A prominent hip hop producer is receiving $300,000 in compensation from the city of Augusta, Georgia, after being arrested for a crime he didn't commit.
David Cunningham, better known by his stage name, "Dun Deal," was arrested by FBI agents in July of 2014 on the suspicion of having participated in a jewelry theft, whereby $80,000 worth of jewelry was stolen from a display case at Costco.
Cunningham became a suspect because he had accepted a Facebook friend request from the woman who had rented the getaway vehicle.
"I have fans, you know, people follow me," Cunningham told WGCL. "And I add people back. I have no issue with following people back."
When police discovered that Ronnica Westmoreland rented the car used for the crime, they asked her who else was involved.
"She said, 'I loaned it to a guy named David.' David is a pretty common name so they went to her Facebook page, found everyone named David," James Redford, Cunningham's attorney, explained. "They found a black man who wears a lot of jewelry. So they jumped to the conclusion, that must be him."
Police said Cunningham resembled one of the men captured on Costco's security video during the robbery, according to WGCL. They also said they had Cunningham's fingerprints, which was impossible since Cunningham had never even been to Augusta.
Despite the lack of evidence, a group of undercover FBI agents arrested Cunningham while he checked into a Dallas airport. They also performed a raid on his recording studio in Atlanta.
"They threw tear gas over the gate, put guns in people's faces," he said.
Cunningham was held in police custody for 10 days and then abruptly released when the charges were dropped. The four men who committed the theft were later arrested and charged, and they all pleaded guilty to the crime. Westmoreland was charged with making false statements to police.
Cunningham filed a lawsuit under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unlawful search and seizure. The suit, according to Decatur Legal, charged Augusta police with: issuing a warrant without a positive ID, withholding exculpatory evidence, and making false statements regarding Cunningham's fingerprints being found in the getaway car.
As a result of the suit, Cunningham was issued a formal apology and awarded $300,000. Furthermore, the officers involved in falsifying the evidence faced disciplinary action, including one forced resignation.
Caleb Gross, another attorney for Cunningham, said his client was lucky to have had the means to fight the wrongful imprisonment.
"If he was someone else, someone without family, without means, without a father who understood the process, that 10 days could have turned to 50. It could have turned to 100," he told WGCL. "That's how people get sucked into the system."