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RACINE — A Racine man filed a federal lawsuit against the Racine Police Department last month, claiming officers conducted an illegal search of his property — which reportedly turned up heroin — and falsely imprisoned him.

Charles A. House, 51, filed the lawsuit against four members of the department on March 18. House claims that his Fourth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights were violated by officers, and is requesting a jury to hear the case, according to court documents.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, a request from City Attorney Scott Letteney to authorize the city to represent city employees and officials named in the lawsuit was referred to the City Council’s Finance and Personnel Committee. The committee is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave., Room 307.

Lawful search?

House was reportedly sitting in his truck outside his home in the 1000 block of 11th Street on Feb. 10, 2017, when he was confronted by two officers who ordered him out of his car, according to the suit filed by House’s attorney, Walter Stern.

The suit states that nothing was found on House. In his truck, authorities reportedly found $1,923 in the vehicle’s center console, which was allegedly confiscated by police.

Officers also searched garbage cans on House’s property behind a gate in his yard. In one of the cans, an officer reportedly found a bag of what was allegedly heroin. The suit alleges that because the cans were on House’s property, a warrant was needed to search them.

House requested that the Police Department independently test the substance collected because he did not believe it was heroin despite a reported positive test by police.

While in court to answer charges related to House’s arrest, his attorney filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in the garbage can. The case was dismissed, but court transcripts do not directly confirm the reason for the case’s dismissal. The Wisconsin Circuit Court access web portal shows no record of the case.

From Feb. 10 through March 31, 2017, House was in custody as the Racine County Jail. The lawsuit states his arrest was unlawful and he was falsely imprisoned.

House is asking for a judgment that includes compensatory damages and pain and suffering, punitive damages and the return of the $1,193 that was found in his vehicle on the day of the search.

Previous lawsuit

In 2018, House filed a similar civil suit against the city, seeking damage costs relating to his Feb. 10, 2017, arrest.

Twenty days after charges were dismissed against House, his vehicle was returned to him. Part of the damages House claimed was the cost of a new auto security system because the police took his keys.

He claimed his Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendment rights had been violated, and said he was falsely arrested.

House also claimed he was traumatized by the loss of his job and wages and that his mother, with whom he lived, was not cared for while he was incarcerated.

The suit was dismissed on May 23, 2018, with a judge ruling that House had filed the suit after its allowable six-month window and did not appear in court for a hearing.

Current charges

House has been convicted of drug charges related to the manufacture/delivery of heroin and cocaine. He was most recently convicted in 2009.

House is currently facing felony charges of imitation of a controlled substance, four counts of manufacturing/delivering less than three grams of heroin, and delivery of schedule I or II narcotics — all second and subsequent offenses.

The charges stem from House reportedly selling heroin to a confidential informant six times during 2018, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Racine County District Attorney’s Office. The charges were filed on March 18, the same day House filed the federal lawsuit against police.

House’s initial appearance on those charges is set for June 4 at the Law Enforcement Center, 717 Wisconsin Ave.

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Reporter

Alyssa Mauk covers breaking news and courts. She enjoys spending time with her family, video games, heavy metal music, watching YouTube videos, comic books and movies.

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