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Judge allows federal racial slur claim to move forward
State's claim dismissed; neighbors lawyers withdraw
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A U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday dismissed one fair housing claim but allowed another to continue in a case of former Gainesville residents allegedly facing racial slurs from a neighbor.

Gregory and Sophia Bonds filed a lawsuit in Hall County Aug. 13 claiming their neighbor, Roy Hubert Turner Jr., threatened and harassed them. Turner formerly worked for the Gainesville Solid Waste Department and allegedly used the “n-word” repeatedly and threatened the family with a firearm and baseball bat, according to the lawsuit.

Turner previously declined to comment to The Times.

Sophia Bonds works in customer service for The Times.

The Bonds’ lawsuit claimed the city of Gainesville failed to address the situation and made claims under the Georgia Fair Housing Act and federal Fair Housing Act.

“The city’s actual and constructive knowledge of Turner’s actions, many of which occurred while he was employed as a sanitation worker for the city, coupled with its failure to intercede on plaintiffs’ behalf after being informed about Turner’s actions, served to condone, adopt, ratify and facilitate Turner’s actions,” according to the complaint.

The Bonds claimed they asked the Solid Waste Department to move him off of the route.

The city of Gainesville, which moved the suit to U.S. District Court Sept. 18, said it could not be held liable for the employee’s actions “wholly outside the course and scope of his employment,” according to court filings.

Senior U.S. District Judge William O’Kelley wrote in his order he found the city’s arguments to be “unpersuasive” at this point in the proceedings.

“On the question of defendant Turner’s scope of employment, the court agrees with plaintiffs that discovery may reveal that Turner’s employment duties extended beyond merely collecting the trash into other areas like public engagement,” according to the order. “Likewise, regarding the issue of ratification, it is not clear how the City of Gainesville’s Solid Waste Department actually responded, if at all, to Mr. Turner’s conduct.”

The judge did, however, dismiss the Georgia Fair Housing Act claim because the plaintiffs did not give notice within six months of the alleged events that are the basis of their lawsuit.

The Bonds’ landlord, according to court documents, “attempted to erect a fence to block Turner’s view of (the Bonds’) home.”

“Yet, defendant Turner would still yell harassing statements and slurs from his backyard whenever he knew plaintiffs were outside,” according to the order.

The Bonds moved to Flowery Branch in June.

Attorneys Harvey Gray and Matthew Ericksen withdrew as Turner’s counsel. Attempts to reach Gray and the Bonds’ attorney Ashley Bell for comment were unsuccessful.