Former principal sues officer for $12 million

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – A former local school principal is prepared to go to court to get his good name back.

This all started when Rickey Eley was charged in a crash in Petersburg. He was forced to step down at Bertie High School, but the charges were then tossed out, leaving him with nothing.

“I go up and I’m literally standing in front of the judge for about 30 seconds, the DA looked at the evidence, withdraws all charges,” Eley said.

Eley says those charges changed his life. He’s now suing the officer who charged him and his wife, Tawanne.

“None of this had to happen, because the charges were bogus,” Eley added.

On October 17, 2015, Eley and his wife were in Petersburg. According to court records, the driver of a car ran a red light, hitting the Eleys. Officer Bryan Allen was investigating the crash and was reportedly getting upset because he couldn’t figure out who was at fault. He even told the Eleys if they didn’t change their story, there would be consequences.

“My wife calls me and says there are two Suffolk police officers at the door with warrants from Petersburg for my arrest,” Eley said.

Both Eleys were charged with felony hit and run, though Rickey Eley wasn’t driving. They were also charged with a false police report.

“It was just a media storm,” Eley added. “It started to snowball into a huge negative story.”

Eley was principal at Bertie High School and was told he was going to be fired. He instead decided to resign.

The Eleys are now suing Officer Allen for $12 million. They say when he charged them, their civil rights were violated.

The lawsuit, filed in Richmond Federal Court, claims the husband and wife sustained severe emotional distress and mental anguish. They also say the incident ruined their good name and caused financial loss.

The Eleys have since had their records expunged.

“This officer had no good reason for bringing these criminal charges against Mr. and Mrs. Eley,” said Robert Allen, the Eleys’ attorney. “The officer’s actions had severe consequences for my clients. Mrs. Eley was arrested in front of her children on felony and misdemeanor charges. Mr. Eley was forced out of his position as principal of Bertie High School, abruptly ending an admirable 20-year career in education with Bertie County Schools. The Eleys were in Petersburg to attend homecoming at their alma mater, Virginia State University, and they did not deserve to be treated this way. Actions have consequences and we look forward to trying the case.”

10 On Your Side tried to get in touch with Officer Allen several different ways Friday, but had no luck.

A trial date has not yet been set.