DETROIT — "They strictly thought their so-called white privilege was gonna work this time and it didn't," said Marc Peeples who was acquitted in a directed verdict in a case where three women, who are white, accused Peeples, who is black, of stalking them.
The women repeatedly called Detroit Police on Peeples, an urban farmer, who said he wanted to grow a garden in his old neighborhood in the area of 8 Mile and John R on the city's east side.
In the beginning, Peeples said one of the women donated soil to his project, but then he and his attorney say it became about power, race and false allegations.
"These women were clearly lying," said Peeples who was shocked when Detroit Police arrested him after prosecutors charged him with three misdemeanor counts of stalking.
This was a case of "gardening while black" said defense attorney Robert Burton-Harris, who represented Peeples at trial.
Harris said this is similar to other cases around the country where "you have people calling the police on, mostly, African-Americans for doing very mundane things."
"I wasn't doing anything but planting a seed to help my community grow," said Peeples.
36th District Court Judge E. Lynise Bryant told WXYZ that the women filed false police reports and made up allegations that Peeples had been convicted of being a pedophile and that he had a gun.
"I very much believed that the only reason that they called the police on Mr. Peeples being in their neighborhood was because of his race," said Judge Bryant. "It was clearly, in my opinion, that these ladies had engaged in not only harassment of Mr. Peeples but illegal conduct towards Mr. Peeples."
But a friend of one of the women told WXYZ that the only reason for the acquittal is that the assistant prosecutor handling the case was poorly prepared.
"You think she moved into this neighborhood to be called a racist," he said about his friend who declined an interview.
WXYZ has not been able to reach the other two women for comment.
A spokesperson for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office released the following statement:
At the warrant stage three female complainants were interviewed and police reports were reviewed. It was determined that they provided credible allegations of repetitive instances of conduct by the defendant that supported three counts of Stalking, a 90 day misdemeanor.* When the matter was in trial the three complainants were not able to present testimony that supported the charges, as a result the judge dismissed the case.
*The charges are allegations and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Attorney Burton-Harris said he and his client now plan on filing a defamation lawsuit against the three women.