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$36,000 Settles Palm Beach False Arrest

by Christopher Zoukis

A lawsuit brought by the fiancé of a Ft. Lauderdale, Florida cop against a Palm Beach County detective settled for $36,000 on January 10, 2007.The case involved a series of thefts committed by Steven Hipsher while he was employed at a Home Depot in Boca Raton. Detective John Lino Navarro, Jr. of the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office investigated the thefts. Hipsher told Navarro that the truck in which he was stashing his ill-gotten booty was borrowed from his friend, Marie Hicks.

But the truck was actually owned by Hicks' fiancé, a Ft. Lauderdale police officer. Despite Hipsher assuring Navarro that neither Hicks nor her fiancé knew of the thefts, Navarro tried to snare them both for the crime. He conducted a sting operation where he forced Hipsher to call Hicks and have her and her fiancé come pick up the truck -- while it was loaded with stolen merchandise. When Hicks and her companion arrived to pick up the truck, they sensed something foul in the air, and did not exit the vehicle.

Frustrated, Navarro approached the vehicle and told Hicks she was under investigation. He then conducted a warrantless search of her purse and car. Hicks was then handcuffed, taken to the police station, and interrogated.

Hicks did not admit any involvement in the crime, but expressed remorse that it had happened. Navarro then said that she must write a statement "for his report." She did so, again with no admission of wrongdoing, and immediately thereafter was charged with grand theft. Navarro later added a charge of petty theft.

After a determination of all charges in Hicks' favor, she filed a lawsuit against Navarro and Edward W. Bieluch, Sheriff of Palm Beach County. Assisted by attorney Douglas Bates of Keppel & Bates, Hicks claimed civil rights violations for false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. The case settled for $36,000 while the jury was out.

Case: Hicks v. Navarro, et al., Palm Beach County Court, Case No. 03-CA-00487 (January 10, 2007)

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Related legal case

Hicks v. Navarro



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