County settles suit involving two sheriff’s deputies

Hall County has settled a suit against two sheriff’s deputies, Sg. Kenneth Phillips and Deputy Robert Waters, by Patricia Carder of Flowery Branch, who claimed she was unlawfully arrested in 2021. In doing so, the sheriff’s office posted a lengthy statement on its Facebook page detailing its side of the story along with a section of body cam video from one of the officers while warning that it contains language some might find offensive.


๐‘ฐ๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’„๐’๐’Ž๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’…๐’‚๐’š๐’”, ๐’š๐’๐’– ๐’Ž๐’‚๐’š ๐’“๐’†๐’‚๐’… ๐’Š๐’ ๐’๐’๐’„๐’‚๐’ ๐’Ž๐’†๐’…๐’Š๐’‚ ๐’๐’–๐’•๐’๐’†๐’•๐’” ๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’๐’–๐’• ๐’‚ ๐’“๐’†๐’„๐’†๐’๐’• ๐’”๐’†๐’•๐’•๐’๐’†๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’• ๐’Š๐’ ๐’‚ ๐’„๐’Š๐’—๐’Š๐’ ๐’๐’‚๐’˜๐’”๐’–๐’Š๐’• ๐’˜๐’‰๐’†๐’“๐’† ๐’‚ ๐’„๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’›๐’†๐’ ๐’˜๐’‚๐’” ๐’‚๐’˜๐’‚๐’“๐’…๐’†๐’… $90,000 ๐’ƒ๐’š ๐‘ฏ๐’‚๐’๐’ ๐‘ช๐’๐’–๐’๐’•๐’š ๐’Š๐’ ๐’„๐’๐’๐’๐’†๐’„๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’•๐’ ๐’‰๐’†๐’“ ๐’‚๐’“๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’• ๐’ƒ๐’š ๐‘ฏ๐‘ช๐‘บ๐‘ถ ๐’…๐’†๐’‘๐’–๐’•๐’Š๐’†๐’” ๐’๐’ ๐‘บ๐’†๐’‘๐’•๐’†๐’Ž๐’ƒ๐’†๐’“ 26, 2021. ๐‘จ๐’” ๐’š๐’๐’– ๐’„๐’‚๐’ ๐’”๐’†๐’† ๐’Š๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’”๐’•๐’‚๐’•๐’†๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’• ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’๐’๐’˜, ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐‘ฏ๐’‚๐’๐’ ๐‘ช๐’๐’–๐’๐’•๐’š ๐‘บ๐’‰๐’†๐’“๐’Š๐’‡๐’‡โ€™๐’” ๐‘ถ๐’‡๐’‡๐’Š๐’„๐’† ๐’˜๐’‚๐’” ๐’๐’๐’• ๐’„๐’๐’๐’”๐’–๐’๐’•๐’†๐’… ๐’๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’”๐’†๐’•๐’•๐’๐’†๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’• ๐’ƒ๐’š ๐’„๐’๐’–๐’๐’•๐’š ๐’‚๐’•๐’•๐’๐’“๐’๐’†๐’š๐’”, ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’˜๐’† ๐’“๐’†๐’ˆ๐’“๐’†๐’• ๐’˜๐’† ๐’˜๐’†๐’“๐’† ๐’๐’๐’• ๐’ˆ๐’Š๐’—๐’†๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’๐’‘๐’‘๐’๐’“๐’•๐’–๐’๐’Š๐’•๐’š ๐’•๐’ ๐’…๐’†๐’‡๐’†๐’๐’… ๐’๐’–๐’“ ๐’…๐’†๐’‘๐’–๐’•๐’Š๐’†๐’” ๐’Š๐’ ๐’„๐’๐’–๐’“๐’•. ๐‘พ๐’† ๐’‚๐’‘๐’‘๐’“๐’†๐’„๐’Š๐’‚๐’•๐’† ๐’š๐’๐’– ๐’•๐’‚๐’Œ๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’•๐’Š๐’Ž๐’† ๐’•๐’ ๐’“๐’†๐’‚๐’… ๐’๐’–๐’“ ๐’‡๐’–๐’๐’ ๐’”๐’•๐’‚๐’•๐’†๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’•.

