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New lawsuit filed against Unicoi Co. sheriff, deputy

August 13th, 2014 9:14 am by Brad Hicks

New lawsuit filed against Unicoi Co. sheriff, deputy

Unicoi Co. Sheriff Mike Hensley (file photo)

ERWIN — For the second time in a week, the Unicoi County sheriff, one of his deputies and Unicoi County have been named as defendants in complaints seeking monetary damages from these entities, this time by a county man who alleges he was falsely arrested earlier this year.

The attorney representing Erwin resident Robert G. Tilson Jr. filed complaints against Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley, UCSD Deputy Williams Laws and the county itself. One complaint was filed in Unicoi County Circuit Court on Tuesday, and the other was filed in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on Monday.

The complaint alleges that on May 26, Tilson contacted the sheriff’s department to advise them that his ex-girlfriend, who had moved out of Tilson’s residence, and a “group of thugs” had threatened to “assault him and brutally beat him and then take certain personal property.”

“The Unicoi County personnel advised him not to do anything and that they would handle it,” the complaint states.

Tilson’s ex-girlfriend and the group accompanying her showed up at his home and forced their way inside as he held the door and called 911, according to the complaint

“The Plaintiff was able to protect himself and to keep the thugs from beating him up and stealing the disputed property by holding them at bay with a knife and calling 911 for help,” the complaint states. “Upon arrival of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department initially, the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department took control of the situation and the thugs were charged with criminal trespass and other crimes. Robert G. Tilson Jr. was actually listed as a victim on all the thugs’ affidavits of complaints filed by the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department’s Officers.”

According to the complaint, after Hensley arrived on the scene he ordered Tilson to give property back to one of the people charged who had moved out of his residence several weeks prior.

“When the Plaintiff refused the illegal and unwarranted demands of the Sheriff Hensley, Sheriff Hensley became furious, lost control screamed, and demanded that the Plaintiff, owner of the residence, be charged with aggravated domestic assault and aggravated assault times three,” the complaint states. “Sheriff Hensley claimed that he did not need a court order but he was the law.”

Hensley ordered Laws to “charge and arrest” Tilson and charge him with assault.

“Deputy William Laws did falsely arrest, and imprison Plaintiff by filing an affidavit of complaint knowing that the charges were false and unreasonable,” the complaint states. “The Plaintiff was taken from his home in handcuffs, arrested, humiliated and embarrassed and put in jail.”

According to the complaint, Tilson’s original bond of $25,000 was reduced to $200 by Sessions Court Judge David Shults. The document also states that all charges against Tilson were later dismissed.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, Sheriff Hensley and Deputy William Laws falsely arrest/imprisoned the Plaintiff as they restrained and detained the Plaintiff against his will and without proper court order or probable cause,” the complaint reads.

Gary Prince, the Knoxville-based attorney representing Tilson, asks in the complaint that Hensley and Laws be held liable for injuries allegedly they caused and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Prince also asks that the county be held liable for negligence in “training and its promulgation of its practices and procedures with regard to the lawful arrests of its citizens.”

In the complaint filed in Circuit Court, Tilson is seeking compensation from all defendants in the maximum amount of damages allowed under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act and $1 million in punitive damages from Hensley and Laws. In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Tilson alleges the incident violated his constitutional Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights, and he is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages from Laws and Hensley.

On Aug. 6, Prince filed complaints in U.S. District Court and Unicoi County Circuit Court on behalf of Erwin resident Sherry Adkins. Adkins alleges that on Feb. 28, she was assaulted by UCSD Deputy Jacob Marshall after Marshall accompanied her daughter to her residence to pick up a dog. In the complaint filed locally, Adkins is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages against Marshall Hensley and the county, as well as $1 million in punitive damages against Hensley and Marshall. In the complaint filed in federal court, Adkins is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages against the county, Hensley and Marshall, and $1 million in punitive damages against Marshall and Hensley.

Prince could not be reached Tuesday for comment. Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said the matter will be turned over to the county’s liability insurance carrier.

Related: Woman's lawsuit says she was assaulted by UCSD deputy

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