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Ex-jailers, former inmates enter mediation
1228Dustin Charlton
Dustin Charlton

Two former Hall County Sheriff’s Office employees have entered into mediation with three then-inmates alleging civil rights violations in a Dec. 22, 2010, incident at the jail.

Plaintiffs Devonta Wise, his brother Mautious Wise and Russell Green are suing the sheriff’s office, ex-jailer Dustin Charlton and then-Jail Capt. Mark Bandy, alleging their federal civil rights were denied.

The lawsuit has lingered in Gainesville’s federal court at the magistrate level for more than a year, where the judge has denied defense motions to dismiss the suit. An April 30 deadline has been set for mediation, and discovery of evidence will move forward if an agreement is not reached.

All three plaintiffs were being boarded in from Fulton County. Their suit alleges the employees were physically abusive, denied them medical care and called them disparaging names, including “trash that Fulton County did not want,” in violation of state law and the U.S. Constitution: the First Amendment right to express concerns about subpar treatment at the jail, cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and excessive force and mistreatment based on race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Mautious Wise was punched by Charlton while his hands were bound behind his back. Cameras also captured Bandy, the jail’s highest-ranking officer, move his foot across the three as they lay handcuffed, face down on the ground.

They are asking for $20 million in damages, in addition to attorneys’ fees.

Former Sheriff Steve Cronic was terminated as a defendant in the suit in June, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Clay Fuller said the plaintiffs could not hold Bandy and Charlton liable in their official capacity, writing they had failed to show the actions of the two were “pursuant to an HCSO policy, custom, or practice,” in response to motions.

“Plaintiffs allege a similar occurrence involving Charlton took place in Dec. 2012, but this other alleged event occurred two years after the incident at issue and therefore does not support a reasonable inference that Charlton acted pursuant to a policy in 2010,” Fuller wrote. The suit was filed on Dec. 14, 2012.

In the incident under the federal court’s scrutiny, Charlton was suspended for five days without pay, and he was not charged with a crime.

He faces criminal charges in the circumstantially similar 2012 incident, where he was accused of striking a handcuffed inmate in his official capacity at the Hall County Jail.

He was indicted Feb. 20 by a Hall County grand jury on two counts of misdemeanor battery and felony violation of oath of office.

A defense motion to dismiss the case said Mautious Wise had made a deal with prosecutors that gave the sheriff’s office immunity from a lawsuit, according to federal court documents.

But Fuller denied the motion on Dec. 13, 2013, writing there was sufficient case law backing up defense concerns that would make the deal null, including that Wise was not well-informed in his decision.

Gainesville attorney Dan Sammons represented Mautious Wise at this appearance before Judge Jason Deal. Mautious Wise was scheduled to give a deposition Wednesday for discovery in the case, even as efforts to mediate move forward.

Mautious Wise was released for time served after pleading guilty on Oct. 18, 2011, to riot in a penal institution for his role in the incident.

He faced a 20-year maximum sentence.

On his state criminal matter, Charlton has posted $20,000 bond at the Hall County Jail.