The Sun

Truck driver gets $500,000 for wrongful arrest by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies

‘My guy is dumb enough to think he has rights,’ said a lawyer for the driver, who was making a delivery when he was arrested for loitering


San Bernardino County supervisors agreed Tuesday, Feb. 7, to pay $500,000 to a truck driver who was arrested after making a snide remark to deputies during a delivery.

Deputies tried to question Tommy Franks Jr. of Mesa, Arizona, on Feb. 6, 2019, for suspected loitering behind a supermarket, but he refused to answer them or identify himself. Franks was jailed for resisting arrest.

A federal jury last week awarded Franks $375,000 for wrongful arrest with the potential for more damages, but the county Board of Supervisors resolved the case by approving the settlement.

Franks was making a delivering to a WinCo supermarket in Apple Valley and had parked his tractor-trailer rig in the rear loading dock, according to the lawsuit. Franks walked around to the front of the store to inform management of the delivery and purchase some muffins.

As he was walking back to his truck — clipboard and muffins in hand — Franks was stopped by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies. They asked him what he was doing. He responded, “walking.”

Deputies asked Franks for his identification, but he refused and complained that he was being illegally detained, the suit said. The manifest for the delivery was in plain sight on his clipboard, with the logo of the company matching the logo on the truck.

The lawsuit said a deputy told Franks that he was being detained for “loitering,” but Franks responded: “How can I be loitering if I’m walking?”

Franks asked three times to speak to a supervisor. The deputy replied that Franks was being hostile and placed him in handcuffs, ratcheting them painfully tight, said court records filed by Franks’ attorney, Jerry Steering.

Deputies contended that Franks, while holding muffins and a clipboard, had taken a fighting stance.

“It was apparent to Mr. Franks that both (the deputy’s) decision to arrest him, and to apply the handcuffs in an excessively tight manner, were in retaliation for Mr. Franks’ verbal protests … and for Mr. Franks’ requests to speak with (a) supervisor,” said a court document filed by Steering.

The Sheriff’s Department declined comment Tuesday.

While sitting in the back of a patrol car, Franks asked the deputy, “Is it hard to breath with your head that far up your ass?” The deputy responded by grabbing Franks’ beanie from his head, records said.

Steering said Franks did nothing legally wrong.

“My guy is dumb enough to think he has rights,” Steering said. “It is not a crime in the state of California to refuse to identify yourself to a cop (even if) they have a legal reason to detain you.”

Franks spent the night in jail and was released on his own cognizance the next day. He later was charged with resisting arrest, but the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office dropped the case because of insufficient evidence.

Truck driver gets $500,000 for wrongful arrest by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies – San Bernardino Sun (

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Jury Sides With Trucker Over “Moron” San Bernardino Cops in Wrongful Arrest Case

County supervisors voted Tuesday to settle the suit for $500,000 after jurors decided against the deputy on nearly all of his actions

A federal jury in Orange County recently returned an unexpected verdict when it sided with the plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit brought against San Bernardino law enforcement officers earlier this month.

Sure, this has previously happened in Orange County, which has a reputation as an unfriendly area for lawyers challenging police actions. But the rare occurrence happened again when jurors awarded Mesa, Arizona trucker Tommy Franks, Jr. $375,000 for his 2019 unlawful arrest, overnight jailing, and malicious prosecution. The verdict underscores what Franks’ lawyer described as particularly egregious facts arising from a deputy stopping his client as he walked behind a Winco grocery store while trying to deliver produce.

“This is what happens when the morons get into a “rah-rah, we didn’t do anything wrong” in the session, and get themselves all jacked-up and tell each other that the deputy didn’t do anything wrong,” Jerry Steering wrote to LAMag in an email. The attorney has been suing police for decades and says he’s never seen a more seemingly cop-friendly jury than those seated in the Orange County courtroom for the 2 1/2-day trial.

Steering added that the case had the most conservative jury he’s ever seen. “Everybody had a cop connection,” he said.

Laurel Hoehn, who tried the case for the San Bernardino County Counsel’s Office, could not be reached for comment.

It all began on Feb. 6, 2019, as Franks was walking back to his truck after notifying the manager of Winco Foods in Apple Valley that he’d arrived with a delivery.

Steering’s written complaint lays out the details: With his clipboard and newly purchased muffins in hand, Franks was stopped by Loup and told he was loitering. The driver asked how he could be loitering if he was walking; Loup then arrested Franks for refusing to identify himself. He was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car, then called an “idiot” by a sheriff’s supervisor when he complained about being wrongly arrested. Prosecutors never charged Franks with a crime.

Franks spent the night and jail in a cell with seven other men “who were all drunks and criminals” before being released on his own recognizance, Steering wrote. The attorney said Loup admitted in testimony that he had no information about any intent by Franks to commit a crime, which is a key element of loitering.

The jury’s Feb. 1 verdict was, for Steering, unheard of: They determined Deputy Tyler Loup had reason to suspect Franks was engaged in criminal activity, but they said the length and scope of how he detained Franks is unreasonable and that he’d arrested the trucker without probable cause.

“When the cops have a right to detain someone, I’ve never been able to convince a jury that the manner in which they were detained was unreasonable,” Steering said.

But the jury didn’t stop there. It determined Loup caused Franks to be prosecuted for resisting police and that his handcuffing constituted excessive force. Jurors also agreed that Franks exercise of his right to free speech was “a substantial or motivating factor” in Loup “taking adverse actions” against Franks, according to a verdict form. They concluded Loup did so “maliciously or in reckless disregard” for Franks’ First or Fourth Amendment rights.

Jurors deliberated about two hours before reaching their verdict on Feb. 1, Steering said. Franks and Loup were the only two witnesses to testify. Steering described Franks as “a country guy who goes out and shoots bobcats in the desert” and charmed the jury with his Burl Ives-like persona.

The jury was set to return on March 3 to consider punitive damages but the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to settle the case for $500,000.

“The smartest thing he did is, he wore blue jeans and not a suit,” Steering said. “That wasn’t calculated. That’s just who he is.”