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Jones County Sheriff Joe Berlin Named in Civil Rights Complaint Involving Alleged Battery of Panhandler.

sheriff joe berlin Sheriff Joe Berlin has been named in the complaint of a federal lawsuit, which was filed by Laurel area resident Monterian Dotson. According to the complaint, Dotson was allegedly assaulted by the sheriff in the parking Lot of Lowes in Laurel, MS on New Year’s Eve Day. According to Sheriff Berlin, Dotson was panhandling and approached him in an aggressive manner. Dotson is approximately 5’3″ and 125lbs.

According to the lawsuit, the sheriff’s wife filmed the alleged assault, and her video has been subpoenaed in the lawsuit. The sheriff confirmed with HPNM that his wife filmed the encounter, but he would not release it to HPNM for publication. Sheriff Berlin stated that he was, “not on duty” at the time of the encounter and was “protecting myself and my family” against Dotson. Dotson was apparently asking another man for some change in the parking lot when Berlin yelled to the man to not give him (Dotson) money. According to the complaint the sheriff called Dotson over to him. The complaint states.

“The Defendant (Berlin) used his authority as a law enforcement officer to belittle, abuse, harass, and eventually batter the Plaintiff. This is despite the fact that the Defendant was not within the appropriate jurisdiction to act as a law enforcement officer at the scene of the incident, and no law enforcement agency had been called to the scene by Lowe’s, any patron of Lowe’s, or any other person at the time the incident that is the subject of this complaint began.”

The complaint goes on to say,

“At all times, the Plaintiff acted without aggression to the Defendant and was not in violation of any local or state law at the time of the incident.”

The complain further states,

“4.The Defendant was not in uniform at the time of the incident at issue, but the Defendant instructed the Plaintiff to walk towards him.

5.The Defendant then grabbed the Plaintiff and illegally confined and/or detained the Plaintiff, not allowing the Plaintiff to move freely.

6.The Defendant, who is substantially larger than the Plaintiff, then battered the Plaintiff, throwing him repeatedly on and against a truck that belonged to someone not known to the Plaintiff.

7.The female companion of the Defendant, who the Plaintiff believes upon information is the wife of the Defendant, purportedly filmed the incident on her phone’s camera and was yelling at the Plaintiff.”

Dotson’s Attorney, Matthew Lawrence told HPNM,

“The behavior of the sheriff was aggressive, violent, immature and without justification or cause. I can’t say what was going through his mind at the time, if anything, but I would have hoped that someone in such an important position would be more respectful and responsible when out in his county. This type of bullying is not something you want to see out of the top law enforcement officer in Jones county.”

Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit which names Sheriff Joe Berlin in the body of the complaint.


Joe Berlin’s wife’s subpoena


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