by Robin Kemp
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday to a $15,000 settlement agreement in the case of Marlon Brown, who filed a federal civil rights suit after a CCSO deputy shoved him into an elevator. Commissioner Felicia Franklin moved to approve the amount, which Commissioner Alieka Anderson seconded. Chairman Jeff Turner was absent, so did not vote.
Brown, who was being held on family violence charges as a pretrial detainee on June 16, 2017, sued the county, Sheriff Victor Hill, and former CCSO Deputy Patrick Fluellen.
On March 11, both sides in the case said they needed more time for discovery due to the COVID-19 pandemic delays and scheduling problems with out-of-state witnesses. U.S. District Court Judge Steven D. Grimberg ordered that discovery be extended through May 13. In January 2021, the court had granted the defense’s motion to stay discovery.
Federal court documents allege Brown, who had a history of family violence and stalking, had been waiting to speak with a judge. Clayton County court records indicate his case was scheduled for an evaluation status conference before Superior Court Judge Aaron B. Mason. Brown had been charged with stalking, aggravated stalking, entering auto, and criminal trespass.
Brown’s sister told WSB-TV in 2019 that Brown is schizophrenic and bipolar, and that he had not had his medication for six months.
According to Fluellen’s attorneys, Brown was yelling curses at the judge from the holding tank, and refused to get up when courthouse security officer Rasheeda Leak told him to. The jailer then motioned for Fluellen to remove Brown.
Here’s the video that sparked a lawsuit filed today against the Clayton County Sheriff’s office and the deputy in the video. My story airs at 6:29. Hear from inmate’s sister and attorney pic.twitter.com/uPGMubzTxI— Christian Jennings (@CJenningsWSB) February 13, 2019
According to the complaint on file, Brown was walking handcuffed and shackled when Fluellen threw him face-first into the steel courtside elevator C at the Clayton County Courthouse. Then, the complaint alleges, Fluellen pointed his Taser at Brown, even though Brown posed no threat to the deputy.
The defense alleges that Fluellen “attempted to manually assist [Brown] to the elevator but he resisted by locking his legs and placing both of his feet on the ground and pushing backwards. Deputy Fluellen lifted the plaintiff from the ground and attempted to physically move him into the elevator at which point plaintiff stumbled, came out of his shoes, and fell into the elevator.”
Fluellen filed an incident report “stating that Mr. Brown tripped over the elevator threshold.” Brown “sustained visible lacerations to his face and lips…[and] several chipped and cracked teeth,” as well as injuries to his ankles, wrists, back and neck. His lawyers say he suffers from PTSD and nightmares as as result.
Court filings allege Brown was treated in the infirmary, that CCSO denied his mother and sister access to Brown for more than two weeks, and that staff refused to explain why. When CCSO finally allowed Brown’s mother to see him, she asked about his injuries, but Brown was incoherent and ”unable to articulate what had happened to him.”
The suit alleges Brown’s mother and sister “attempted to report Mr. Brown’s condition to CCSO and Jail staff,” but “were denied the opportunity to do so.” Finally, they got a copy of the video.
Even though the incident was caught on video, “CCSO concluded that Deputy Fluellen’s actions did not violate any CCSO policies or procedures.” Only after the video went viral was Fluellen was put on administrative leave.
Then the GBI opened an investigation. As a result, Fluellen was arrested and charged with felony aggravated battery and felony violation of oath of office.
The suit alleged Hill kept Fluellen on the force, despite “numerous use of force incidents while within his scope of employment” and blamed Hill for failing “to take corrective measures to protect inmates in [Fluellen’s] custody; thus, subjecting CCSO inmates to potential unlawful use of force by [Fluellen].”
Fluellen argued that he had not broken any CCSO rules, while Hill claimed sovereign immunity. The defense also argued that, as a state prisoner, Brown was not entitled to sue.
However, Brown’s attorneys said he only filed suit after his release, so the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) did not apply. They also argued that Hill was not subject to sovereign immunity because the BOC had bought an insurance policy, known as “wrongful act” coverage, to cover any possible liability for Hill’s or other Clayton County law enforcement officials’ actions. That policy covers up to $10 million for “wrongful act” claims-made coverage to $20 million each year, with a retained limit of $1 million for each “law enforcement wrongful act.”
Brown’s lawyers said Hill had “prior knowledge of Defendant Fluellen’s propensity for violence and unlawful use of force towards inmates in his custody and control” before the incident, but kept him on anyway and “failed to take corrective measures to protect inmates” in Fluellen’s custody.
Fluellen’s case in Clayton County was returned as no bill on December 5, 2018.
In June 2018, Brown entered nolle prosse on count 2 and negotiated guilty pleas on the other charges. He was sentenced to ten years, five to serve, five years’ probation, restitution of $198, and special conditions. He also was sentenced to five years on count three and 12 months’ probation on count four, plus additional fines and conditions, all to run concurrently. Brown made his last restitution payment March 1.
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