A Brentwood man is suing the town and its former mayor and police chief for allegedly conspiring to harass him by filing false charges against him due to his political views.
Verron Francis Bretemps, a former five-term town councilman in the 1990s and 2000s, alleges in a lawsuit filed last month in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County that former Brentwood Mayor Xzavier Montgomery-Wright and Police Chief David W. Risik issued numerous citations and criminal charges against him in 2010 in an effort to silence him for his opposition to starting a police force in the town. At the time, the chief coordinated patrols using Prince George’s County contract officers, and officials were considering hiring municipal officers.
According to Bretemps’ complaint, the citations and charges violated his first amendment rights to political activity and free speech.
“It was essentially an effort to harass Mr. Bretemps because he was a political opponent of the mayor and the chief,” said Terrell Roberts, Bretemps’ attorney. “This was a way to discourage and deter him from what they wanted in terms of a police department there.”
The complaint says that in 2010 Risik issued numerous citations and warnings against Bretemps for parking cars in the driveways of his three Brentwood homes, which each consisted of two gravel strips that stretched from the back of his yard to the street. The town code prohibits parking on unpaved areas, but Bretemps argues that many other homes have similar driveways and were not given citations.
Risik also filed criminal charges against Bretemps — once for disorderly conduct for his actions at a Town Council meeting and two counts of obstruction and hindering for allegedly blocking his cars from being towed out of his driveway, according to the complaint. Every citation and criminal charge filed against Bretemps was either dropped by prosecutors or dismissed by a judge, according to the complaint.
Roberts said the lawsuit fell within the statute of limitations and was filed last month because it took time for Bretemps to find an attorney and have the claim investigated.
The case was moved to the U.S. District Court of Maryland in Greenbelt last month because the lawsuit alleges federal laws were broken. Bretemps is seeking $1.5 million in damages from the town and the two former officials. Roberts declined to explain why Bretemps wants that amount.
Bretemps, a lifelong Brentwood resident, declined to comment.
Montgomery-Wright and Risik did not return phone calls and emails requesting comment.
Mayor Roger Rudder said the town’s budget is around $1.7 million. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Daniel Karp, an attorney representing Brentwood and the two former officials, said he filed a response denying the allegations and a motion to dismiss the claims that state law was violated since Bretemps and his attorneys did not follow the state requirement to give the town 180 days notice before filing the lawsuit.
Roberts argues that because Bretemps’ constitutional rights were violated, the 180-day notice requirement should be waived.
Bretemps ran for Town Council in 2010 after Councilman E.J. Cooksey resigned, but lost by 35 votes — 127 to 92 — in a special election to Nina Young, who currently sits on the Town Council. Bretemps blames the result of the election on Montgomery-Wright and Risik, who he believes discredited him by filing false charges against him, according to the complaint.
Bretemps’ complaint argues that Montgomery-Wright was the chief decision-maker for the town and supported the harassment by Risik. Other officials showed indifference to the unconstitutional actions employed by Risik, which allowed for the behavior to persist, the complaint says.
A trial date has not yet been set, Roberts said.