Conner files suit against Vidalia Police

Published 12:02 am Thursday, November 29, 2012

VIDALIA — The local pastor and NAACP president whose July accident ultimately resulted in his being charged with DWI has filed suit against the Vidalia Police Department alleging two police officers were fired for not charging him with drunken driving.

The Rev. Justin Conner filed the suit Tuesday.

On July 22, officers Ricky Williams and Capt. Terrance Willams cited Conner for careless operation and no seat belt after an on-scene investigation of an accident in which he was involved. Conner had reportedly crashed his vehicle into the foundation of a house under construction on Alabama Street, causing extensive damage to both the vehicle and the structure. At the time, Conner stated that the crash was due to exhaustion.

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A breathalyzer test was not performed at the scene

The next week, the two officers were placed on non-paid administrative leave while the VPD investigated if they responded properly. They were later relieved of duty as two of the 14 employees the City of Vidalia laid off in August.

In early September, the Seventh Judicial District District Attorney’s Office filed four charges against Conner for the incident, adding DWI and speeding to the citation given him in July. Both Seventh Judicial District judges — Kathy Johnson and Leo Boothe — have recused themselves from the case.

Conner’s suit alleges that Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis “wrongfully attempted to get the police officers to indicate that they found evidence of driving while intoxicated.”

When the officers did not change the facts, the suit alleges, they were fired.

“The termination of the officers because of their stance caused it to appear that they had done something wrong and that (Conner) should have been charged with DUI or DWI,” the suit states.

The filing also alleges that the city has refused to give Conner copies of the original reports.

“Through the actions of its employees and officials, the (City) of Vidalia has violated the public records laws, obstructed justice, attempted to falsify reports and intentionally caused mental distress upon the plaintiff,” the suit states.

The filing asks for a judgment “in an amount justified under these premises.”

Lewis said Wednesday that he was unaware of the suit, but that because it was pending litigation he could not speak about it.