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Focus of search suit narrows
Issue centers on February 2011 incident
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Forsyth County News

A recently filed lawsuit alleging a Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy violated the rights of three residents has been reduced to focus on one issue and one defendant.

Originally citing violation of Fourth Amendment rights, the suit now includes only the tort of malicious prosecution against Cpl. Kris Hall, a 15-year employee of the sheriff’s office.

The Feb. 18, 2011, response of deputies investigating a loud music call is at issue in the suit, filed in Forsyth County State Court in April.

The three residents suing — Montana Cowley, Trevor Evans and Joel Webb — were arrested that day at the home on Royale Court, according to the complaint.

Cowley and Evans were charged with underage consumption of alcohol, and Evans, who lived in the home, was charged with underage consumption and maintaining a disorderly house.

None of the charges were prosecuted, according to 2011 letters from the Forsyth County solicitor general stating the case had "insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

The lawsuit claims against Forsyth County, the sheriff’s office and Sheriff Duane Piper were dismissed on July 15, as were any claims against Hall other than malicious prosecution.

The original complaint states that criminal prosecution “was carried on intentionally and maliciously … and was without any probable cause as to each plaintiff and caused damage to each plaintiff.”

Attorney Rafe Banks, who represents the residents, said they decided to focus on that issue “because it sort of encompasses the other aspects of the case as well.”

That focus also led to dropping the other named defendants, leaving just Hall, whom Banks called the “central actor.”

He said the dismissal was filed after discussions with the defendants’ counsel, with their consent.

“Some battles are worth fighting. Some aren’t,” said Banks, summing up the change in the suit’s scope. “This is the battle left to be fought.”

Forsyth County’s response to the complaint denied the malicious prosecution claims against Hall.

The answer also states that “the certain arrest and persecution were not undertaken with malice and were supported by the requisite cause."

Banks said the case is not an “anti-law enforcement effort,” but rather one focused on the legal boundaries of those officers.

“The primary objective is to demonstrate that what happened was improper,” he said, “and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

A jury trial has been requested, but a date has not yet been set.