When Jackie Cross went to a Walmart in West Nashville on Feb. 13, 2011, all he wanted was a pack of Sudafed to treat a cold. But that transaction was only the beginning of his headaches.
Months later, Cross found his name on a list of 39 alleged felons indicted by a Davidson County grand jury as part of “Operation Death Cooker” — a bust of methamphetamine pushers.
The charges were eventually dismissed, but now Cross is taking the Metro Nashville Police Department to federal court, claiming $2 million in various damages for the erroneous indictment.
As it turns out, Cross’ indictment was the result of unfortunate timing.
Police were investigating Shane Oakley, 31, and Teresa Kingsmill, 40, as the suspected leaders of a meth manufacturing ring. As part of the conspiracy, Kingsmill would drop various people off at pharmacies to purchase over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in meth.
That was the case on Feb. 13, 2011, when Kingsmill allegedly dropped off four males to make Sudafed purchases at the same Walmart where Cross was shopping.
Police records indicate other suspects purchased packets of off-brand “Suphed” at 11:18 a.m., 11:24 a.m., 11:28 a.m. and 11:33 a.m. Cross walked up to the counter and bought Sudafed at 11:26, thus putting him in the investigators’ sights.
The lawsuit maintains there was no evidence connecting Cross to the crime committed. In addition, Cross purchased 30 mg tablets instead of the more potent 120 mg tablets acquired by the alleged felons.
MNPD detective William Loucks presented evidence to the grand jury on Nov. 11, 2011, and they returned a criminal indictment against Cross and 38 other suspects.
In a press release on Nov. 22, 2011, police called the indictment their “largest meth investigation to date.”
According to the lawsuit: “Defendants ... negligently or intentionally ignored the lack of incriminating evidence, the exculpating pharmacy record, and failed to interview Mr. Cross and/or to conduct any other appropriate investigation regarding him.”
Cross turned himself in to police on Nov. 28, 2011, and he was jailed until he posted $40,000 bond. After the “wrongful indictment” was brought to the district attorney’s attention, the charges were “nollied” — meaning Cross would not be prosecuted but the charges could still be brought before a grand jury again.
But damage had already been done.
The lawsuit says the mistaken charges caused Cross to lose his job with Metro schools and caused irreparable damage to his marriage. Because of his lower standard of living, Cross is now unable to afford his diabetes medication, the suit asserts. An investigation into a complaint filed with the MNPD’s Office of Professional Accountability found that Cross was implicated as a subject after Kingsmill told authorities that she also hired a white couple to buy Sudafed. However, when she was shown a picture of Cross, Kingsmill stated “that she wasn’t sure [of his involvement] but didn’t want to get anyone in trouble,” according to the complaint investigation.
But MNPD found no wrongdoing on behalf of Loucks. Instead, the investigation into the complaint pinned the mix-up on the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office, that was “in charge of preparing the indictments,” a police report said.
The lawsuit asks for damages related to constitutional violations, defamation, false light, false imprisonment and the malicious or wrongful prosecution of Cross.
Federal court rules prevent the parties from speaking to the media about the case during litigation.
Metro attorneys have until Dec. 18 to file their response to the suit. Cross doesn’t name the DA’s Office in the lawsuit.