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Geneva France

Summary of Groups Registry case from Mansfield, Ohio
On November 9, 2005, 22-year-old Geneva France was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on two counts of distribution of cocaine. According to the indictment, the government alleged that on October 25, 2005, France served as a courier in a drug transaction in Mansfield, Ohio, between a drug dealer-turned-informant named Jerrell Bray and a man named Herman Price, who was using the false name of Ronald Davis.

France’s arrest, also on November 9, was part of a wide-ranging investigation into illegal drug activity spearheaded by the Richland County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and one of its agents, Lee Lucas.

Lucas testified before a federal grand jury that France served as the middleman for the transaction and sold him drugs during the controlled buy and that the deal took place within 1,000 feet of a school zone.

"We drove down—we left Ronald Davis there, we went over to Glessner Avenue, which he told us this girl would be waiting for us," Lucas testified. "And we pulled up a young girl named—she told me her name was Little S, she was subsequently identified as Geneva France, got into the car, got in the back seat. She handed me two-and-a-half ounces of crack, scales, she had her own scale, we weighed it out. I gave her $2,500. The problem was it weighed light, it was supposed to be two-and-a-half, he (Davis) gave me two-and-a-quarter so I had the informant call and tell him I wasn’t going to pay that much. He said take $200 out of it. We spent $2,300 that I ended up giving to Geneva France at his direction, Ronald Davis’s direction. Then we dropped Geneva France off, she went back to the house. We made telephone contact afterwards with Davis because he said he wanted to talk to us after. As we drove back to South Adams Street where he was he said no, everything was fine. He followed us and watched the deal as it happened to make sure we didn’t try to rip off his girl. At that point the deal was over."

France went to trial in U.S. District Court in Cleveland in February 2016.

Bray testified that he had called Price and spoke to a woman he referred to as “Lil S” to discuss buying cocaine. He then said he made a separate call to Price to hammer out the details of the deal.

Bray said he then met Price at another location, and he testified that he told Lucas that they needed to go get the drugs from “Price’s girl.”

Lucas and Bray then picked up the woman who identified herself as “Lil S.” According to Bray, they completed the transaction and then dropped the woman off without making an arrest.

As the officers began building their case for arrests in this transaction and others initiated by Bray, Deputy Charles Metcalf of the Richland County Sheriff’s Office tried to identify ‘‘Lil S.’’ He showed a photo of a woman whose first name was “Shakkia” to Lucas, and Lucas said that was not her. Bray then told Lucas that Geneva was the real first name of the woman he called “Lil S.”

According to France, she only knew Bray through a friend who was dating him. France said that Bray scared her and that she refused to go on a date with him.

Officers had trouble finding a photo of France. A single mother of three young children, she worked at a nursing home and had no criminal record. She did not have a driver’s license. The best the officers could come up with was a sixth-grade class photo. Lucas and Bray looked at the photo and identified the girl as “Lil S.”

A sheriff’s deputy later testified that the photo was not placed in an array and that it might have been labeled with France’s name when he showed it to Bray and Lucas.

The jury convicted France on February 17, 2006, on both counts, and she was later sentenced to 10 years in prison. At her sentencing, the judge berated her as a pathological liar.

After Bray’s arrest in May 2007 on an unrelated charge of attempted murder, he told an attorney for another defendant in the drug arrests that neither France nor Price had been involved in the drug transaction on October 25, 2005. He was trying to set Price up, but the man involved was actually his cousin. Bray later told the same account to prosecutors. He pled guilty in December 2007 to federal charges of perjury and civil-rights violations.

At France’s trial, Lucas had testified that he dialed the numbers in Bray’s phone. A later investigation revealed that Bray dialed the numbers and spoke with his girlfriend. In his report, Lucas said that Bray made a second call to Price to discuss the terms of the drug transaction. An audio recording of the call showed that discussion did not take place. Similarly, Lucas testified before the grand jury and at trial that Bray called Price to haggle about the price because the amount was “a little light” and that he heard both sides of the conversation. But there were no phone records of that call. Bray later admitted that he just pretended to make the call and talk to Price.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio filed an emergency petition to release France from prison on June 29, 2007. It was granted that day. Her charges were dismissed on September 20, 2007.

Price had pled guilty to drug charges after officers searched his house and found cocaine. His conviction was also vacated and his charges dismissed. Seventeen other defendants were also wrongfully convicted, in part due to perjury by Bray and in part due to misconduct by Lucas and other officers.

Lucas was later charged with 18 counts of perjury and obstruction of justice involving France’s case and others in Mansfield. He was acquitted in 2010 of all charges. During his testimony, Lucas continued to insist that France was the woman in the car and that her class photo was enough to make a strong identification.

France received an undisclosed settlement from a lawsuit against the federal government in 2011. She died in 2019.

Despite Lucas’s acquittal, a 2011 report by the Office of the Inspector General said that he filed incorrect reports and committed perjury during France’s trial. It noted that he logged incorrect phone numbers, did not log all the telephone calls, and logged the pretend call. “The evidence indicates that he did not personally verify and document the telephone numbers called and the times of the calls, because if he had the above-described discrepancies would not exist.”

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 3/13/2022
Last Updated: 3/13/2022
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2005
Sentence:10 years
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No