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You may recall a cover story we ran in June of last year that detailed the arrest of two women and one man on charges of prostitution and the solicitation thereof in a sleepy suburb of Cabot. We noted that the case was not as cut and dry as it first seemed. For one, the man arrested for solicitation, Jerry Richard, was the ex-husband of AE Sayasavanh Samontry, who was arrested for prostitution along with another woman of Laotian descent, Pornpiemon Phouangmany. Charges against Richard were eventually dropped by the court. Both women plead not guilty to misdemeanor prostitution, but were convicted and fined.

Now comes a lawsuit, filed earlier this month in federal court on behalf of Richard, Samontry and Phouangmany, accusing Lonoke County, three members of the sheriff’s department, and Kevin and Bonnie Blakely (former landlords to Samontry and Phouangmany) of denying the plaintiffs equal protection of the law, malicious prosecution, unlawful arrest, breach of contract and defamation, among other things.

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The suit, which was filed by Little Rock attorney Reggie Koch, claims Samontry and Phouangmany were practically run out of town by their landlords and other neighbors who “came to dislike the Laotian culture that they felt had invaded their white neighborhood” and felt it was “inconsistent with their white Christian values.” It also claims the sheriff’s department executed a search without a warrant, and arrested Phouangmany, who was not present when sheriff’s deputies first arrived on the scene, unlawfully. The complaint also says Richard, who has had an on-again-off-again relationship with Samontry for years after their marriage ended, has sustained damages to his professional career as a result of his arrest. Koch thinks his clients have a strong case. No response has been filed by Lonoke County as of yet. The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department has not yet returned our requests for comment.

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