Videos released in connection to civil suit involving Jones Co. sheriff

Photo from video taken at Lowe’s Home Improvement Center in Laurel
Photo from video taken at Lowe’s Home Improvement Center in Laurel(Obtained from attorney Matthew Lawrence)
Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 5:24 PM CST
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - Jones County Sheriff Joe Berlin is accused of battering a man in the parking lot of the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center in Laurel on New Year’s Eve, according to a federal civil lawsuit.

The suit was filed by Monterian Dotson, a Laurel resident, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on Jan. 9, against John Doe Law Enforcement Officer, whom the plaintiff claims identified himself as the sheriff of Jones County.

On Jan. 31, the complaint was amended, with Berlin being named as the defendant in the suit. Below is a copy of the amended complaint:

According to the complaint document, Dotson was called over from across the parking lot by Berlin, who was not in uniform at the time, while Dotson was talking to another person.

The lawsuit claims Berlin told the other person not to give Dotson any money. Dotson responded back to Berlin, resulting in Berlin calling Dotson to come toward him while Dotson was stepping away from Berlin.

Berlin then grabbed the plaintiff to prevent him from moving away and threw him against a vehicle that belonged to someone else, according to the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, it says the defendant, who was described as being larger than the plaintiff, then allegedly held Dotson, not allowing him to move. The defendant did let go of the Dotson after the vehicle’s owner purportedly told the defendant to get off the truck.

According to the lawsuit, a woman, who is named in the amended complaint as Berlin’s wife, Jolynn, also allegedly recorded the incident on her phone. It claims Jolynn initially approached Dotson alongside Joe and followed Dotson while recording. She is also accused of yelling at the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Two videos obtained from the plaintiff’s attorney, Matthew Lawrence, appear to show the alleged incident. Both videos have been attached below.

The first video, obtained through a subpoena to Lowe’s Home Center, LLC., shows a surveillance video of the Laurel Lowe’s parking lot:

This video was obtained from Matthew Lawrence, the attorney of the plaintiff.

The second video, obtained through a subpoena to Joynn Berlin, shows a video recording that was reportedly taken on her phone:

This video was obtained from Matthew Lawrence, the attorney of the plaintiff.

WDAM 7 reached out to Berlin’s attorney, Will Allen, for a comment. Allen said that he could not comment on pending litigation.

On the Re-elect Joe Berlin for Jones county Sheriff’s Facebook page, a post from Jan. 25 goes on to say that they were unable to share the video at that time.

Screenshot from Re-elect Joe Berlin for Jones County Sheriff Facebook page.
Screenshot from Re-elect Joe Berlin for Jones County Sheriff Facebook page.(Facebook)

The lawsuit claims the plaintiff suffered injuries from the batter. This includes physical injuries to the hand, back, neck, chest and head.

The amended complaint also accuses the defendant of unlawful detention, using excessive force, assault by threat and intimidation, battery and defamation. It does not, however, mention injuries to the plaintiff’s head.

Below is a copy of the original filings of the complaint:

According to the Jones County Sheriff’s Department, all news media inquiries on this topic are directed to Will Allen with Allen, Allen, Breeland & Allen Law Firm, who will be representing Berlin.

WDAM 7 reached out to Allen and spoke to him on the phone, and Allen said no comment.

WDAM 7 reached out to the plaintiff’s attorney, Matthew Lawrence, for comment, and he provided the statement as follows:

My aim when I moved back to Mississippi in 2019 was to take on issues for underserved people just like in this case. Monterian Dotson was mistreated by a bully, as clearly seen in the video from Lowe’s surveillance. The Sheriff initiated the entire situation. I find it telling that Sheriff Berlin has so far refused to turn over the cell phone video his wife has that shows at least part of the incident. It seems to me that Jones County would prefer to keep it suppressed, but I am not going speculate further.

Dotson’s attorney filed two notices for subpoenas for Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC, on Jan. 11, and Joynn Berlin, on Jan. 17, for any video or audio recordings of the Lowe’s parking lot in Laurel at the time of the alleged incident.

This is a civil lawsuit, and no known criminal charges have been filed at this time.

According to the United States Court website, a federal civil case involves a legal dispute between two or more parties. A civil action begins when a party to a dispute files a complaint and pays a filing fee required by statute.

WDAM 7 is dedicated to fair and balanced reporting. Early this week, a rough draft version of an article about the lawsuit was unintentionally published. It was marked “Do Not Publish,” as a note for copy editors.

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