MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A day after two men were arrested for illegally towing a tractor from a southeast Memphis truck stop, a Chancery Court Judge has ordered all charges against them be dropped.
Rufus Newson, a driver with A1’s Towing and Hauling, and Gary Rhodes, an employee of S Line Truck Parking, were arrested late Monday night at an Exxon truck stop on Holmes and charged with theft after police said they illegally booted and attempted to tow a California driver’s big rig.
Newson was also charged with simple assault for allegedly pushing the driver to the ground when he called police.
The driver told officers he went inside the gas station to get some food, and when he came back, there was a boot on his 2019 Freightliner, and Newson and Rhodes were trying to tow it away.
He said they told him it would cost $265 to have the boot removed, and when he agreed to pay it, they told him the amount had changed to $500.
During a hearing requested by attorneys for A1’s Towing and S Line, Chancellor Melanie Jefferson-Taylor said the Memphis Police Department violated a previous court order prohibiting officers from going on the A1’s and S Line’s private properties and enforcing rules.
Jefferson-Taylor ordered any criminal charges against Newson and Rhodes be dropped, the men be released, their records expunged for the arrests, and Newson’s tow truck that was impounded by police be released with no charge.
The Chancery Judge also ordered MPD not to engage in parking or towing on the plaintiff’s private property. Jefferson-Taylor said if any member of the police department violated the order, Police Chief C.J. Davis would be forced to appear before her court for a contempt hearing.
The gas station where Newson and Rhodes were arrested is next to a parking lot with an S Line Truck Parking sign.
There are also signs that say no free parking for truck drivers. However, a clerk inside Holmes Express said truck drivers buying gas and food are not required to pay to park.
Police also said they told Newson and Rhodes they violated a city ordinance that states a vehicle must be booted for 24 hours before it can be towed, but they refused to give the driver his truck back.
According to the affidavit of complaint, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office approved the charges against Newson and Rhodes, and the police department’s own legal counsel was brought in to advise because of “ongoing problems with this wrecker company’s activities.”
Over the last few months, police have made several arrests in similar incidents involving A1’s Towing and S Line.
In April, two men were charged with carjacking after a truck driver said they physically removed him from his 18-wheeler after he pulled over in a parking lot on Lamar to reset his drive time.
He said a man put a boot on his truck and demanded he pay $265. He said he paid the fee, but the man told him he never received it. The victim said several men with guns forced him out of Freightliner, and the truck was towed to A1’s in the 100 block of West Mallory.
The driver was able to snap pictures of the two men he said attacked him, and police arrested Kenneth Rucker, 28, and Quinterius Harrell, 34.
On July 5, Michael Williams was charged with robbery after police said he took a truck driver’s tractor-trailer by force at a truck stop in the airport area.
The driver of the Kenworth truck said two men approached him, started attaching his rig to an A1’s tow truck, and told him he would have to pay a $272 parking fee through the S Line Truck Parking app posted on a pole.
After the victim paid, he said the men shoved him to the ground, left with his truck, and forced him to pay an additional $3,000 at the A1’s tow yard in South Memphis.
The victim’s camera captured the incident, and he was able to identify Williams and the man who shoved him to the ground. The affidavit did not say if the other man was charged.
On July 18, another truck driver said he was parked at Shelby Express Truck Stop on Shelby Drive when several armed individuals put a boot on his 18-wheeler and told him he would have to pay $265 to remove the boot.
The truck driver said his dispatcher made the payment through an app, but the men said the payment was not made fast enough, and they took the truck.
He said one man kicked him to the ground to get in the driver’s seat, and another person held him down while they hooked up his truck and towed it away.
The victim told police he received a receipt for A1’s Towing and Hauling, and his company had to pay an additional $2,535 to get the semi-truck back the same night.
The truck driver identified Rickey Hines, 28, as the person who pushed him to the ground.
WREG has received calls from truck drivers in two states and Canada who believe their vehicles were illegally towed in similar incidents while driving through the Memphis area.
So far, the charges against Newson and Rhodes have not been dropped.
Newson is also charged with driving without a commercial driver’s license. He was released from jail on $3,500 bond. Rhodes was released on a $1,000 bond.
Newson is scheduled to appear in court with an attorney on September 15. Rhodes is scheduled to appear on September 13.
WREG contacted the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office to find out if the charges against Newson and Rhodes were going to be dropped but have not received a reply.