- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - An 80-year-old former mayor of the St. Louis County town of Pine Lawn alleges in a lawsuit that he was repeatedly falsely arrested as part of a smear campaign orchestrated by his successor.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday at the request of the NAACP and on behalf of Adrian Wright. The lawsuit names Wright’s successor as mayor, Sylvester Caldwell, along with a police officer and the city of Pine Lawn, a community of 3,300 residents in north St. Louis County.

Wright said he was arrested on false accusations of running a stop sign and failing to yield to an emergency vehicle. He said that as part of the arrest he was threatened with a stun gun.

The charges were dismissed, but Wright said he was arrested again at least twice on the same false charges, and city officials made him do a “perp walk” in front of local TV news crews.

Wright was a critic of Caldwell and supported his opponent in the 2012 race for mayor when the arrests occurred. He said in the suit that Caldwell used Wright’s mug shot in campaign literature to discredit his endorsement of Caldwell’s opponent.

Caldwell pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court last week to extortion and attempted extortion charges. A tow truck driver and convenience store manager had testified that they feared repercussions to their businesses if they didn’t meet Caldwell’s requests for cash. Caldwell resigned as mayor and faces sentencing July 7.

Caldwell’s lawyer, Travis Noble Jr., said he knew nothing about the lawsuit and declined to comment.

The NAACP has received complaints about corruption and abusive policing in Pine Lawn for many years, officials with the organization’s St. Louis office said.

“The misuse of police is a problem that is not unique to Pine Lawn,” said Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis NAACP. “While this is an extreme example, we believe there are other instances that are certainly as bad as what we’ve seen in Ferguson.”

Pine Lawn is just a few miles from Ferguson, which has been under scrutiny since August, when a white police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black. The officer, Darren Wilson, was not charged and later resigned, but the U.S. Department of Justice in March released a scathing report about police practices in Ferguson.

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