A black man is suing three white women who made up false allegations of stalking, threatening, gun violence and pedophilia against him for more than a year while he was building an urban garden in their Detroit community.
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The situation began in 2017, when Marc Peeples committed to building the garden in a vacant playground in local Hunt Park, according to Essence. The three women — Deborah Nash, Martha Callahan and Jennifer Morris — live close to the park and decided to call the police and accuse Peeples of “illegal gardening.”
When officers wouldn’t take them seriously, the women allegedly escalated their claims, calling police on him numerous times throughout the year and into 2018 with various accusations. In one instance, the women accused Peeples of stalking and threatening to burn down Nash’s house and kill her. Nash even attempted to obtain an order of personal protection against Peeples, his attorney told Yahoo Lifestyle, but the court denied her request.
In another call, they claimed that Peeples was painting vacant houses and trees in “gang colors.” And in a third, they said Peeples was involved in a drive-by shooting. When police officers responded to that call, according to the Detroit Metro Times, they found the gardener raking leaves. The women even accused Peeples of pedophilia involving neighborhood children who were helping plant the garden.
The Detroit Police Department and Wayne County Prosecutors Office eventually brought three counts of stalking against Peeples.
That’s when Peeples hired attorney Robert Burton-Harris to defend him. The pair alleged that every single accusation made against Peeples was false — and that the women had racist motivations for fabricating stories about him. They called the phenomenon “gardening while black.”
The case was thrown out of court on Oct. 16, 2018, by 36th District Court Judge E. Lynise Bryant, who called the allegations against the black man “troubling” and “ridiculous,” according to the Metro Times. “[The three white women] should be sitting at the defendant’s table for stalking and harassment charges, not Mr. Peeples,” Bryant said during the hearing. “This is disgusting and a waste of the court’s time and resources.”
Bryant later told the Metro Times that the women “engaged in a very targeted and constant harassment” of Peeples by filing false police reports and initiating all contact. She called their testimony “offensive.” Even police officers agreed; one officer’s body camera caught him calling one of the allegations he had responded to “B.S.”
Now that Peeples’s name has been cleared, though, he is ready for justice to be served against his accusers. With attorney Burton-Harris by his side, he filed a complaint last week in Circuit Court alleging that the women worked “concertedly to cause Marc economic harm and emotional distress” and engaged in “targeted harassment of [Peeples] for more than nine months,” says a police report obtained by the Metro Times.
Peeples is seeking $300,000 in damages from the three defendants. He is also trying to make the women answer to charges of lying to police and lying under oath.
“We want some consequences,” Burton-Harris said. “We waited to see if DPD or the prosecutor’s office would investigate the women, and that didn’t happen, so that’s part of the reason we decided to move forward.”
The attorney believes that in addition to racist feelings against Peeples, the women were driven by a desire to take over the park to “implement their own projects.”
“At all times, Deborah, Martha and Jennifer, collectively and individually, acted with the ulterior purpose of obtaining control over Hunt Park,” Burton-Harris wrote. “They made false police reports and accused Marc of various crimes that they knew he did not commit.”
Burton-Harris also told Yahoo Lifestyle, “Ms. Nash eventually confronted Marc about his improvements to the park. She testified that she didn’t like them because she wanted the park to remain uncultivated and wild.”
He said that his client’s preferred outcome for the case is to get Peeples “compensated for his experience, and we want the defendants held accountable for their actions.”
For Peeples, though, it’s personal. He wants to restore his reputation as an urban gardener who cares deeply about his community and the people in it. “I was arrested in front of children, and even after I was arrested my name was still being slandered, people were still saying things about me that wasn’t true,” he said. “I wanted to hold people accountable. I was locked up, I had to face trial, and I had to put my life back together.”
Peeples is pushing forward with the garden, Liberated Farms, as part of several local schools’ STEM curriculum. He plans to add playground equipment. “I have to do for my people and that’s my concern — rebuilding the neighborhood back up,” Peeples told the Metro Times.
To get the project finished, friends of Peeples started a GoFundMe on his behalf; it has raised almost $55,000 as of Wednesday morning. They also hope he’ll use the funds to buy a house for himself and his mother.
Nash, Callahan and Morris could not be reached for comment.
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