Jury awards Salisbury man more than $131,000 in malicious prosecution suit
SALISBURY — Just a few years ago, Curtis Buck was a recluse. He’d lost his spark. He was embroiled in a criminal case and a subsequent civil lawsuit involving his now ex-wife, Alice. This week, he got some of his spark back.
In August 2010, Buck was charged with first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sex offense. The Post wrote a short story on Buck’s arrest by the Granite Quarry Police, but did not name the victim. Alice Buck accused him of assaulting her at knife point at the home they’d shared for nearly four years. In 2011, criminal charges were dismissed against Curtis Buck after a four-hour probable cause hearing in district court. Curtis Buck filed a civil lawsuit in May 2011 against Alice Buck because he believed she “abused the system” to “maliciously prosecute” him. On Tuesday, after a near three-week trial, a jury awarded Buck more than $131,000 in damages. Alice Buck declined comment.
In November 2009, after 12 years of marriage, the couple officially separated, much to Curtis Buck’s dismay. In the midst of a separation, the two were also undergoing a contentious custody dispute. He said he wanted to try to work things out and didn’t want the marriage to end. The couple remained intimate throughout the separation and custody dispute. But on Jan. 15, 2010, Alice Buck charged Curtis with domestic criminal trespass, saying he broke into her home, court records said. He had moved in with his parents. A few days later, Curtis was arrested and spent several hours in the Rowan County jail. He was released the next morning.
“I was in shock. I didn’t understand. I had never even been in trouble,” Buck said.
Three months later, he was found not guilty of domestic criminal trespass. The two shared custody of their two children, who were 8 and 3 at the time.
The couple divided their time with the children. Alice had primary custody during the school year and Curtis had primary custody during the summer.
In August 2010, when Curtis Buck was charged with sexual assault, he had primary custody of the children. That was soon after changed to supervised, and eventually he had no contact with them.
Curtis, who has health problems, spent two days in jail and was sick for much of that time. It was devastating, Buck said, to not be able to spend time with his children.
He described himself as a very hands-on father who attended school functions regularly and was there on the first day of school every year, he said. All he ever wanted was joint custody of the children.
Curtis believes Alice was disappointed with sharing custody of the children.
Curtis had gone to the home where the two had been intimate. He’d left to go pick up the children from his parents’ house. Later that night, Alice called 911 to report she’d been raped hours earlier by her husband at knife point, claims he denied.
In a domestic violence protective order, Alice Buck said Curtis threatened to kill her, himself and hurt the children.
He was facing at the minimum 12 years in prison and a maximum of 57 years, if convicted of sexual assault, said his attorney James Davis.
When Curtis was charged with rape, he said, he was again confused. Curtis said he felt people were watching and judging him.
He had lost his job due to layoffs, but the charges prevented him from gaining any other employment, he said. He didn’t go outside the house unless he had to, and when he needed things like gas, he’d go at night. When he spent time with the children, he tried to go outside of Rowan County.
When offered a plea agreement, Curtis Buck refused.
“I’d rather die an innocent man in jail than admit to something I didn’t do,” he said.
Nine months after the criminal charges were dismissed in district court in March 2011, Curtis and Alice were awarded joint custody of the children, an agreement that remains today. In May 2011, Curtis filed a civil lawsuit against Alice.
The jury civil trial began Jan. 22 and concluded Tuesday.
Curtis’ attorney said Alice Buck provided conflicting testimony during the trial. It took jurors a little less than three hours to deliberate. “I’m so glad someone else saw the truth,” Curtis said.
He’s thankful to jurors and for his attorney, Davis.
“I just wanted to feel vindicated,” he said, adding the lawsuit was never about the money.
“It was about my children and my reputation and integrity. All of that was compromised,” he said.
He is grateful just to be able to hug his children after so long without any contact. After spending two years without work, he now has found a part-time job.
Davis said he believed in this case the jury system worked. “It’s important that our system of justice works and that no one pervert the process,” Davis said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.