Transgender woman awarded $1.5M for Atlanta officer’s false drug arrest

Ju’Zema Goldring was awarded $1.5 million in damages following a false arrest by Atlanta police officers in 2015. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Ju’Zema Goldring was awarded $1.5 million in damages following a false arrest by Atlanta police officers in 2015. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

A federal grand jury has awarded $1.5 million to a transgender woman who spent more than five months in jail after a bogus arrest by an Atlanta police officer.

On Oct. 11, 2015, Ju’Zema Goldring was walking with friends in Midtown when she was arrested and charged with jaywalking, a crime she says she didn’t commit, according to her federal lawsuit. Officers Vladimir Henry and Juan Restrepo then searched Goldring’s purse and found a “stress” ball, which they cut open.

The officers then tested a substance inside the ball for narcotics, Goldring’s suit states. Despite two field tests finding no evidence of illegal drugs, Goldring was also charged with trafficking cocaine, jail records show. Goldring, listed under the name Julius Goldring, remained in the Fulton County jail until March 22, 2016, booking records show.

Her federal lawsuit was filed two years later against Atlanta police and the two officers. The case went to trial earlier this month and the jury ruled in favor of Goldring.

“The test was negative, and he charged her anyway,” attorney Jeff Filipovits said in an emailed statement. “Everyone on the jury saw that the test was negative. It should not have taken seven years and a federal jury trial to bring this to light. It’s terrifying to think what other abuses the City of Atlanta has tolerated that haven’t gotten our attention. Our client was obviously profiled, as are so many others.”

The city declined to discuss the judgment.

“As this is an ongoing legal matter, the City of Atlanta is reviewing the order and the officer’s options,” a city spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

According to the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, both Henry and Restrepo are still employed with the Atlanta Police Department.

In his written judgment last week, Judge William Ray said the case highlighted two “injustices” at the hands of APD. During the trial, Henry testified that he “always” arrested anyone caught jaywalking.

“For one thing, any arrest, even for a low-level offense like jaywalking, can seriously disrupt a person’s life, including by making it harder for him or her to obtain employment,” Ray wrote. “Beyond that, the time it takes for an officer to arrest someone for jaywalking arguably could be better spent on more pressing activities, such as addressing violent crimes, which seem so prevalent in recent times, or with engaging with the community.”

Ray also said a “point system” for officers used to evaluate their job performance could create “perverse incentives.”

“Consider an officer who is at the end of his shift and has not yet hit that day’s points target; rather than writing a citation for someone speeding on the highway (or jaywalking across the street), it would seem the officer might be tempted to instead arrest that person for just a couple extra points,” the judge said.