The City of Augusta/Richmond County, Georgia, has paid $300,000 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by David Cunningham, also known as hip-hop producer “Dun Deal.” The suit arose from Mr. Cunningham’s arrest by FBI agents on July 17, 2014, after a deputy of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office swore out a false warrant stating that Mr. Cunningham’s fingerprints had been found on a getaway vehicle from a jewelry theft in Augusta, Georgia. Mr. Cunningham in fact had no connection whatsoever to the crime.
The story began on July 16, 2014, when two men disguised as construction workers smashed the jewelry display case at the Costco in Augusta, Georgia. The thieves made off with more than $80,000 worth of jewelry. Deputies with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office reviewed surveillance footage from inside and outside the store, and were able to identify the license plate on the men’s getaway vehicle. Investigators traced the vehicle to a rental contract, and made contact with the woman who had rented the car. The woman told the investigators that she had loaned the vehicle to a fictitious person named “David,” who she supposedly had met at a party.
The deputies gained access to the woman’s Facebook page. Richmond County Investigator Walter Garrison located men by the name of “David” in the woman’s “Friends List.” One of the profiles belonged to David “Dun Deal” Cunningham, who the woman “followed” because she was a fan of his music. The investigator asked her if Mr. Cunningham was the man to whom she had loaned the vehicle, and she responded that she was not sure, but that the fictitious “David” had darker skin.
Despite this lack of a positive ID, Investigator Ken Rogers swore out a warrant for Mr. Cunningham’s arrest. In the warrant application, Rogers falsely stated that Mr. Cunningham’s fingerprints had been found on the getaway vehicle. This was totally false, as Mr. Cunningham had no connection with the crime whatsoever, and no criminal record that would have placed his fingerprints in the system. Investigator Rogers also failed to put into the warrant application that Mr. Cunningham’s image had been included in photo “line ups” shown to numerous witnesses, and none had identified Mr. Cunningham as being involved in the crime.
Nonetheless, a warrant was issued for Mr. Cunningham’s arrest, something that the Richmond County investigators passed on to agents of the FBI, as they believed this to be part of a multi-state theft ring. And, on July 27, 2014, numerous FBI agents seized Mr. Cunningham in the ticketing area of the Dallas, Texas airport, where Mr. Cunningham had been attending a hip-hop awards show. Agents also raided and searched the recording studio, Urban Angels in Atlanta, Georgia, where Mr. Cunningham recorded. Mr. Cunningham was incarcerated, with little to no idea how he had been named a suspect in this crime, for ten days.
After Mr. Cunningham was finally released, and the charges dropped, he brought suit under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, due to the unlawful and false nature of his arrest and prosecution. The issuing of a warrant without a positive ID, the withholding of exculpatory evidence, and, most importantly, the false statement that his fingerprints were on the getaway vehicle, formed the basis for his claims. The lawsuit also settles claims that the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office unlawfully withheld documents regarding Mr. Cunningham’s arrest and prosecution, in violation of Georgia’s Open Records Act.
After several months of litigation and a day-long mediation, Augusta-Richmond County agreed to pay $300,000 to Mr. Cunningham, to issue him a formal apology, and to discipline the officers involved.
Mr. Cunningham was named in Complex Magazine’s 2014 “Producers to Watch For.” He has worked with prominent hip-hop artists including Young Thug, Migos, 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, Usher, Trey Songz, Future, Drake, Rich Homie Quan, Kevin Gates, and others. He is perhaps best known for the hit songs “Stoner” by Young Thug and “Hannah Montana” by Migos.
A copy of the Complaint is below.
Mr. Cunningham was represented by James Radford and Caleb Gross of Decatur law firm Radford & Keebaugh. Please direct all inquiries to Mr. Radford at 678-271-0302, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Mr. Gross at 678-271-0303, email@example.com.