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2 in South Hall sue police over incident

POSTED: December 7, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Two Hall County residents have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Flowery Branch and its police department, saying its officers violated their civil rights by detaining them without cause while out of the department’s jurisdiction.

One of the plaintiffs also alleges he suffered serious injuries inflicted by police, according to the lawsuit, filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Gainesville.

Plaintiffs Sandra Bingham and her adult son, Clayton Bingham, were not formally charged by authorities during the Dec. 9, 2006, incident at Sandra Bingham’s home on Mulberry Street in South Hall. But they say Flowery Branch police officers overstepped their bounds when they responded to a 911 call regarding a domestic dispute at the house.

The Binghams’ attorney, Robert L. Chandler, declined to comment beyond the contents of the lawsuit. Efforts to reach Flowery Branch Mayor Diane Hirling, Flowery Branch Police Chief Gerald Lanich and an attorney for the city were unsuccessful Friday.

The three officers named as defendants in the lawsuit are no longer employed by the Flowery Branch Police Department. Marcello Bump now works for the Oakwood Police Department, Tony Sullo works for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and Scotty Smith currently is not working in law enforcement, according to Chandler, who said all the parties have been served with the suit.

The lawsuit alleges that a disagreement over a child visitation at the home prompted a person not related to the Binghams to call 911. Flowery Branch police responded, though the home is not located in the department’s jurisdiction, according to the suit.

A confrontation between police and the Binghams ensued, and Clayton Bingham alleges that he was physically assaulted by the officers.

Eventually Hall County Sheriff’s deputies showed up and "separated" the two parties, according to the lawsuit. The Binghams were placed in the back of a Hall County patrol car for a time before being released without charges, according to the suit.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office is not a party in the lawsuit.

Clayton Bingham claims that he was struck in the face, chest and back and his arm and shoulder were wrenched by Flowery Branch police, "causing serious physical injury." The lawsuit alleges he incurred medical expenses and lost wages and "endured great physical pain and suffering."

Sandra Bingham also claims a wall inside her home was damaged by police while they were trying to arrest her son.

U.S. District Judge Richard Story is presiding over the case. The defendants have 30 days from the time of service to respond to the lawsuit.



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