Madison County Sheriff’s Office settles lawsuit with man badly beaten after arrest

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – A man has reached a settlement with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office after being badly beaten during an arrest in 2012.

Robert Bryant filed a civil lawsuit against Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning and eight of his deputies, claiming false arrest and conspiracy to cover up a “revenge beatdown.”

Sheriff Dorning announced Thursday the two sides have reached a settlement through mediation.

An insurance company represented the Sheriff and deputies, and settled with Bryant and his attorneys. Sheriff Dorning said his office admits no liability or responsibility with regard the allegations made by Bryant.

Bryant was arrested during a traffic stop in August 2012, but was involved in a bar fight with one of the deputies weeks earlier. That deputy, Justin Watson, was in plain clothes at the time of the fight.

Bryant accused seven deputies of beating Bryant or watching him be punched and kicked while unconscious and handcuffed at the side of the road. The eighth deputy was accused of helping falsify investigative reports.

WHNT News 19 spoke with one of Bryant’s attorneys, Jeremiah Hodges, to see how Bryant is doing.   Hodges said Bryant is doing okay physically, but is scarred emotionally from the ordeal.

“We are disappointed that the Sheriff’s office continues to fail to accept responsibility for the horrific revenge attack on Robert Bryant. We believe that the evidence and the settlement paint a clearer picture than a press release.”

“While we are thrilled for our client, we know that money cannot buy safety for him when he can no longer trust those sworn to protect and serve,” Hodges added.

Our news partners The Huntsville Times/ covered this case extensively.  Bryant’s lawsuit argued the deputies concocted a false account to hide the attack on Bryant and that Sheriff Dorning later learned of the events and did nothing to discipline the officers nor drop the charges.

Dorning said the county's insurance company settled the case out of court to minimize attorney's fees, expecting the case would have taken several years.

The Sheriff and deputies' legal counsel fees were paid by Madison County’s insurance company under the County’s insurance policy.

Prior to the settlement, Bryant had requested a trial by jury.


  • Nuclear Mike

    Money always makes the embarrassment of persons with authority so that they never have to take responsibility nor admit guilt.

    • Michael

      Yep. The sad thing is those thugs with badges are still going to cowboy around Madison County doing as they please.

  • James

    So are the deputies that threw the punches and kicks still on duty? No punishments? The county has a pretty black eye, so you’d think they’d be out to hold someone accountable for their obvious loss and embarrassment.

    • Michael

      Of course they are. Read Sheriff Dorning’s response on the version of this story. He denies all wrongdoing, even though the deputies had conflicting stories (lies) as to what happened. I keep telling people when I go on my “anti-police” rants about how the militarization of today’s police force with very little accountability to keep them in check is bad for ALL of us.

      • Nuclear Mike

        from an Analyst’s report…
        “Militarizing police and SWAT teams. The DHS routinely hands out six-figure grants to enable local municipalities to purchase military-style vehicles, as well as a veritable war chest of weaponry, ranging from tactical vests, bomb-disarming robots, assault weapons and combat uniforms. This rise in military equipment purchases funded by the DHS has, according to analysts Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz, “paralleled an apparent increase in local SWAT teams.” The end result? An explosive growth in the use of SWAT teams for otherwise routine police matters, an increased tendency on the part of police to shoot first and ask questions later, and an overall mindset within police forces that they are at war—and the citizenry are the enemy combatants.”

  • Scott

    Its sad that we have to live in fear of the people that are supposed to protect us. This is a blow to the county as a whole. I have worked with these officers for many years and do not trust them at all. Its a free pass to bully and run over people just because the sheriff will allow it. The sheriffs dept. should have their on Internal Affairs division take a look at their deputies. I they have excessive issues they need to be fired. There are surely honest people that need a job that will do what’s right for their community. Sheriff Dorning needs to closely look at this as he is the higher authority in this county. If nothing is done to reprimand these deputies then we need to look for higher authority. There is still the issue of the gentlemen that was murdered off of HWY 53 that had ties to all of this. Maybe the ABI’s investigation will shed some light on this and something will be done.

