By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — A federal judge dismissed one of three claims in a lawsuit filed by Hakim and April Fakhoury against a Dearborn police officer, the city, mayor and city attorney.
The conspiracy claim made by the Fakhourys against Dearborn Police Lt. Andreas Barnet alleges that the officer falsified documents and issued false charges against April Fakhoury, according to The Arab American News.
Also, the Fakhoury’s claim the charges were part of a conspiracy involving Mayor John O’Reilly Jr., other city officials and a former Fakhoury business partner.
That trial will not proceed after U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Michigan Judge Gershwin Drain ruled that Barnet had probable cause to charge April Fakhoury for filing a false police report in 2013. He also said that her malicious prosecution claim fails as a matter of law.
After a jury trial, April Fakhoury was acquitted.
“Plaintiff April’s malicious prosecution claim as to the false police report charge fails as a matter of law because Barnet possessed probable cause to prosecute April,” the opinion read. “Even if plaintiffs could establish there was no probable cause to arrest April for the filing a false police report, Barnet would still be entitled to qualified immunity.”
In the 46-page opinion issued on May 14, Drain also dismissed two of April Fakhoury’s claims of malicious prosecution against O’Reilly and Corporation Counsel Debra Walling.
Two claims in the lawsuit alleging that the constitutional rights of the Fakhourys of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment were violated, survived and will head to trial.
“The court concludes that a jury could determine that the Mayor and Walling ‘implicitly authorized, approved, or knowingly acquiesced’ in the unconstitutional conduct taken against the Plaintiffs in 2013 and 2014,” the opinion read. “A jury could also determine that the differential treatment that the Fakhoury family received was based on O’Reilly’s ill-will and a desire to divest the Fakhoury family of their property and status within the City of Dearborn.”
The Fakhoury’s attorney, Shareef Akeel, said there are and will be more motions and appeals filed on both sides before trial dates are set. Also, Akeel said the city filed a motion to stay with the court to stop proceedings and that he will file a response to continue which will be heard by Drain in court on July 16.
“We’re pleased with the opinion and ruling from the judge,” Akeel said. “A jury will finally hear what happened with the Fakhoury family.”
Director of Public Information Mary Laundroche said the city is unable to comment on the lawsuit or rulings because the ligation is still pending.
The lawsuit filed by the Fakhourys in September 2016 alleged O’Reilly and the city aimed to drive Hakim Fakhoury out of business. It was claimed that O’Reilly directed Legal Department officials and police to target Fakhoury’s commercial business properties in downtown west Dearborn.
Hakim Fakhoury partnered with Mike and Sam Hamame, who are the businessmen O’Reilly allegedly wanted to push the Fakhourys out so they could obtain the downtown properties.
The Fakhourys claim that they asked the city to end paid parking in the downtown because it was harming their tenants’ business, which did not happen until the Fakhourys left in 2014.
According to the lawsuit, The Fakhourys also claim that Mike Hamame and other members of the Hamame family met with O’Reilly to discuss cutting ties with the Fakhoury family in order to do business with the city.
Issues between the Fakhourys, O’Reilly and the city began in 2006 and continued to 2010 just before the city awarded a bid to Dearborn Venture Partners that could lead to the purchase of city-owned property for development in the area of Michigan Avenue in west Dearborn in 2005.
DVP was the Fakhourys real estate development that failed.
“According to court records, Hakim Fakhoury’s assets were under the control of court-appointed receivers seeking to recover several million dollars he owed to his creditors,” the Arab American News said. “The Fakhourys’ lawsuit seeks more than $34 million dollars from Dearborn taxpayers for the failure of their DVP project and the loss of their real estate empire.”
In early 2010, tensions between Hakim Fakhoury and O’Reilly continued when Fakhoury reiterated his opposition to paid parking and the delays he would experience with his projects, according to the lawsuit.
“Plaintiffs (The Fakourys) claim that the personal animus led the mayor to order Building and Safety employees to aggressively enforce city code violations against the Fakhoury-owned buildings, despite the agreement Hakim had with the city regarding buildings considered to be ‘existing nonconforming’ and the mayor’s acknowledgment in 2009 that the buildings were to come down as part of the DVP’s overall plan for commercial development in the western part of Dearborn,” the lawsuit read.
To read the full opinion click here.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])