DETROIT – Two people embroiled in what was nicknamed the “gardening while black” case have dropped their lawsuits against each other.
Detroiter Marc Peeples, who is black, said three white women falsely accused him of crimes in 2017 and 2018 as he built a community garden in Hunt Park. Peeples said the women had their own plans for the park and wanted to see him “incarcerated or seriously injured by law enforcement.” He sued them in February for $300,000.
One of the women, Deborah Nash, filed a counterclaim against Peeples earlier this month, alleging libel, invasion of privacy, ethnic intimidation and other claims.
Both parties agreed Monday to drop their cases against each other. No money was exchanged.
Peeples said the attention the case received was difficult for him and his family, something that factored into his decision.
“It was never about money for me,” Peeples, 33, told the Free Press. “By me being able to be in the garden and do what I was doing, that was victory for me. That was enough for me.”
Nash’s attorney, Kyle Bristow, issued a statement that said Peeples’ lawsuit was “stupid, devoid of common sense, and disregarded the elementary rule that witnesses cannot be sued for talking to the police or testifying in court.” Bristow said Nash never engaged in misconduct.
Peeples is still in litigation with the two other women, Martha Callahan and Jennifer Morris, said his attorney, Robert Burton-Harris They have not responded to the lawsuit and therefore are in default, Burton-Harris said.
Neither Callahan nor Morris could be reached for comment.
NBC News previously reported that Peeples and Burton-Harris have described what happened as a case of “gardening while black.”
According to Peeples’ lawsuit, the women told Detroit Police administrators in March 2018 that Peeples had stolen from houses near the park and threatened to burn down their homes and kill them. Two months later, as Peeples was in Hunt Park teaching a group of home-schooled students about gardening, one of the women called 911 and falsely reported that Peeples was a convicted pedophile and wasn’t legally allowed near kids, the lawsuit said. Police arrested Peeples.
Peeples was charged with three counts of stalking and temporarily barred from the park. A Wayne County Circuit judge eventually tossed the case, saying the three women harassed Peeples.
In her counterclaim, Nash said Peeples made false and defamatory statements about her online and in a New York Times article. She also said he tried to intimidate her because she is white, referring to her as a “Euro” and “colonizer.”
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