  • Wes

    This is about money, not justice. It’s possible the deputy involved is completely justified in his/their actions. The fact it was settled out of court means it would be more expensive to go to trial then to settle it for much less money. It’s possible the deputies are very upset about this because the real truth will never come out! Don’t be so quick to judge them, you and I were not there. If the injured guy wanted justice, he would not have excepted the settlement, Hmmmmmm????????

    • Miransky

      Of course he accepted the settlement, Wes. Would you want to spend years in court to get compensation? The amount paid is confidential, or I assume it is since it was not cited in the article. Even though it was paid by an insurance company, the citizens of Madison County have a right to know how much the Sheriff’s Department paid to make this terrible case go away. The department didn’t settle “to save legal costs.” They settled to avoid having all the facts come out in open court.

  • Dan

    Wes did you even read the story before opening your mouth? These deputies are guilty and bought their way out of it. This has nothing to do with being too quick to judge! I know several people who are very close to the victim and were at the bar the night this all started. Remove the blind fold and face the facts. This town is run by thugs hiding behind badges !

  • Wes

    Dan, did you ever think before opening your mouth? I didn’t know you was an eye witness. Bar talk, yeah, that’s reliable. The fact is you don’t know the facts, just alot of alcohol induced BS! I’m not taking sides, just saying there may be two sides. It’s like me saying, because you drive a truck with CB antennas, your a redneck ahole. If you just plain don’t like law enforcement, maybe there’s a personal reason, I can only guess, but if I did that, I would be just like you!

  • Dan

    And being as you were not there you would know this is alcohol induced BS how exactly? Oh yea you don’t… The sheep like you are the reason the world is in the shape it is in today! The witnesses that were there and that I have talked to, one being the owner and another who doesn’t drink are known to be reputable sources by people who know them personally. I have nothing against law enforcement, I do however have a problem with criminals hiding behind badges when this system is supposed to protect the people instead of beating them to a pulp. It’s obvious this is a waste of breath on you so all I can say is have a good day !

  • Nuclear Mike

    $620,000 is a poor settlement.
    The simple fact that 7 officers of the law deliberately took justice into their own hands knowingly speaks for itself as to the lack of respect for basic law in the Sherriff’s office. An uncontrolled emotional response can be better understood than the planned violence of 7 officers executing their own revenge. Had the victim defended himself against this attack in a manner that resulted in the death of one on these officers then they would have called it murder when it would have been justified self defense. More than a “house cleaning” is needed…criminal charges and a public trial are the only answers for the Public to restore its’ trust in the Sherriff’s Office. The ABI an/or the FBI need to be involved now.


    Ok, For just one minute lets swerve away from the Deputies that DID beat up Mr. Bryant and look at the Deputies that DID NOT! There are Deputies that go out every day and risk their life for the citizens of this county, and that is the way it should be. They DO NOT work for Sheriff Dorning they work for the citizens of Madison County!!! They DO NOT violate anyone’s civil rights or commit a criminal act, like assault. They are the ones that will have to endure the stares and snide comments that come along with the Deputies that did injure Mr. Bryant!!! The Deputies that do no wrong are the ones that will suffer the most. The ones that are guilty will walk around with their heads held high thinking they have beaten the system!!! I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND THE COMMENTS THAT ARE COMING IN FROM ALL DIRECTIONS IN REFERENCE TO THE “THUG MENTALITY” THAT IS PORTRAYED BY A FEW DEPUTIES!!! The Deputies that DID NO WRONG need a pat on the back because they will still get up everyday, kiss their wife and kids goodbye and hope they come home at the end of the shift!!! I believe Mr. Jason Klonowski said it real well when he said “Report a bad cop and thank a good cop”!! Try doing that and see the thanks you receive in return, because the ones that do a good job are doing a thankless job!!! I am all for the ones that did assault Mr. Bryant to pay for it with the loss of their badge if not more!!!!

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