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Black Trans Woman Awarded $1.5M Over ‘Bogus’ Drug Charge and Arrest

Ju'Zema Goldring

The woman was arrested in 2015 after police officers said a stress ball in her purse contained cocaine. It didn't.


A Black transgender woman who was wrongly arrested in 2015 on what a judge called a "seemingly bogus charge" and jailed for months will receive $1.5 million.

On Thursday, Judge William Ray II said that Ju'Zema Goldring deserved "some semblance of justice" after her ordeal, according to The New York Times. The judge's statement came two days following a jury's verdict in the suit that was originally filed in 2018.

Goldring was arrested by two officers -- Vladimir Henry and Juan Restrepo -- in Atlanta in 2015. They claimed Goldring had cocaine in a stress ball she was carrying. However, Goldring's lawsuit stated that it was only the contents of the stress ball, not cocaine.

"She spent nearly six months in the Fulton County Jail based on this seemingly bogus charge," Judge Ray stated.

A lawyer for Goldring, Miguel Dominguez, told the Times, "This whole ordeal has had a tremendous negative impact on her life." He added that Goldring had suffered mental health challenges since "being locked up as an innocent person for 23 hours a day."

The City of Atlanta declined to answer questions from the paper. Neither the officers nor Goldring were available for interviews.

Goldring's lawyers said that her case highlighted the negative treatment of Black trans people by law enforcement.

In October 2015, Goldring, then 22, jaywalked in midtown Atlanta. The officers arrested her and searched her purse.

According to Goldring's lawsuit, the officers called Goldring trans slurs and did an "invasive search" of her body. They then took out the stress ball and cut it open, claiming to have found cocaine inside.

Officers Henry and Restrepo took Goldring to jail. There the officers did drug tests, according to the suit, but multiple tests came back negative.

Officers told Goldring that she would have to wait in jail until other results came back from tests on the substance in the stress ball or pay a bond set at $25,500, which she couldn't afford, according to the Times.

During her time in jail, Goldring's lawyers said that even though she was housed with trans women, she still suffered sexual abuse.

She stayed in jail until March 2016, when her case was dismissed. Authorities determined the contents of the stress ball was not cocaine back in November 2015, the suit says.

In Ray's statement, he wrote that arresting people over jaywalking was an injustice that could cause disruption in a person's life. He also said it was an injustice that the police department awarded officers points for taking certain actions, like making a traffic citation.

"There's nothing about this that makes this all just go away," Mr. Dominguez told the Times. "It's just a portion of what she needs to restore her and make her whole. And this verdict, unfortunately, won't do that."

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