Macungie Township, PA — Imagine being imprisoned for being completely innocent and one hundred percent free of drugs and alcohol in one’s system. While there are many who may be tempted to think it could never happen to them, to Wilfredo Ramos Jr., the possibility quickly became a reality. Ramos was arrested and spent five months behind bars for being completely sober.
Problems with law enforcement agents started for Ramos when he was stopped by Pennsylvania State Highway Trooper Justin M. Summa and Kevin Vanfleet on June 16, 2014. He was on his way to visit his mother when he was pulled over near Schantz Road in Upper Macungie Township.
Summa believed he smelled alcohol on Ramos’ breath. But when he conducted a field sobriety test and administered a breathalyzer test, the results were immediately clear. Ramos was stone-cold sober. Not only did he blow .00 on the breath test, but his balance and coordination were without question.
Still, the troopers insisted Ramos was under the influence of some substance. He arrested the motorist from New York, contending, “Oh you are from New York…You must have guns or drugs? We know you have drugs, just tell us where they are.” Even after an exhaustive search of the vehicle turned up no drugs, alcohol, or guns, the man was still taken into custody. This time, Summa believed if he could do a blood test, the man’s blood would surely convict him of driving under the influence.
A drug recognition expert (DRE) was called in to evaluate Ramos. As TFTP has previously reported, the fake title is given to officers to further enable them to violate motorists’ rights by placing more value and weight into the title than the breathalyzer tests, field sobriety tests, and blood tests can demonstrate. In other words, a DRE has more power to convict someone than science does.
Based on the DRE’s reported evaluation, who concluded the suspect was probably on “depressants,” Lehigh County Magisterial District Judge David M. Howells, Jr. set bail at $10,000, Ramos had his blood drawn, and then he waited in his jail cell for eleven days while the results of the drug test were being processed. Predictably, the drug tests came back negative for any drugs or alcohol.
However, Trooper Summa insisted the samples be re-tested. As a result, Ramos was not free to leave. Instead, he was transferred to the Lehigh County prison where he remained for another 147 days.
While in prison, because he could not work, Ramos lost his apartment as well as all of his belongings including his vehicle which was impounded at the time of his arrest. Because he could not retrieve his vehicle, it was confiscated and sold at auction. The proceeds of such sales usually go to the police department which made the arrest.
Adding insult to injury, the false imprisonment also led to the man losing his job because he failed to report to work. Even after an exhaustive attempt by police to extort Ramos for bail money, a failed attempt to find him in possession of drugs or alcohol, and a tortuous ordeal being locked up in prison, Ramos was finally released.
On November 12, 2014, Judge James T. Anthony found Ramos not guilty of DUI and ordered his release. But instead of immediately returning home to NY, Ramos contracted with attorney Josh Karoly, who filed a lawsuit against the officers and the PA State Highway Patrol. According to McAll, the lawsuit alleged the officers schemed to falsely arrest Ramos:
Ramos’ lawsuit alleged Troopers Justin M. Summa and Kevin Vanfleet, assigned to the Fogelsville barracks, conspired to falsely arrest him after finding no evidence that he was intoxicated or that he had drugs or guns in his car.
The suit also named top brass in the PA Highway Patrol:
The suit also claimed five state police supervisors, ranging from the troop commander to former state police Commissioner Francis Noonan, were liable for racially motivated misconduct, unlawful seizure, due process of law violations, denial of equal rights, conspiracy to interfere with civil rights and other Civil Rights Act violations.
Ramos won his lawsuit and was given $150,000 in compensatory damages for having been deprived of his civil rights. Karoly said of the settlement:
It was a mistake that this happened and this resolution is going to go a long way toward getting his life back on track to where it was before this happened…It makes mistakes like that much less likely when they’re brought to the public’s attention
Here at TFTP, we cannot think of another more appropriate example of how Civil Asset Forfeiture (CAF), Drug Recognition Experts, the practice of forcible blood drawing, ineptitude on behalf of the officers involved as well as unscrupulous judges, all work together to abuse our citizens’ civil liberties. Maybe Mr. Ramos’ story of false arrest/imprisonment is necessary to force others, who are still blinded by their undying loyalty to the boys in blue, to realize what’s really going on out there in our nation’s streets.
It really should come as no surprise the incident took place in Pennsylvania. For the better part of two years, the highway patrol there has been embroiled in a wide-spread cheating scandal. Apparently, they’re so desperate to fill the ranks of state troopers they’re willing to hire individuals with broken moral compasses—the results of which can be seen in Mr. Ramos’ story.