Suit filed against Forrest County Sheriff's Department officials - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Suit filed against Forrest County Sheriff's Department officials

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) -

A recently suspended employee of the Forrest County Sheriff's Department has taken action by filing a lawsuit against several high ranking officers with the department.

Rhonda Diane Lott who was suspended from her job as a correctional officer August 8, 2014 has filed suit against the entity as sheriff, Chief Deputy Charles Bolton and Sgt. Andrea Estrada.

In July 2013, Lott was subpoenaed to a trail concerning an election contest between Hattiesburg incumbent Mayor Johnny DuPree and his opponent, Dave Ware. The suit details she was subpoenaed for what she witnessed transpire from Charles Bolton dealing with a prisoner to cast a ballot for DuPree.

Lott specifically testified that she witnessed Bolton instructing that a prisoner (Samuel Lindsey) be released from jail on his own recognizance so that he could cast a vote for Mayor DuPree.

Lott's supervisor at the time of the trial was Estrada, who is the immediate subordinate of Bolton.

The suit details a good working relationship between Lott and Estrada, but "immediately following her testimony at trial, Estrada drastically changed her treatment towards Lott." Further details list that Estrada referred to Lott as a "prejudiced bitch" or "bitch."

According to the suit, Estrada threatened Lott's safety by saying that she intended to "whip her white ass," and made statements to the effect that she was going to "get that bitch" or "get her white ass."

These statements were reported by jail employees Stephen Jenson and Andre Cooley.

Lott is detailed in the suit by seeking intervention from Bolton and Sheriff Billy McGee, however according to the suit; they refused to talk to her about the matter.

January 2014, less than six months after Lott's testimony, she was moved from her position as booking officer and sent to the position of corrections officer, for which she had no training.

After being written up in July 2014 for being outside her assigned area by Sgt. Brandon Freeman, she complained to Capt. Darnell Brannon.

Lott was also told she could not go into certain areas of the jail. The suit details Lott is the only employee who has been banned from going into any area in the jail. The job held by Lott requires her to go into the booking office, but with her not being allowed in the office or having any communication with the booking office, her partner has to do this part of her job.

August 8th, 2014, after an ongoing internal investigation by Forrest County Investigator Nick Calico, Lott was suspended from her employment.

Lott is suing for violation of first amendment rights along with punitive damages and actual damages against Forrest County (entity of sheriff) for retaliating against her because of exercise of her First Amendment rights to free speech in an amount to be determined by a jury, for reinstatement to her booking officer position.  

 

We reached out to the Forrest County Sheriff's Department, and spoke with Chief Deputy Charles Bolton. "I haven't even seen it (lawsuit) and I can't comment on any litigation," said Bolton.

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