Inmate files frivolous suits against celebs

Jeff Gordon has secret plans to put wings on the No. 24 car and fly it into Fort Knox. The car also time travels.

Gordon has a secret trap door in the car to "drop tic tacs and oil" on the racetrack, not to mention he stole the talking Trans Am, Kitt, from the television show "Knight Rider."

All of the claims and much more are in a federal lawsuit filed by Jonathan Lee Riches, a prolific and litigious inmate in South Carolina.

Riches, 30, is serving more than 10 years at Williamsburg Federal Correctional Institution in Salters, where he churns out fantastic lawsuits against everyone from President Bush to NBA phenom LeBron James.

His outlandish suits have a following on the Internet and have been featured on The Smoking Gun Web site, among others.

Calling himself the "Litigator Crusader," his most recent suit was filed against Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports in federal court in Charlotte last week.

Filed with a heading of "Recklessly Drivin My Life Crazy," Riches' lawsuit seeks $22 billion and Gordon's race car. Hendrick Motorsports did not return several calls seeking comment.

Neither groups who want to curb inmate lawsuits nor those who champion inmate lawsuits are pleased with Riches.

"Many of us would argue those are frivolous lawsuits," said Darren McKinney, spokesman for the American Tort Reform Association in Washington.

Riches has filed 31 lawsuits in prison, sentenced as part of an identity theft ring when he was living in Holiday, Fla., in 2004. Seventeen of the lawsuits have been thrown out so far.

The filings have become a favorite among bloggers, and Riches' lawsuit against Michael Vick attracted nationwide attention, even being mentioned on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on MSNBC.

There is also a detailed Wikipedia Web page dedicated to Riches.

Katy Parker, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Raleigh, N.C., said Riches' lawsuits have a negative effect on legitimate complaints by inmates.

"They're having a huge effect, a bad effect on prisoner rights," Parker said.

Groups that want to pass laws limiting lawsuits by prisoners use cases like Riches' to argue their point, she said.

"They use it as a reason to throw out very valid cases," Parker said.

And Riches' cases haven't been considered valid by the courts yet.

Riches usually mixes in political figures with sports stars and includes references to the latest news.

In August, a week after Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's home run record, Riches filed a suit in Indiana claiming Bonds did steroids hidden inside Aaron's corked bat in the batter's box.

"Barry Bonds on June 22, 2004, benched pressed me against my will in front of his Ball Park buddies," Riches wrote. "I also witnessed Bonds selling steroids to nuns."

The filing went through, although it was unlikely it was seen by a judge, Parker said.

"Even a crazy case brought by a patently insane individual has to go through the system," McKinney said.