Black trans woman awarded $1.5 million after being wrongfully jailed on ‘bogus’ drugs charges

A federal jury found Ju’Zema Goldring was wrongly arrested

Ju’Zema Goldring, a Black trans woman who was wrongfully arrested while walking with friends, has been awarded $1.5 million by a judge.

Goldring spent almost six months in jail after her arrest in 2015, but a federal jury has now found that the drugs charges she was held on were “bogus”.

After the jury’s verdict, Judge William Ray II said that Goldring deserves “some semblance of justice” for the ordeal she went through.

According to her lawsuit, Goldring, then 22, was walking in an LGBT+ district of Atlanta with friends in 2015 when she jaywalked and was arrested by police officers Vladimir Henry and Juan Restrepo, who searched her purse and taunted her with “transgender slurs” before “invasively” searching her dress.

When the police officers cut open her stress ball and told her it contained cocaine Goldring thought “they were joking”.

The lawsuit states that officers then took her to jail and conducted multiple drug tests on the stress ball’s contents, all of which came back negative; Ju’Zema Goldring says she heard another officer tell Henry “Give it up, buddy,” as he continued to test the stress ball’s contents for drugs.

She was then told she would have to wait in jail while the drug test results came back from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), her lawyers said, unless she could pay $25,500 bail – which she couldn’t afford.

While the GBI results came back on 17 November, 2015 showing that the contents of the stress ball were not cocaine or any other illegal substance, Goldring remained in jail until 22 March, 2016. While in prison she was subjected to sexual misconduct, according to the lawsuit.

“She spent nearly six months in the Fulton County Jail based on this seemingly bogus charge,” Ray wrote in his ruling, according to the New York Times.

The woman’s lawyers said the ordeal she’s been through has had a “tremendous negative impact” and that she now struggles with nightmares and mental health issues after “being locked up as an innocent person for 23 hours a day”.

In his ruling, Ray said there were “two seeming injustices” in Goldring’s case. The first was that Atlanta police admitted to arresting people for jaywalking, when police energy “could be better spent on more pressing activities, such as addressing violent crimes”.

The second was that the Atlanta Police Department officers work under a system that gives them points for making arrests. “The court is concerned that such a system may create perverse incentives for officers,” Ray said.

It’s currently unclear who will pay Ju’Zema Goldring the $1.5 million that Ray awarded her.

“There’s nothing about this that makes this all just go away,” her lawyer said. “It’s just a portion of what she needs to restore her and make her whole. And this verdict, unfortunately, won’t do that.”