TWO American men who were jailed for a week after police mistook their coconut candy for crack cocaine are planning to file a US$2 million ($2.21m) lawsuit, according to US reports.
José Pena, a 48-year-old plumber, and his longtime friend and colleague Cesar Rodriguez, 33, from the Bronx, New York, were arrested on January 15 after police found a bag of what they thought was cocaine, reports The New York Post.
The “drugs” were finally tested five days later and determined to be popular Coco (coconut) Candy. The charges were dropped.
The ordeal began when the pair stopped at convenience store on the way to a party. When they came out of the store police asked to search their Ford minivan.
“I said ‘Go search.’ I even opened the door,” Rodriguez told The Post.
An officer rummaged around, came out holding a “Hello Kitty” sandwich bag, and shouted “Bingo!” the men said.
“It’s only candy!” Rodriguez said, as the cops handcuffed him and Pena, and several other police cars rushed to the scene.
Rodriguez said he bought a 50-cent bag of Coco Candy, a hard coconut-based treat, almost every day. Because it easily crumbles, he puts it in a sandwich bag.
“Can you test it? Can you taste it?” Rodriguez asked the cops. “Shut up!” they replied.
“I didn’t know having candy was a crime,” he said.
The two men were jailed for cocaine possession. Pena got out after three days, but Rodriguez was held two more, because he could not make $5000 bail the judge imposed on him due to a prior robbery conviction, the New York Daily News reported.
The two men are now planning to file a $2 million (A$2.21m) lawsuit, the Daily News reported.
The men’s lawyer, Neal Wallerstein, said the cops could have realized their mistake quickly.
“That’s the reason why they have a field-test kit,” he said, referring to the New York Police Department’s portable drug identification equipment.
The Bronx District Attorney’s office confirmed that the case was dropped after authorities realized there were no drugs. The NYPD had no comment.
Rodriguez said he still loves Coco Candy.
“It’s really sweet,” he said. “I could get addicted to this candy.”