Deputy involved in controversy at Skate Castle faces federal lawsuit filed previously for excessive use of force

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DECATUR, Ala. - A Morgan County deputy at the center of a controversy at a local skating rink, is facing a federal lawsuit for previous allegations of excessive force being used during an arrest.

Earlier this week, video of an off-duty sheriff's deputy handcuffing a young girl at Skate Castle in Decatur sparked outrage The owner of Skate Castle defended the deputy's actions at the rink, saying the girl in the video physically struck the deputy while he was trying to remove her brother from the premises for the second time that night.

Many parents, including the woman who shot the video, say the deputy's actions might not have been considered excessive for an adult suspect, but this involved a child. "The way it was handled was too extreme for any child, no matter what color. If this is how you're going to allow the officers or staff to do the kids, my child won't be coming," said Tanisha Wiggins.

WHNT News 19 spoke to Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin about the expectations and limitations of an off-duty deputy. Sheriff Franklin said off-duty assignments are approved by the sheriff`s office. Once on assignment, she explained, they can do anything that would normally fall within their role as a deputy.

But WHNT News 19 has learned that is not the first time claims of excessive force have been lodged against Deputy Joey Coburn. In April, a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 65-year-old man claiming that Deputy Coburn stopped him without probable cause. Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin is also named in the suit.

The plaintiff was arrested for resisting arrest and obstructing government operations and claims that Deputy Coburn punched, choked and tased him multiple times while he was already in handcuffs.

The suit also claims Sheriff Franklin was made aware of Coburn's conduct. It goes on to say that she failed to discipline and refused to investigate complaints of false arrest and excessive force.

The sheriff's office responded to the lawsuit in August,  denying most of the allegations. The response acknowledged that a taser was used and an investigation was not initiated because a complaint was never filed.

WHNT News 19 reached out to Coburn's attorney for comment and he told us that he doesn't comment on pending litigation.

We also reached out to the parents of the girl in the Skate Castle video about the lawsuit, but they did not want to comment while they pursue legal action against the deputy.

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