Court Strips Immunity from Sheriff in Maryland Lawsuit

$1.1 million verdict for retaliation against deputy allegedly forced to falsify a report


The Maryland sheriff who fired a deputy for releasing documents showing he was forced to falsify a police report is not entitled to immunity, the 4th Circuit ruled, affirming a $1.1 million jury award.

James "Troy" Durham had worked as a deputy sheriff in the Somerset County Maryland, Sheriff's Office (SCSO) for twenty years when, in 2008, he used pepper spray and physical force to arrest a man fleeing from a state trooper.

Durham later prepared a report on the incident stating that he hit the suspect twice on the suspect's face in self defense, and "delivered two knee blows to the left side of the suspect's body" to overcome his resistance.

The next day, Durham's supervisor asked him if he needed to go to the hospital, suggesting that he must require medical attention as a result of the incident. Durham said he did not need to go to the hospital.

Four days later, his supervisor ordered Durham to charge the suspect with assaulting him and resisting arrest, but Durham declined to do so after speaking with other supervisory officers.

Less than 24 hours later, Durham was escorted into an interrogation room by two detectives who aggressively questioned him about his report.

The detectives refused to allow him to call his attorney, and told Durham that if he did not revise his original police report, he would be charged internally and criminally with assault on the suspect.