Jury awards teen US$185K over deputy who threatened him as he filmed mom’s arrest

May 14, 2024
Teliah Perkins stands in front of the federal appeals court building in New Orleans, May 3, 2023, following a hearing on her lawsuit against two St. Tammany Parish, La., sheriff’s deputies stemming from her arrest in May 2020. (AP Photo/Kevin McGill, File)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A teenager who video-recorded his mother’s forceful arrest by Louisiana sheriff’s deputies in 2020 has been awarded $185,000 by a federal jury in a lawsuit filed over one deputy’s attempt to interfere with the recording.

De’Shaun Johnson was 14 when deputies arrived at his family’s home in St Tammany Parish to question his mother, Teliah Perkins, about allegations she had ridden a motorcycle without a helmet — a charge her attorneys said was baseless and that was never prosecuted.

The confrontation turned physical, and video showed the woman being forced to the ground.

A lawsuit against the deputies was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Reid Collins & Tsai as part of the ACLU’s Justice Lab project, aimed at addressing allegations of police abuses.

A federal appeals court largely sided with the St Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office on many of the allegations, squelching much of the lawsuit over the deputies’ use of force.

But it allowed the litigation to continue over allegations that one deputy interfered with Johnson’s use of his phone to film the arrest. The ACLU said the deputy stepped in front of Johnson when he began recording the arrest and threatened Johnson with a Taser.

On May 1, after a federal court civil trial in New Orleans, a jury said evidence showed Deputy Ryan Moring’s actions constituted “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and awarded the teen $185,000.

“We are thrilled to see justice served for De’Shaun,” Nora Ahmed, the ACLU of Louisiana’s legal director, said in a news release after the verdict.

The jury voted in the deputy’s favour on an accompanying issue, rejecting a finding that Moring violated Johnson’s First Amendment rights by blocking Johnson from continuing to film his mother’s arrest.

The Sheriff’s Office didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment. But Sheriff Randy Smith, through a spokesperson, told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate that an appeal of the verdict against Moring was planned, calling the emotional harm finding “meritless.”

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