Anthony Bush, an attorney for Stacy Brown, said Friday afternoon that he and the lead attorney for the boy’s mother plan to file responses in opposition to those motions for dismissals sometime next week.
Attempts to reach Amerson and attorneys representing the sheriff and Deputy Wendell Ward were unsuccessful Friday.
The lawsuit, filed in April by Brown, the mother of the 14-year-old boy, alleges Amerson and Ward physically and verbally assaulted him while he was participating in a Calhoun County Jail program for juveniles. The suit — which identifies the boy only as “J.B.” — cites four counts of civil and constitutional rights violations the sheriff and deputy allegedly together committed against the boy and an additional charge against Amerson.
The suit stems from the day Brown’s son spent at the jail Feb. 4 as part of a program for teenagers who’ve been suspended from school and others who’ve committed minor crimes and are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts. A video obtained and published by The Star in late March shows part of the encounter between the boy and Amerson that day.
The video shows Amerson grabbing and holding down a boy dressed in an orange-striped jumpsuit. The boy is shackled and has his hands cuffed behind his back during the incident.
The lawsuit also says Ward and the other officers used racial slurs to address J.B. and threatened violence.
Thursday evening, the sheriff and deputy filed answers denying two of those claimed civil rights violations.
In their answers, Amerson and Ward flatly deny that either of them used excessive force against the boy and also deny they violated J.B’s Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process.
Additionally, Amerson and Ward have asked the judge in the federal case to dismiss all of the other counts against them. Those requests were filed in separate motions to dismiss on the grounds of “qualified immunity,” or in other words, on the grounds that neither Amerson nor Ward can be sued in their official and individual capacities as law enforcement officers, as stated under the Eleventh Amendment.
“Under the Eleventh Amendment, state sovereign immunity bars the plaintiff from suing Sheriff Amerson in his official capacity. The plaintiff’s official capacity claims against Sheriff Amerson are, in effect, claims against the state of Alabama,” the motion for dismissal on behalf of Amerson read.
A couple of pages in, the document describes Amerson’s right to qualified immunity in his individual capacity as “complete protection for government officials … if their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Although Bush said neither he nor Peyton Faulk, the lead attorney for J.B. and Brown in the case, wished to comment on the contents of the motions for dismissals or defendants’ answers, the attorney indicated that he would be combing over the court documents before filing responses on behalf of his clients.
Brown is seeking $500,000 each in compensatory damages for what the suit calls violations of her son’s civil rights, as well as $500,000 each in punitive damages against Amerson and Ward.
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562.