City of Hartselle accused of violating man’s constitutional, civil rights

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HARTSELLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The city of Hartselle is accused of violating a man's constitutional and civil rights - and that lawsuit is now in federal court.

Cecil D. Dotson, 66, first filed the civil lawsuit on March 30 against the city of Hartselle, including the police department, records custodians and all other employees who "deprived the Plaintiff wrongfully of his personal freedom." It stems from an arrest that occurred on March 15, 2015.

In the 10-page complaint, Dotson is seeking more than $300,000 in compensation for "civil damages for his related personal injuries, but it also involves an allegation of purposeful harassment, fraud, abuse of governmental power, improper training, negligence and a due process claim of a constitution violation in the manner this situation was improperly investigated and handled."

Dotson claims he was wrongfully arrested in 2015 without any legal reason.  Part of the complaint states:

The basic facts are that City of Hartselle arrested the Plaintiff on a misdemeanor charge on or about the stated date without a warrant, probable cause or witnessing any law being violated. In fact, the Plaintiff a short time earlier had been the victim of an attack where another private individual had pulled a knife on him following a dispute outside the presence of the officers. In the meantime, the Plaintiff was subjected to rough treatment and denied his necessary medications by the law enforcement officers during the process of being wrongfully lured from his house and arrested, on or about March 15, 2015.

The complaint states that "eight or so" Hartselle police officers went to Dotson's house, bullied him and then lured him out of his house on false pretenses. The Hartselle Police Department consists of 29 officers. Court documents also say that Dotson was not allowed to see a judge in order to be allowed to bond out of jail or properly receive his medication while he was wrongfully incarcerated.

Dotson's attorney, Connie Morrow, told WHNT News 19 that he was in jail for more than 24 hours without his seizure medication, which resulted in him becoming ill. She said she has also repeatedly requested the arrest report from the city, but has yet to receive it. This statement is from a document filed in federal court:

The Plaintiff requests for this Honorable Court to require the Defendant City of Hartselle to promptly forward to this office as we have been requesting for over a year the original arrest report, all jail records, the municipal court’s dismissal of the Plaintiff’s criminal case records and any other records related to this wrongful arrest.

The misdemeanor charges against Dotson were eventually dropped in municipal court. Meanwhile, the city of Hartselle has moved to dismiss most of the claims.

The lawsuit was initially filed in the Circuit Court of Morgan County, but in early May, the city of Hartselle, represented by Lanier Ford, requested that the case be moved to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon.

WHNT News 19 is aggressively working to gather more details about the lawsuit. We reached out to both the Hartselle Police Department and the City of Hartselle's attorney. We have yet to hear back from either party. We will continue to update this story as we learn more.

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