๐‘พ๐’† ๐’‰๐’‚๐’—๐’† ๐’‘๐’๐’”๐’•๐’†๐’… ๐’‚ ๐’‘๐’๐’“๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’๐’‡ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† 39-๐’Ž๐’Š๐’๐’–๐’•๐’† ๐’ƒ๐’๐’…๐’š ๐’„๐’‚๐’Ž ๐’—๐’Š๐’…๐’†๐’ ๐’‡๐’“๐’๐’Ž ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’…๐’‚๐’•๐’† ๐’๐’‡ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‚๐’“๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’•, ๐’”๐’‰๐’๐’˜๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’‚๐’ ๐’„๐’๐’๐’•๐’‚๐’„๐’• ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‚๐’“๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’•๐’†๐’† ๐’–๐’๐’•๐’Š๐’ ๐’”๐’‰๐’† ๐’Š๐’” ๐’•๐’‚๐’Œ๐’†๐’ ๐’Š๐’๐’•๐’ ๐’„๐’–๐’”๐’•๐’๐’…๐’š. ๐‘ท๐’๐’†๐’‚๐’”๐’† ๐’๐’๐’•๐’† ๐’•๐’‰๐’‚๐’• ๐’‘๐’“๐’Š๐’๐’“ ๐’•๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‚๐’“๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’•๐’†๐’† ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’‚๐’Œ๐’†๐’ ๐’•๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐‘ฏ๐’‚๐’๐’ ๐‘ช๐’๐’–๐’๐’•๐’š ๐‘ฑ๐’‚๐’Š๐’, ๐’”๐’‰๐’† ๐’˜๐’‚๐’” ๐’•๐’“๐’‚๐’๐’”๐’‘๐’๐’“๐’•๐’†๐’… ๐’•๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‰๐’๐’”๐’‘๐’Š๐’•๐’‚๐’ ๐’•๐’ ๐’ƒ๐’† ๐’†๐’—๐’‚๐’๐’–๐’‚๐’•๐’†๐’… ๐’‡๐’๐’“ ๐’„๐’๐’Ž๐’‘๐’๐’‚๐’Š๐’๐’•๐’” ๐’๐’‡ ๐’Š๐’๐’๐’๐’†๐’”๐’”. ๐‘พ๐’† ๐’–๐’๐’…๐’†๐’“๐’”๐’•๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’“๐’†๐’๐’†๐’‚๐’”๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’—๐’Š๐’…๐’†๐’ ๐’”๐’†๐’ˆ๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’• ๐’๐’‘๐’†๐’๐’” ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’…๐’๐’๐’“ ๐’•๐’ ๐’„๐’“๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’„๐’”; ๐’˜๐’† ๐’‚๐’๐’”๐’ ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’๐’Š๐’†๐’—๐’† ๐’Š๐’ ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‚๐’” ๐’•๐’“๐’‚๐’๐’”๐’‘๐’‚๐’“๐’†๐’๐’• ๐’‚๐’” ๐’‘๐’๐’”๐’”๐’Š๐’ƒ๐’๐’† ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰๐’๐’–๐’• ๐’„๐’๐’Ž๐’‘๐’“๐’๐’Ž๐’Š๐’”๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’Š๐’๐’•๐’†๐’ˆ๐’“๐’Š๐’•๐’š ๐’๐’‡ ๐’‚ ๐’„๐’‚๐’”๐’†.

(๐•๐ˆ๐ƒ๐„๐Ž: ๐‹๐€๐๐†๐”๐€๐†๐„ ๐–๐€๐‘๐๐ˆ๐๐†)

๐‡๐‚๐’๐Ž ๐ฌ๐ญ๐š๐ญ๐ž๐ฆ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐จ๐ง ๐ฌ๐ž๐ญ๐ญ๐ฅ๐ž๐ฆ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐ข๐ง ๐Ÿ๐ž๐๐ž๐ซ๐š๐ฅ ๐œ๐ข๐ฏ๐ข๐ฅ ๐ฅ๐š๐ฐ๐ฌ๐ฎ๐ข๐ญ

โ€œAt least during my tenure, it has always been, without exception, the practice of Hall County Government attorneys to consult with me on any civil cases that involve Sheriffโ€™s Office personnel, but that was not the case in this matter,โ€ said Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch. โ€œMy understanding is the county attorneys felt a settlement would be more financially expedient, rather than allowing a jury to hear the accusations against our deputies. However, a settlement for any amount can give the inference of unlawful actions or deeds by our deputies, which is not the case in this incident.โ€

Deputies have a very difficult job and must often make decisions without the option of hindsight. In some instances, these actions result in civil actions being brought against the deputies and the Sheriffโ€™s Office. This particular incident occurred during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and the plaintiff was refusing to allow her son, an established occupant, to enter the residence. This encounter involved a person claiming to have Covid-19 who hoped to infect HCSO deputies as well. The plaintiff was ultimately arrested for obstruction after she had opened her door for deputies.

โ€œI should point out that all other allegations levied in the 11-count civil suit, which included false imprisonment, malicious arrest, malicious prosecution, battery and trespass, were deemed unfounded. The only allegation in question is whether the deputies arrested the plaintiff inside or outside the threshold of her home,โ€ said Sheriff Couch. โ€œThe court determined โ€˜ambiguitiesโ€™ in the body camera footage were enough for a jury to determine the threshold issue. Ultimately, the Sheriffโ€™s Office was not given an opportunity to present the deputiesโ€™ side of the case in court as the County Attorney made an arbitrary decision to settle.โ€

When Sheriffโ€™s Office personnel asked the County Attorney about the settlement decision, he explained it was an โ€œeconomic decisionโ€ to settle the case without conceding any guilt or negligence. He also fully acknowledged his lack of judgement in not including Sheriff Couch in the decision-making process.

โ€œGoing forward, the County Attorney knows to consult me before settling any civil actions involving Sheriffโ€™s Office personnel. In some rare cases, settling a civil matter may be the best course of action. I donโ€™t believe that was appropriate for this case,โ€ said Sheriff Couch. โ€œThat said, we will use this incident โ€“ and the outcome – as a learning opportunity across the agency.โ€”

Click here to access the sheriff’s office Facebook page and the video: (20+) Facebook

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story will be updated as more information is made available.)