Category: CIVIL RIGHTS

Settlement

CIVIL RIGHTS ACTION AGAINST CHEROKEE COUNTY OFFICIALS FOR VARIOUS INMATE OFFENSES

Action: Civil Rights Action Against Cherokee County Officials for Various Inmate Offenses
Case: Paul L. Belyeu v. Campbell et al
Court: [6:14cv241][EDTX Tyler Division]
Result: Settlement


Summary:

Mr. Belyeu was being used by the Cherokee County jail staff to do many maintenance tasks in the jail. On one such occasion, he was badly electrocuted. After he was injured, he was administered drugs by jail staff that appear to have been fraudulently obtained by the jail staff: prescriptions were forged. The jail demanded he take the medications at increasing dosages until he eventually suffered significant consequences from both the injury and the meds.

The case was settled out of court in October 2016.

Jury Trial Loss

CIVIL RIGHTS ACTION IN PARIS, TX FOR ILLEGAL STRIP SEARCH OF COURTROOM OBSERVER

Civil Rights Action: Aji Jo Burress v. Ronnica Blake, Bobby Joe Hundley, Jr. and John Doe Defendant No. 1
Court: Eastern District of Texas [Sherman Division] [Civil Action No. 4:14-CV-0035]
Results: Jury Trial loss


Summary:

The plaintiff in this case, Ali Burress, was strip searched by Paris, TX police officer Ronnica Blake. According to Officer Blake, 6th District Judge Eric Clifford ordered her to do so when Ali allegedly mouthed the words, “I love you,” to a murder trial defendant.

Ali sued sued various Lamar County officials for the unlawful strip search on December 20, 2013.  She deposed Clifford and Blake under oath.

On June 29, 2015, Ali phoned Lamar County 911 in the middle of the night requesting assistance.  She explained her car had become disabled in rural South Lamar County.  Some minutes later, her phone went dead while speaking to 911. Among the last things she said to the 911 operator was she could see the lights of first responders nearing her location.  Responders found Ali’s disabled car where she described it would be found; however, responders advised they did not find Ali with the car as she advised on the phone, and as cell phone tower triangulation records indicated she would be.  A manhunt of several days followed.  A helicopter, tracking dogs, drones and officers on horseback were used.  She was not found.

This case went to jury trial January 23, 2017 without Ali to testify on her own behalf.  However, because the defense had deposed Ali during pretrial litigation, excerpts of the deposition were read to the jury to try to relate what happened to her.  Officer Blake testified that Ali volunteered to disrobe in the grand jury bathroom of the Lamar County Courthouse and volunteered to squat and cough for her.

With no victim to appear on the witness stand, the jury found Ali’s civil rights had not been violated.  On March 16, 2017 – six weeks after the trial – Ali’s decomposed body was found approximately one mile from where her disabled car was found that night by first responders.

Settlement

CIVIL RIGHTS ACTION AGAINST CHOCTAW COUNTY LAW ENFORCEMENT FOR UNREASONABLE USE OF FORCE

Action: Civil Rights Action Against Choctaw County Law Enforcement for Unreasonable Use of Force
Case: Booth, et al v. Ben Milner, et al [CIV 09-396-SPS]
Court: Eastern District of Oklahoma [Muskogee]
Result: Case settled for money damages and Choctaw County deputy convicted in federal court


Summary:

Choctaw County Sheriff Deputy Ben Milner and six other law enforcement officers stormed the Choctaw County Jail one night because inmates allegedly flooded a cell by stuffing a roll of toilet paper in the commode. Milner ordered all four plaintiffs face down on the floor of the flooded cell, entered with an axe handle and beat them on the back.

Haslam sued the officers, the county and various other governmental entities for violating the plaintiffs’ civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. 1983. The case was settled for money damages.

After the settlement, Haslam worked with the FBI and prosecutors from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute Milner criminally. Milner was convicted of several crimes by a jury in federal court and imprisoned.