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New Hope student's wrongful arrest lawsuit moves forward


Ron Cooke, left, and Javonte Ellis

Ron Cooke, left, and Javonte Ellis


Mike Arledge, left, and Will Spann

Mike Arledge, left, and Will Spann



Isabelle Altman



Federal judge Debra Brown on Tuesday denied the motion to dismiss a civil lawsuit for wrongful imprisonment against a Lowndes County Justice Court judge who signed an affidavit for the arrest of a 17-year-old falsely accused of statutory rape. 


Lowndes County Justice Court Judge Ron Cooke was named as a defendant in a suit brought by former New Hope High School student Javonte Ellis, who was arrested for statutory rape in 2015. The charge was dropped the next month when Ellis' lawyer told investigators Ellis was a few days short of the 36-month age difference required in statutory rape cases between minors over the age of 14 and minors under the age of 17. 


The county, Sheriff Mike Arledge and sheriff's office Det. Will Spann were also named as defendants in the lawsuit. 


Ellis was arrested at NHHS in front of students and teachers in March 2015 after Spann, who was investigating a statutory rape case in New Hope, brought the arrest affidavit to Cooke, who signed it. In September 2016, Ellis filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, alleging Spann had "subjectively known" he had no probable cause to arrest Ellis because he knew the birth dates of both Ellis and the female with whom Ellis had consensual relations. Likewise, the suit argues Cooke should have inspected the affidavits to ensure investigators had probable cause to make the arrest. 


Ellis was held at Lowndes County Adult Detention Center until he could post $10,000 bond. Because of his arrest, the suit argues, he was expelled from NHHS and barred from attending graduation. 


The suit also argues Ellis was a minor and under the jurisdiction of the Youth Court of Lowndes County, therefore Cooke did not have jurisdiction. 


In an answer to the complaint, Jackson attorney Jason Dare, who is defending Spann, Cooke and Arledge, denies the allegations and argued Cooke has judicial immunity.  


Dare also argues all the defendants were acting in good faith in accordance with the law and they all claim sovereign immunity as public officials.  


Neither Dare nor Ellis' attorney, Victor Fleitas of Tupelo, returned calls from The Dispatch by press time.




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