Sheriff Joe Berlin and the taxpayers of Jones County can add another lawsuit to their list. Cyntrelle Woodard-Wells, the mother of a minor son, who played football at South Jones High School back in 2022, filed suit against Sheriff Joe Berlin this afternoon over what is described as a “chaotic” physical assault and verbally abuse. According to the complaint, Berlin assaulted the child and repeatedly called the black 15-year-old, “homie.”
According to the complaint, Sheriff Berlin entered the locker room after the September 16th, 2022 football game between Northeast Jones and South Jones High Schools after a post game disagreement between students occurred on the field. According to an HPNM source who was on the field, some of the students allegedly “mouthed off” to Protec Security personnel, many of whom were also off-duty deputies with the Jones County Sheriff’s Department. The child involved in this lawsuit was the only player confronted by Sheriff Berlin.
The lawsuit states:
“8. On September 16, 2022, after a football game, Sheriff Joe Berlin entered the South Jones High School’s football locker room, accompanied by ten or more other officers, to confront C.J.W.”
“9. Upon finding C.J.W. in front of his locker, Sheriff Berlin aggressively got in C.J.W.’s face And began to physically and verbally abuse C.J.W. by, among other things, putting his hands on C.J.W. to control him, yelling at him while also repeatedly calling him “homie.” (emphasis added)”
“10. When C.J.W. told Sheriff Berlin – “Get out of my face,” Sheriff Berlin physically assaulted C.J.W. by shoving C.J.W. into his football equipment locker.”
11. Sheriff Berlin’s assault ended when Todd Breland, the head coach for South Jones, intervened, which then led to a verbal altercation between Sheriff Berlin and Coach Breland.
12. The scene in the locker room was chaotic and witnessed by players and parents.
According to an HPNM source, who was present in the locker room during the assault was indeed chaotic and felt like the locker room could become even more volatile between the football team and Joe Berlin and the Protec security guards. As the shouting from the sheriff ensued, Coach Todd Breland, rushed into the locker room from his office and instructed a resource officer to take the player to his office. Breland then began reportedly shouting at Sheriff Berlin and the Protec Security team to leave the locker room immediately. Berlin and Protec Security staff then left, amidst protest, with Berlin purportedly having said that a new coach was needed at the school.
According to a source with first hand knowledge, Breland was fired over the incident that following Monday, but was rehired within a week. The student was put in alternative school for a few months. Breland subsequently retired after the season, but quickly came out of retirement to coach at Wayne Academy.
Protec has not been named officially in the lawsuit at the time of this publication, and the identities of the guards present at the incident are mostly unknown, although off-duty deputy Joey Davis was reportedly by Berlin’s side according to an eye witness of the incident.
THE MONELL CLAIM
A Monell claim is a claim for monetary recovery against a local government official or department, where the official(s) have acted unconstitutionally pursuant to local law, custom, or policy. Prevailing in court on a Monell claim is difficult. In order to prevail, the plaintiff must prove that a policy, whether written or implied through the actions and leadership of its policy maker, is the moving force behind a constitutional violation(s). In a nutshell, the sheriff is accused violating the civil rights of others, and by his own actions has established an unwritten policy of acceptance (i.e. culture) for wide spread violations be be the accepted practice.
The complaint states,
“32. Sheriff Berlin and the JCSD have a persistent, widespread practice of assaulting, seizing, arresting, and falsely charging innocent persons for perceived slights and exercising their First Amendment protected speech rights.”
“33. In the instant case, Sheriff Berlin was retaliating against C.J.W. because Sheriff Berlin believed that C.J.W. had “mouthed off” to some of his deputies.”
“34. Though not a formally adopted policy, officials and employees of the JCSD have repeatedly, and with the blessing of the chief policy maker, assaulted, arrested, and falsely charged individuals, not for criminal violations, but for having the audacity to disagree or talk back.”
“35. Though not a formally adopted policy, this conduct is so common and well-settled that it fairly represents JCSD policy that knowingly causes and results in the violation of federal secured rights.”
“36. The Defendants failed to ensure adequate training in probable cause, First Amendment speech rights, Fourth Amendment search, seizure, and use of force standards.”
“36. As is demonstrated by the numerous other violations by the JCSD, and its chief policymaker, the County is deliberately indifferent to the fact that these constitutional violations have been repeatedly occurring and are a highly predictable consequence of the JCSD’s inadequate training and Sheriff Berlin’s inadequate supervision.”
“37. The JCSD has a history of wrongfully tolerating, condoning and encouraging constitutional violations. As a result, the custom and culture at the JCSD is for the JCSD to protect its deputies when they violate the constitutional rights of others, and where the JCSD only disciplines deputies, if at all, when their actions are exposed by third-party video, making the misconduct impossible to deny or explain away.”
“37. As is demonstrated by the numerous other violations by the JCSD, and its chief policymaker, the County is deliberately indifferent to the fact that these constitutional violations have been repeatedly occurring and are a highly predictable consequence of the JCSD’s inadequate training and Sheriff Berlin’s inadequate supervision.”
“38. The JCSD has a history of wrongfully tolerating, condoning and encouraging constitutional violations. As a result, the custom and culture at the JCSD is for the JCSD to protect its deputies when they violate the constitutional rights of others, and where the JCSD only disciplines deputies, if at all, when their actions are exposed by third-party video, making the misconduct impossible to deny or explain away.”
Coach Breland gave the follow statement to school officials about the incident.
This is not Sheriff Berlin’s first lawsuit facing a Monell claim. To read about the #JonesCountyJeopardy Bayless case click the hashtag.
This is Sheriff Berlin’s second lawsuit for assaulting a person who didn’t commit crimes. Berlin assaulted Montarion Dotson in the parking lot of Lowes back in January. Berlin gave HPNM an interview. See that video and hear the here.
Read the entire
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