Jury Finds In Favor Of Texas Sheriff In Suit Brought By Chattanooga Photographer

Friday, August 22, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

A Federal Court jury on Friday found in favor of a Texas sheriff and his chief deputy who had been sued by a Chattanooga photographer.

The jury in the courtroom of Judge Curtis Collier awarded no damages to Donna Johnson.

In his closing argument after a two-week civil trial, attorney John Anderson said, "This is about the Fourth Amendment." Attorney Anderson represented Ms. Johnson, who sued Sheriff David Duke and Chief Deputy Alan Boyd of Wichita County, Tex.

, for allegedly having her arrested without probable cause.

Sheriff Duke testified earlier that his department made payments, but did not get their photos after months had past. He said he spoke with other sheriff departments, who told him they had the same experience.

However, attorney Anderson said when Ms. Johnson was arrested on Nov. 30, 2011, the Wichita County Sheriff's Office did not have enough information for probable cause.

He said, "What you won't find in this file is when they had the information...Either there was a rush to judgement and they were sloppy in this file, or that was standard procedure at the Wichita County Sheriff's Office."

He said much of the information in the file on Ms. Johnson used to get an arrest warrant was added months later.

Attorney Anderson also said employees from the Sheriff's Office admitted that they would tell people there was not a warrant out for them when there actually was in order to bring them in.

He said, "It's either ok to lie or it's not."

He told the jury, "I'm going to submit to you Nov. 30 is the date you stop considerations. Everything after that is backfill."

He continued, saying law enforcement must be held to a higher standard. He said, "It's never ok for the Sheriff's Department to lie."

However, defense attorney Jerry Tidwell said, "Even if a person was found not guilty does not mean there was not probable cause...Absolute certainty is not required."

He said, "There is probable cause...They're putting all of the information in there that's needed. It's just the format isn't pleasing to the plaintiff because she got arrested because of it."

He continued, "The fact that a date or amount may be incorrect does not eliminate probable cause."

He told the jury to take Ms. Johnson's life experiences into consideration when they judged her credibility.

He said she had lied about her education on multiple occasions, once telling an employer she graduated from the University of Florida and another time saying she graduated from Cleveland State Community College.

Attorney Tidwell also said, "She said somebody broke into her office and stole checks, but she didn't cancel her checking account or anything like that."

He said at one point, she said her father had passed away and that was the reason she had not finished her promised photographs. However, Attorney Tidwell said her father is currently alive and living in Bradley County.

He closed his argument, "I think it's time to close this out. I think you need to send this lady home empty handed. I think you need to end this hustle."

The jury left to deliberate Friday afternoon.

It was an expensive trial for Wichita County, which had to call a special meeting of its county governing body to approve the costs. 



Many Photos Of Fairyland Development Featured In New Hiener Photo Book

Many photos of the Fairyland development on Lookout Mountain are featured in the new historic photo book being published by Chattanoogan.com. Garnet and Frieda Carter carried out the fanciful development in the 1920s. It was during the construction that the game of miniature golf was invented when a golf ball was hit through a drain pipe at the job site. It was first called ... (click for more)

16,858 Cast Ballots In First 3 Days Of Early Voting In Hamilton County

In the first three days of early voting in Hamilton County, 16,858 have already cast ballots. That includes 1,607 ballots received by mail. There were 5,157 who turned out at early voting sites on Wednesday and 5,083 on Thursday. The total on Friday was 5,011. Sites: Brainerd 1,084, 1080, 1,030 Election Office 1,848, 1,731, 1,698 Collegedale 956, 954, ... (click for more)

Bobby Stone, Is It Really A Win?

It brought a smile to my face this morning when I saw where the case was thrown out of court against Mr. Stone and the domestic violence charge.  I have supported his cause from the beginning, but I do feel heartbreak because his personal life had to be tossed out there for all of us to see.   I truly hope and pray things turn around for him and his wife, while I feel ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Kelly Could Win It

I am neither a sleuth nor an odds maker but I’d say there is about a one-in-three chance that Interim Hamilton County Department of Education Superintendent Kirk Kelly could become the permanent superintendent of our public schools next Thursday. I am assured something squirrelly is happening on our newly-seated school board. It has been seven months since the last superintendent ... (click for more)

Ooltewah Rallies To Beat Cleveland 37-24 In Key Region 4-5A Battle

Shaking off three lost fumbles and an interception in the first half, Ooltewah settled down and rallied from a 10-point deficit to pull away late and defeat Cleveland, 37-24, in a Region 4-5A football showdown at James N. Monroe Stadium on a chilly Friday night. The visiting Blue Raiders took full advantage of the Owls’ early mistakes and built a 24-14 halftime lead. ... (click for more)

7 Area Soccer Teams Fight For State Tournament Spots

Five Divison I and two Division II girls soccer teams will be in action on Saturday in state soccer tournament qualifiers across the state.   In Division II, GPS and Baylor play in state quarterfinal games in Memphis.   GPS (#3 East/Middle) travels to Hutchison (#2 West) and Baylor (#5 East/Middle) travels to Briarcrest (#1 West).  Winners of those matches will ... (click for more)