Lawyers of transgender woman awarded $1.5 million verdict call for change

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 4:57 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - More than six years after a transgender woman was arrested for a crime, she insists she never committed, a federal jury ruled in her favor.

A federal jury awarded Ju’Zema Goldring a $1.5 million verdict against the Atlanta police officer who arrested her. Officer Vladimir Henry was one of two APD officers who stopped Goldring for jaywalking near 3rd and Piedmont in October 2015.

PREVIOUS STORY: Transgender woman sues city of Atlanta over arrest

During a search of her purse, officers found a white powder substance that allegedly tested positive for the for cocaine. Goldring was charged with trafficking cocaine.

“They used the field drug test kit supplied by the city to determine if it was cocaine,” said attorney Jeff Filipovits of the law firm Spears & Filipovits. “What we showed at trial is that the result was negative.”

Goldring spent nearly six months in the Fulton County Jail, an experience her attorneys described as horrid.

“She was subjected to sexual misbehavior that was happening at the jail,” said attorney Miguel Dominguez from the law firm Morgan & Morgan. “She was subjected to physical violence to which she has a scar on her head to this day.”

Goldring’s lawyers also took aim at the city’s law department, which represented the officers during trial, calling their crass and dehumanizing.

“In their closing argument they literally said since our client was at points her life homeless “What did she lose,’” recalled attorney Zack Greenamyre of the law firm Mitchell & Shapiro. “It’s more problematic because government attorneys have a higher duty to not only protect the taxpayer but a duty to further transparency and accountability.”

The judge in the case also pointed to troubling practices that “persist at the hands of the Atlanta Police Department.”

The first had to do with arresting people for lo-level offenses like jaywalking. The second practice was a system used by APD that awards officers with points for taking different actions. The judge said the point system could “create perverse incentives for officers.”

“There has to be a cultural shift in this department that says this kind of conduct and every nuance and collateral of this conduct is unacceptable and unfortunately that is not currently the case,” said Tiffany Roberts, policy director at the Southern Center for Human Rights.

CBS46 reached out to both the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department for comment. Both declined.

The Atlanta City Council will not authorize a judgement or settlement on behalf of Vladimir, who is now a detective with APD, according to Goldring’s attorneys.