A Burbank couple is suing the city of Merced, three police officers, an area real estate company and a real estate agent, alleging civil rights violations, false imprisonment and the infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.
In the lawsuit filed Feb. 26, Fred Mosbey III and his wife, Tracy Hardy-Mosbey, claim the officers and a representative of real estate company London Properties prevented the couple from removing American Indian artifacts from a home previously owned by Tracy Hardy-Mosbey's mother.
Fred Mosbey claims the artifacts are priceless. He says some of them may date back to the early 1800s when American Indian tribes were forced from their lands in the deep South.
He believes the real estate company has either auctioned off the items or has kept and distributed them. Despite several phone calls, the Sun-Star was unable to reach officials at the Fresno offices of London Properties to get comment on the claims in the lawsuit.
Fred Mosbey said his mother-in-law was a mixture of Cherokee, Seminole and Choctaw American Indian. After her death in 2005, the Mosbeys had been paying the mortgage on his mother-in-law's V Street home. He said the home was never emptied because relatives had disagreed over what to do with the numerous paintings, pottery, dolls, clothing and other American Indian items in the home.
The home was under the threat of foreclosure in 2008. Mosbey said he thought he was working with his mortgage company to stop the foreclosure when his brother-in-law, Antonio Rushing, passed by the house and saw eviction papers stuck on the door.
"We had no intentions of losing the house and no intentions of stuff happening like it did happen," Mosbey said.
Mosbey said the papers indicated that he had until Jan. 27, 2009, to remove any items from the home. So he and his wife drove up from Burbank to meet a representative of London Properties at the home on Jan. 26.
When the Mosbeys arrived, according to the couple, they were angered to find the representative inside the opened home with Buster Hewlett, a well-known Le Grand auctioneer, surveying the artifacts for possible sale. Mosbey said he called police to report the trespassing.
However, a Merced police report on the incident said the real estate representative called to report Antonio Rushing had trespassed and entered the property.
Mosbey contends Merced police officer Salvador Mejia arrived on scene, immediately punched Antonio Rushing in the face, Tasered him and placed him in a chokehold in order to arrest him.
At that point Tracy Hardy-Mosbey, self-described as a cancer patient who suffers from a number of physical side-effects from radiation treatment, approached the officer to try to get him to stop abusing her brother, the couple claims. She lost her balance. The suit claims Mejia shoved Hardy-Mosbey so hard her necklace flew off and landed several feet away. He then handcuffed and arrested her for battery on an officer.
Rushing was eventually charged with resisting arrest. The case, which includes charges against both Rushing and Hardy-Mosbey, is set for an April status conference.
A police report of the incident filed by Mejia, which is part of the criminal case, paints a slightly different picture of the event.
Mejia wrote that when he arrived on scene, the real estate agent and auctioneer both pointed to Rushing as a man who had been trespassing on the property. Rushing wouldn't stop to verbal commands, and the officer eventually grabbed Rushing to pat him down and detain him for questioning.
When Rushing resisted, Mejia pulled him to the ground and attempted to handcuff him. Mejia wrote that during the struggle, he punched Rushing in the face to get him to stop struggling and put his hands behind his back. At that point Hardy-Mosbey ran up and kicked the officer in the shoulder, Mejia wrote.
Mejia ordered Hardy-Mosbey away from him. After handcuffing Rushing, he went over to Hardy-Mosbey and arrested her for battery. Nothing in his report mentions using a Taser on anyone.
Mosbey said the next day, after Hardy-Mosbey was released, they returned to the home -- only to find police officers guarding the property. Again, they were unable to get the artwork and artifacts out of the home.
The Sun-Star was unable to contact Buster Hewlett Thursday about his appraisal of any potential valuables at the Mosbey home. However, his wife, Sherri Hewlett, reported that the company never auctioned off any of the Mosbey property and wasn't asked to by London Properties. She said her recollection is that Buster Hewlett found nothing valuable inside the home and reported that to London Properties.
Mosbey filed a claim with the city for damages as a result of the incident. The claim was denied in September.
City of Merced spokesman Mike Conway said the city has not been served with a copy of the lawsuit.
"We can't comment on a lawsuit that we haven't seen," he said.
Reporter Amy Starnes can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.