “I begged the marshals to let me get dressed and they refused. Meanwhile, they had guns out for no reason, creating more panic and fear for my daughter.”

The raid-style eviction left Ms. Williams’ twelve-year-old daughter Juanita terrified and in tears.

“I was screaming, panicked, and scared for my life. I don’t understand why they had their guns out and why they would be so cruel,” said Juanita Williams, now fourteen and seeing a therapist to help her deal with the traumatic experience.

Knowing that the eviction was coming, Ms. Williams had already been packing to leave. The complaint notes that the Marshals had no search warrant for the property or arrest warrant for any of the occupants.

The complaint explains that multiple items–including a large screen LED TV and a tablet computer–went missing during the eviction. Additionally, Ms. Williams says that she found that two bags’ worth of her clothes had been covered in bleach and ruined.

Today’s complaint was filed with the General Counsel of the U.S. Marshals Service in Washington, D.C.”

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