Charles Couch was a college student who also held a job with Cambrian Homecare of Long Beach, Calif., where he helped chaperone a boy with Prader-Willi Syndrome – a rare disorder that results in mental retardation and arrested sexual development. One day in 2012, he and the boy were at the beach in Manhattan Beach when the child needed to use the restroom at a nearby public toilet.
But Manhattan Beach cops were there ahead of them, on the prowl as part of a sting operation to target would-be sexual predators who prey on kids in public bathrooms. The cops had no prior knowledge of Couch, or that he would be visiting the beach that day with the disabled child.
After the child spent a long time in the bathroom (the product of another of Prader-Willi’s many symptoms), he came outside and whispered to Couch, “There is a man looking at me in the stall!”
Couch understandably decided it was time to put as much distance between his charge and the strange man in the bathroom as possible. So he tried to leave with the child. Instead he was tackled, cuffed and taken to jail. That “strange man,” of course, turned out to be a cop.
Under questioning, Couch was “accused of being sexually interested in other men, and asked if he would take his own little brother to a party to get ‘laid.’”
At least that’s what Couch is now alleging in a $5 million Federal lawsuit against the Manhattan Beach Police Department, its chief of police, and five detectives. The complaint alleges Couch was falsely arrested and subjected to unreasonable search and seizure and discrimination.
To top it off, the police department evidently had no compunction about disseminating Couch’s picture to the media – even though he was never charged with a crime. About a month after the incident, Couch saw his own picture, accompanied by his name, in a local newspaper with a circulation of 70,000 readers. His name and picture were on the Internet. He appeared as a sex offender to strangers who knew nothing of the truth. He quit school because the cops confiscated his laptop computer – the one he used for academics – in a fruitless search for child porn.
The suit seeks damages for violation of Couch’s 4th and 14th Amendment rights, as well as punitive damages for allegations of perjury against one of the accusing officers.