TOLEDO -- A Tama mayoral candidate has filed a $1 billion dollar lawsuit against the Tama County Attorney and Tama County law enforcement officers.
Attorney Allan Richards, 49, said his constitutional rights were violated after officers searched his office in March and seized private property.
"It was a witch hunt," Richards said.
Richards' lawsuit was filed Sept. 19, one day after submitting his nomination papers for the Tama mayor's seat.
Richards maintains the search and seizure was illegal and is suing for damages to prevent future unlawful searches. In the lawsuit, he names County Attorney Brent Heeren, Tama police officers John Carr and Joseph Quandt and Tama County Sheriff's deputy Bruce Rhoades.
According to an application for the search warrant, a confidential informant said that Jeff Feisel, a cousin of Richards, had two assault rifles with the serial numbers ground off. The informant then told law enforcement officials that Richards had one of the two rifles at his Fourth Street office.
A judge granted the search warrant. Authorities did not find the rifle, but did find a 9-mm handgun. Court records also indicate officers found a bag of marijuana seeds, phone records, ammunition and a "big safe."
Richards fought against allowing authorities to open the safe, which he said contained private records of clients. Richards also claimed in court documents the safe contained records of potentially illegal activities Richards says were committed by some public officials.
The judge allowed officers to inspect the safe after clients' records were set aside.
Richards said he is being targeted for being vocal about community issues and because he has spoken out against Tama law enforcement and Tama County officials. Richards said he has been an advocate for fairness and multicultural diversity in Tama. Richards also ran against Heeren for the county attorney position in 1994 and 1998 and lost.
In his lawsuit, Richards said the search damaged his office as well as to his character and professional reputation.
"Part of our government is out of control," Richards said. "I think people are tired of it."
Because of his role in the lawsuit and as an attorney bound to keep his clients' privacy, he said he would not comment on ownership of or his contact with specific seized items.
He did say, though, that the phone records, or address book, contains a list of contacts for his fraternity brothers from his days at Luther College. He also said the ammunition constituted a single shell that didn't fit the weapon.
"They have embellished the search warrant," he said. "I'm fighting some pretty powerful people, some pretty powerful influences."
No charges have been filed against Richards as a result of the search.
On the lawsuit, Richards has requested a jury trial. No date has been set.
Heeren said he would not be commenting on the matter. Attorney Carlton Salmons, who is representing the defendants, could not be reached for comment.