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Lawsuit centers on search of home
Three claim deputy violated their rights in 2011
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Forsyth County News

In a lawsuit filed in Forsyth County State Court, three young adults contend their constitutional rights were violated by a sheriff’s deputy investigating a loud music call.

The suit contends the actions of the deputy in the Feb. 18, 2011, incident violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The three residents launching the suit — Montana Cowley, Trevor Evans and Joel Webb — were arrested that day at a home on Royale Court in west Forsyth after deputies responded to a loud music call, 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.”

It’s not stated why the lawsuit was filed nearly two years after the dismissal, and attorney Rafe Banks could not be reached for comment.

The case has been assigned to State Court Judge Russell McClelland. A court date has not been set.

The lawsuit contends deputies did not have a right to enter and search the home.

According to the complaint, “Entry by such officers was made without a search warrant, consent or exigency sufficient to authorize such entry and was illegal and unlawful and tortious.”

It further contends that the three suffered mental and physical pain and suffering as a result of the events.

The plaintiffs seek damages for violation of their Constitutional rights, as well as violations of Georgia law for false/malicious arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

The complaint, filed April 3, also asks the court to award $250,000 in punitive damages from each of the three defendants.

Those named defendants — the county, Sheriff Duane Piper and Cpl. Kris Hall) filed answers to the suit in State Court this week, denying the claims.

Though Piper was not sheriff at the time of the incident, he is named in the suit in his official capacity “for the negligent acts” of agency employees.

The county’s response states that the “plaintiffs suffered no unlawful deprivation of their liberty because plaintiffs’ detention and arrest was premised upon probable cause and arguable probable cause.”

The answer continues: “The entry into the residence was lawful and supported by either consent or exigency. The certain arrest and persecution were not undertaken with malice and were supported by the requisite cause.”

According to a sheriff’s office report of the incident, one deputy knocked on the front door, while another walked to the back yard to secure the home.

On the back yard porch, Hall reported seeing two 19-year-old men drinking, who told him other underage people were consuming alcohol inside the home.

“I checked the back door, which was locked, and then looked in the back window,” the narrative from Hall states.

He wrote that he observed beer cans and liquor bottles in the house and six or seven people crouched down like they were trying to hide.

“I yelled out to the occupants that someone needed to open the door,” he wrote. “One of them finally got up, unlocked the back door and told me to come in.”

Hall determined that 11 of the 20 people he found inside the home were underage and had been drinking.

The complaint offers a much different version of Hall’s visit to the house, stating he gained entry to the back porch by forcing open a rear door that was locked.

Hall then ordered the second locked door to be opened, threatening he would otherwise “kick it in,” according to the complaint.

The county’s response maintains that Hall didn’t find the first rear door to the home’s porch to be locked, and the man who opened the glass porch door allowed Hall to enter.

Forsyth requests that the action be dismissed and all legal costs be paid by the plaintiffs.