Jury awards $6.28 million to Corbin man who says volunteer deputy beat him

Award given for injuries suffered when Volunteer sheriff's deputy beat him with pistol

bestep@herald-leader.comNovember 13, 2010 

A Corbin man should receive $6.28 million for injuries he suffered when a volunteer Whitley County sheriff's deputy beat him with a pistol, a federal jury has ruled.

The jury ruled in favor of Dalton Christopher Brewer, 27, late Wednesday. The case was in U.S. District Court in London before Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove.

Brewer has a number of problems — including seizures, impaired vision and post-traumatic stress disorder — because of the June 2007 assault by Tony Ramey, according to court documents and one of his attorneys.

The judgment was against Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge and the county. A judge earlier entered a default judgment against Ramey when he didn't answer Brewer's lawsuit.

Brewer's attorneys also will seek an order for the defendants to pay them for their fees and costs.

Hodge and the county could ask for a new trial or appeal the verdict.

Records in the case say that Ramey's son, Perry, had had a drug problem and allegedly stole a pistol from his father in order to pay a drug debt.

Brewer bought the pistol for $300.

Soon after, Tony Ramey confronted his son over the missing gun, and the two went to Brewer's house to get it back.

Ramey, 50, had been a Corbin officer and a paid Whitley County deputy under a prior sheriff, but in the summer of 2007 he was sworn as a volunteer deputy under Hodge, according to court records.

Ramey had a badge and sheriff's office identification card.

Brewer said that after he and Perry Ramey argued over the return of the gun, Tony Ramey told Brewer he was under arrest, smashed Brewer in the head several times with a pistol, knocking him unconscious, and then stomped and hit him some more.

Ramey said he hit Brewer with the gun only once as he defended his son during a fight with Brewer and tried to make a legitimate arrest, according to information in court documents.

Hodge argued Ramey was not an employee of the sheriff's office because he had not posted the bond required to be a deputy.

However, jurors ruled that Ramey was acting as a representative of the sheriff's office; that he violated Brewer's constitutional rights; that Hodge and the county failed to properly train or supervise volunteer deputies; and that the lack of training was closely related to, or caused, the violation of Brewer's rights, according to a court record.

Brewer had done masonry and construction work before the incident but is now disabled. The jury awarded him damages for pain and suffering, emotional harm, loss of his earning ability and medical expenses.

One of Brewer's attorneys, Michael Todd Cooper of Louisville, said the case points up the need for sheriffs to make sure volunteer deputies know and follow the rules.

Testimony indicated Hodge had more volunteer deputies than allowed and that no one from his office instructed them on policies, Cooper said.

"The rule's only good, first off, if you tell them what the rule is," Cooper said. "This message screams to these sheriffs — this is important stuff. You need to pay attention to who you appoint and give them guidance."

The verdict came two days after a grand jury in Whitley County indicted Hodge on more than 15 charges of abusing the public trust by stealing money from accounts in his office.

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