Updated:A Rockdale County woman is seeking $78 million in damages from DeKalb County and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church after she said she was unlawfully held in jail for 78 days.
Aretonnette Ingram told Channel 2 Action News reporter Mike Petchenik that police arrested her in May 2008 on terroristic threat charges for allegedly threatening to kill herself and her children and to blow up Congressman Hank Johnson's office.
Ingram's lawsuit accuses a youth ministry counselor at New Birth of falsely telling police she heard Ingram make the statements during a phone conversation.
Ingram said she called New Birth to request Eddie Long's help with the kids in her neighborhood. She said the counselor on the other end of the line wasn't being helpful, so Ingram became frustrated and hung up the phone before telling the woman she had just arrived at Rep. Johnson's Lithonia office to get some assistance with a power bill.
"I never said anything threatening or derogatory," Ingram said. "I know that for a fact."
Ingram told Petchenik that DeKalb County police officers, including former Deputy Chief Donald Frank, arrived to Johnson's office and confronted her about the alleged statements. Her lawsuit alleges that Frank promised she would end up in jail, and that later in the day, officers arrested her.
"I sat in jail for 78 days and I literally slipped through the cracks," said Ingram.
Court records show a grand jury later declined to indict Ingram and the case was dismissed.
"It would be nice to receive an apology, a formal apology," said Ingram. "I know that doesn't seem like much, but if it's an admission: ‘we messed up.'"
Lawyers representing New Birth Missionary Baptist Church didn't return a call and e-mail seeking comment, but in court filings, they've asked the judge to drop the case, saying their employees had nothing to do with Ingram's arrest or incarceration. A spokesman for the DeKalb Police Department told Petchenik the department doesn't comment on pending litigation.
The case could go to court sometime next year.