A Fairfax County deputy sheriff and a policeman forced their way into the home of a Great Falls woman who had failed to pay a debt and arrested her and took her away to jail as her young children watched.
The woman, Lynn Furman, 37, of 9224 Weant Dr., was arrested Friday night and, after a short stay at the Fairfax jail, was released on $500 bond.
The incident, which Fairfax authorities yesterday confirmed, came despite constitutional protections that supposedly prevent individuals from being jailed for nonpayment of debts. "It's the damnedest story I've heard in the 16 years I've been a lawyer, and I've heard a lot of stories," said her attorney, Thomas P. Mains Jr. "It's straight out of Dickens."
The reason the constitutional protections did not apply was that the charge brought against Furman was failing to obey a court order. It grew out of her failure to surrender an automobile to pay off a court judgment that she lost to a Montgomery County lawyer who had represented her in a child support case.
Deputy Sheriff Robert Reagle, one of those who arrested Furman, yesterday said he had no choice. "I had an order to pick someone up and I did what I had to do."
The order, which Reagle said he and Fairfax officer M.M. Mack served, was issued by Fairfax lawyer Justus M. Holme Jr., who was serving as a court commissioner in enforcing a judgment that the Maryland lawyer, Glenn M. Cooper, had won. Reagle said Holme ordered Furman arrested after she failed to comply with his order that she surrender a 1977 450SL Mercedes Benz to the sheriff's office by Oct. 27.
The car was to help pay the $11,254 judgment Cooper obtained against her in Montgomery County last January for legal fees.
Furman, who is divorced from her second husband, said she had written Holme early last month telling him she did not have clear title to the car, which was half owned by her former husband Ron Furman. She said she received no response from Holme.
The next thing she knew two officers were standing in her bedroom, announcing her arrest, she said. According to Furman, one officer had forced open a first-floor window as her 9-year-old daughter, Dean, cowered under the bed.
With Dean tugging at her jeans, pleading with her to stay and her 4-year-old son, Scott, awakened from sleep, Furman said she was led off to jail.
Reagle said he had called for police assistance after his repeated knocks on Furman's door went unanswered. Furman said she was asleep and was attempting to recover from a protracted case of pneumonia and bronchitis.
Furman said her daughter heard the knocking, but did not answer because she was under orders never to open the door alone.
Furman's case for violation of the Holme order came before Fairfax Circuit Court Judge James C. Cacheris yesterday, but was continued to Dec. 12 at attorney Mains' request. Under Virginia law, she can be jailed until she satisfies the court order directing her to pay the lawyer.
Holme was not available for comment yesterday.