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'Dukes of Hazard' Chase, Arrest Didn't Violate Jilted Man's Rights

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By William Peacock, Esq. on April 17, 2013 5:43 PM

"There would be no wedding bells, no wedding cake, and no tuxedo and white dress for Dustin Myers and Kelley Bowman. The couple was engaged to be married, but before the time came to say 'I Do,' Kelley found herself a new Romeo."

Adding financial injury to insult, Kelley followed up the above described jilting by selling many of Dustin's belongings. She then claimed to have lost her engagement ring. Her mother, perhaps feeling sorry for the young man, warned Dustin of her infidelity and told him to come obtain the remainder of his items before her daughter had another yard sale.

He knew that she was unfaithful and it killed him inside, to see that she was happy, with some other guy. When he arrived to pick up his belongings, the couple’s dog, which had been living with Kelley, jumped into his pickup truck. Acting on his angst, he stole little Lexi.

Though he was Romeo, and the adulterous Kelley sported the metaphorical scarlet letter, her father, Jefferson County Chief Magistrate Judge Murry Bowman, said, “Stay away from Juliet,” before negotiating the dog’s ransom - ring and a repaid loan for Lexi.

The exchange didn’t go as planned, however. Kelley tossed his ring into his lap, but alas, was unable to come up with the requested funds. Dustin fled with the dog and the ring.

Murry shouted after him, “I’ll have your goddamn ass locked up.” He then reported the dog stolen and gave chase. Word spread to two officers, apparently unaware that the alleged thief was the Judge’s daughter’s former lover.

In the court’s words, a “Dukes of Hazard” style chase ensued, resulting in arrests of both Dustin and his father. The responding officer, Wiley Clark Evans IV used sufficient force to injure Dustin’s head, left wrist and forearm, neck, and knees.

Murry then stated, “that this was his goddamn county and [he] wanted to know who the f**k [Dustin] was coming up there in his f**king county acting like that.” The inquisitive responding officer asked, “[h]e’s the f**king magistrate judge up here. Who the f**k you think you messing with?”

Dustin alleged a number of claims arising out of the incident, including false arrest and excessive force. The district court granted summary judgment. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

Though all communication was suspiciously done on unrecorded systems (in violation of department policy), the evidence indicates that Evans had no knowledge of the parties’ special relationship and relied upon a judicial officer’s assertion that a felony theft of a valuable dog (Lexi is a Maltese) had occurred. Probable cause for an arrest therefore existed.

As for excessive force, the court had videotape from the cruiser. Evans pulled him from the cab, held him on the ground for less than a minute, cuffed him, and searched him. He released Dustin six minutes later. Considering the prior chase, the force was “de minimis and lawful”.

If you’re wondering about Judge Murry, any remedies in that regard lie in state court. As we saw recently, “Section 1983 does not federalize all torts … committed by a person who is a … government agent.” Though he ordered Evans to arrest Dustin, the order came after Evans was already doing so. Also, “acts of officers in the ambit of their personal pursuits are not done under color of law.”

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