Constable response to lawsuit claiming false arrest, assault

Published 3:36 pm Monday, January 15, 2018

A Carter County constable accused of violating a Mountain City man’s constitutional rights during a traffic stop has responded to the allegations against him filed in the man’s lawsuit.

On November 28, Cecil H. Perry III, of Mountain City, filed a lawsuit in Carter County Circuit Court against Constable Barney Brown and Carter County seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. In the suit, Perry alleges that Brown violated his constitutional rights during a traffic stop. Perry also filed a similar lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Greeneville, but no response has been filed in that suit by either Brown or the county.

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In the lawsuit, Perry alleges that Brown unlawfully detained him and held a gun to his head during a traffic stop on Dec. 2, 2016. Perry said he was traveling on Highway 19E when Brown pulled him over for an alleged traffic violation. According to the lawsuit, Brown identified himself as a constable and was driving what appeared to be a patrol car, but offered no credentials and was wearing civilian clothing.

In the lawsuit, Perry alleges that during the traffic stop Brown said he could write the man a ticket and Perry responded by asking for the ticket so he could be on his way. Perry alleges Brown then threatened to take him to jail, so he asked to speak to Brown’s supervisor. According to Perry, Brown’s demeanor “changed drastically” after Perry asked to speak to his supervisor.

In his response to the suit, Brown denies the allegation that he threatened to take Perry to jail but admits that his demeanor did change during his encounter with Perry, whom he described as appearing “extremely agitated.”

“In the continuing exchange between the parties, (Perry) did demand to speak to (Brown’s) supervisor. (Brown), a constable, has no supervisor,” Brown said in the response filed by his attorney Jim Bowman. “In the course of the aforementioned encounter (Brown’s) demeanor did change due to (Perry’s) conduct and language.”

In his lawsuit, Perry alleges that during the conversation he feared for his safety and tried to roll up the window on his vehicle, at which time he alleges Brown pulled a firearm and held it to his head. In his response, Brown admits to drawing his service weapon, but said it was for his safety.

“(Perry) did attempt to roll up the window while (Brown’s) arm was in the window opening, (Brown) having reached through the window to obtain (Perry’s) driver’s license,” the response states. “(Brown), fearing for his safety, did draw his weapon and ordered (Perry) not to close the window.”

Perry alleges in his lawsuit that Brown asked for his vehicle registration so he got out of the vehicle in order to retrieve the paperwork for the officer. Perry said Brown held him at gunpoint and when he saw an approaching vehicle he ran into the roadway to flag it down due to fearing for his safety.

In his response, Brown said he had previously asked Perry for his license, registration and proof of insurance before Perry exited the vehicle.

“(Perry) threw the door open, striking the defendant and jumped out of the car and ran toward the town of Hampton apparently trying to flag down passing motorists. (Brown) ordered (Perry) to return to the vehicle but he refused to do so,” Brown said in the response. “(Brown) did hold (Perry) at gunpoint for a short period of time as explained above and based on (Perry’s) subsequent action.”

According to the lawsuit, Perry alleges that Brown then removed Perry’s keys from the car and threw them into the grass before leaving the scene. In his response, Brown admits that he left the scene but denies removing or throwing Perry’s keys.

The lawsuit filed in Carter County Circuit Court also alleges Brown falsely arrested Perry in addition to assaulting Perry “by placing a gun to his head.” The local lawsuit alleges that Perry “suffered serious physical and emotional injuries” and that Brown intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Perry.

In addition to the pair of lawsuits, Brown also faces criminal charges in connection with the allegations made by Perry regarding the traffic stop.

On March 13, 2017, the Carter County Grand Jury indicted Brown on charges of aggravated assault and official oppression in connection with the incident reported by Perry. That criminal case is still pending in Carter County Criminal Court at this time, and he is scheduled to stand trial on August 22.