Civil rights lawsuit alleges 'malicious criminal prosecution' by former county judge, Tyler police detective

Civil rights lawsuit alleges 'malicious criminal prosecution' by former county judge, Tyler police detective
John Furlow (Source: Facebook)

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - A Tyler accountant has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against former Smith County Judge Joel Baker, Tyler Police Department Detective Dennis Mathews, the City of Tyler, and Smith County for "malicious criminal prosecution."

John T. Furlow, a Tyler accountant who attempted to unseat Baker for Smith County Judge in March 2014, filed the federal lawsuit on March 15. A federal court record shows Furlow is requesting a jury trial, and $750,000 in damages.

Furlow was accused of stealing 22 of his opponent's campaign signs and was arrested and charged with state felony theft. A mistrial was declared in the case, and the charges were dropped in March 2016.

"Absent the misconduct of Defendants Detective Dennis Matthews and former Judge Joel Baker, Mr. Furlow would not have been charged, arrested, jailed, and prosecuted," the lawsuit states.

Furlow is suing for actual and exemplary damages, alleging "misconduct of Defendants" resulted in "the loss of liberty, mental anguish, humiliation, emotional pain and suffering," as well as loss of income and a criminal record.

The lawsuit also alleges that Mathews, a Tyler police detective, and Baker lacked probable cause to initiate or procure prosecution, and that each "was motivated by malice in filing the charges."

The lawsuit also accuses Mathews and Baker of "sharing the same conspiratorial objective" against Furlow.

"Defendants Detective Dennis Mathews and former Judge Joel Baker came to a mutual understanding to try to accomplish a common and unlawful plan," the lawsuit states.

Judicial records show that Michael Konieczny, a witness who testified during the 2015 trial that he had stolen the signs, was never prosecuted or charged for the theft.

KLTV has reached out to Tyler police to find out why Konieczny has not been charged but has not received a response.

The City of Tyler and Smith County are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The Smith County Commissioners Court responded to a request to comment saying, "The Smith County Commissioners Court does not comment on pending legal matters."

KLTV has also reached out to Baker, Furlow and his attorney, and the City of Tyler for comment.

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