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Lawsuit alleges political retaliation by Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, dismissal motion filed Friday

DECATUR, Ala. -- A Morgan County business owner has updated her lawsuit against Sheriff Ana Franklin and two deputies, alleging they searched her business and left objects damaged in retaliation for a political blog.

The blog, Morgan County Whistleblower has been critical of Franklin and the sheriff's office.

The case's back story is a bit complicated.

[Read the amended complaint: lockhart-amended-complaint ]

[Read the Sheriff's Office motion to dismiss: defendants-answer-lockhart-lawsuit ]

Franklin has said the business owner, Glenda Lockhart and former Morgan County Jail warden Leon Bradley, are the subjects of a criminal investigation.

No charges have been filed against either Bradley or Lockhart, but the investigation appears to be focused on whether Lockhart was provided Morgan County Sheriff's Office documents by Bradley.

Through his attorney, Nick Heatherly, Bradley denied any wrongdoing.

Heatherly said criminal charges are not appropriate because Bradley hasn't committed any crime.

The federal lawsuit, filed by Lockhart after the Oct. 6 search, sought to get the items returned.

The lawsuit alleges the search and seizure of business records and 14 electronic devices at the Falkville drywall company in October has harmed the business.

The lawsuit further alleges the records and the information on the electronic devices could have been duplicated in a day, but it took 17 days for the electronics to be returned and many were damaged. The paper items have yet to be returned, the lawsuit argues.

The lawsuit was amended Nov. 14 on behalf of Lockhart and her business, Straightline Drywall & Acoustical. The lawsuit names Franklin, and deputies Blake Robinson and Robert Wilson.

The lawsuit says neither Lockhart, or anyone associated with her or her company ever sent or received “confidential work product of the Morgan County Sheriff's Office in connection with the blog or otherwise.”

The lawsuit also alleges that “keystroke software” was installed on Lockhart's personal computer, which was in the Straightline office. The suit says Lockhart used the computer to contribute to the blog.

The technology is capable of capturing all the activity on any computer where it is installed, the lawsuit says. It also argues no warrant was issued to allow the installation of the software. It doesn't specifically allege who installed the software, but says the defendants were able to access her “private electronics communications” by using it.

The defendants responded Friday in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Barney Lovelace, the attorney for the defendants, said the search of Straightline was authorized by a Morgan County judge.

The defendants motion alleges that the search was authorized because they had information former warden Bradley had been in communication with Lockhart. And, some documents provided by Bradley to Lockhart were published on the blog.

The defendant's dismissal motion says the “unauthorized taking and disclosure of 'law enforcement sensitive documents' is currently under criminal investigation.”

The dismissal motion also contends most of the claims in the lawsuit represent “continuation of the harassment shown by Lockhart towards defendants.”

Lovelace told WHNT News 19 that the case is early in the discovery process, with a trial at least a year away.