Multiple sources to pay for $16.5M settlement for families of wr - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Multiple sources to pay for $16.5M settlement for families of wrongfully convicted men

Bivens and Dixon celebrate after being exonerated in 2010. Source: WDAM Bivens and Dixon celebrate after being exonerated in 2010. Source: WDAM
Phillip Bivens. Source: WDAM Phillip Bivens. Source: WDAM
Bobby Ray Dixon. Source: WDAM Bobby Ray Dixon. Source: WDAM
Larry Ruffin. Source: WDAM Larry Ruffin. Source: WDAM
Eva Gail Patterson. Source: WDAM Eva Gail Patterson. Source: WDAM
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

A $16.5 million settlement reached with the families of three men wrongfully convicted of rape and murder will be paid by multiple sources.

Forrest County, the city of Hattiesburg and multiple insurance companies will be footing the bill, each paying a different portion.

Phillip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon and Larry Ruffin were charged with the 1979 rape and murder of Eva Gail Patterson. The three were sentenced to life in prison, and only a hung jury prevented Ruffin from being sentenced to the death penalty.

Forrest County is responsible for $5.4 million of the overall settlement in the civil rights lawsuit.

“The board of supervisors has known about this ongoing case for a number of years now, and we feel like we are in a good enough financial situation that we are going to be able to manage it, hopefully without a mileage increase, I don’t believe that we are going to need one,” Forrest County Board of Supervisors President David Hogan said.

Hogan added the county will have to finance a loan in order to pay its two-thirds of the settlement.

“It’s likely the board will decide to advertise and let the local banks give us interest rate amounts to borrow the amount needed to take care of the judgment and in that case we will advertise publically and then we will make a decision based on the rates that are offered,” Hogan said. “Most likely it will be a five year note, somewhere I would speculate between $3 and $4 million and it would wind up being around $800,000 a year.”

According to Hogan, that will leave roughly $1 million left for the county to cover, which will come from the county funds.

“We are fortunate to have a carry over, sometimes we get criticized for that, but to make it from September which is the tax sale to February when revenues start coming back in, it takes approximately $10 million to operate Forrest County,” Hogan said. “I don’t believe it will cause a tax increase for the citizens of Forrest County, but as I said, we are beginning the budget process and that will be determined by the board through that process.”

While the county is paying nearly two-thirds of the settlement, Hattiesburg is paying just over $1 million.

“The city’s portion of the settlement totaled $1.2 million, the majority of which will be paid by Mississippi Municipal Liability Plan (MMLP), the city’s insurer,” according to a press release from the city of Hattiesburg.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, the agenda item was added informing the council that the city would be responsible for $150,000, which is what is left after the insurance covers the rest.

“Although this settlement is substantial, it represents a fraction of the average settlements and jury verdicts obtained in similar cases around the country,” Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree said.

The rest of the $16.5 million, roughly $9.9 million will be paid by multiple insurance companies involved in the settlement.

Forrest County Supervisors area set to begin 2017 budget talks Thursday at 10 a.m., and that will pinpoint where the money will come from, according to Hogan.

Copyright WDAM 2016. All rights reserved. 

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