Judge expected to split lawsuit
By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY - A superior court judge is expected to split a lawsuit against several police officers and the city into separate complaints.
Judge W. Lane Williamson has heard motions from defense attorney Scott D. MacLatchie to split the suit that alleged two Salisbury Police officers assaulted citizens during arrests and that supervisors failed to properly discipline them.
Williamson is expected to sign an order this week splitting the lawsuit, which includes separate incidents involving brothers Michael and John Fox, Felicia Gibson and Robin Otto Worth, Jr., sources close to the case said Wednesday.
Williamson had not signed the order to sever as of Wednesday evening, and the court file was not available.
On Sept. 17, MacLatchie also asked the court to dismiss part of the lawsuit and the claims against police chiefs, arguing the complaint against the city was redundant.
It was unclear if Williamson will rule on those motions this week.
MacLatchie, of Charlotte, represents Salisbury Police officer Mark Hunter, former officer Kareem Puranda, current Chief Rory Collins, and former chiefs Rodney Harris and Mark Wilhelm.
The action doesn't ask for a specific amount of money. It says plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $10,000, which is standard language for civil superior court lawsuits.
Splitting the complaint will add a challenge for attorneys S. Luke Largess and Jacob H. Sussman.
During the motions hearing, Largess, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said keeping the complaints together could show a jury the alleged incidents were part of a pattern.
MacLatchie argued the suit was a "misjoinder," a legal term that claims plaintiffs are improperly merging complaints into one lawsuit.
Multiple allegations from several separate incidents, he said, could also be prejudicial to a jury.
Filed in June, the lawsuit claims rights violations in three separate arrests involving officer Hunter, Puranda or both.
In June 2009, the complaint said, Hunter and Puranda arrested Robin Otto Worth, Jr. following a traffic stop.
Worth said Puranda punched, kicked, pepper-sprayed and used a Taser on him after he left the scene.
John and Michael Fox said Puranda assaulted them in the former La Bamba night club on Klumac Road in 2009, the lawsuit said.
The Foxes were charged with resisting, obstructing or delaying officers and were accused of threatening officers.
The charges were later dropped.
In Nov. 2009, officer Hunter arrested Felicia Gibson as she recorded a traffic stop in front of her home on West Fisher Street, the complaint said.
She was later convicted of resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer.
About a month later, Hunter took her into custody a second time in front of her home.
After writing Gibson a parking ticket, the complaint said Hunter charged her with disorderly conduct when he said she cursed at him.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.