A North Georgia detective found to be at fault after she searched a home with an illegal search warrant was told her appeal is a waste of the court's time.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy ruled against Chattooga County Detective Kandy Dodd, deciding that she violated Mark and Connie Gordon's Fourth Amendment rights when she altered a search warrant in 2011.
Murphy also ruled that Chattooga Sheriff John Everett should go before a jury to determine whether he knew his detective deceived a magistrate judge and whether he should have prevented Dodd from executing the invalid warrant.
On June 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 11th Circuit dismissed Dodd's appeal, saying it was frivolous and that Dodd was required to pay all costs and attorney fees for filing the appeal. The appeals court has not yet ruled on Everett's case.
Attorneys for the Gordons, who filed the lawsuit in the Northern Georgia District Court last year, say they hope a jury will hear Everett's and Dodd's cases together. In Dodd's case, a jury will decide only how much money she should have to pay, attorneys said.
After the appeals court decision, the Gordons' lawyer, Bobby Lee Cook, a well-known Summerville defense attorney, criticized the sheriff's office for not disciplining Dodd.
Everett said he hasn't disciplined Dodd because he still doesn't believe she did anything wrong.
"Anybody that has done anything illegal, they no longer work for me," he said. "If that would have been the case, she would no longer be employed."
But in Dodd's response to the suit, she asked for immunity on the basis that the language of the Fourth Amendment wasn't clear that "altering a search warrant is unconstitutional." But Murphy argued that wasn't a valid argument.
"Any reasonable officer would know that it is unlawful to add an additional residence to a search warrant without the signature of a judicial officer," he wrote in his response.
The Gordons claim in their suit that on April 14, 2011, Dodd first obtained a search warrant through the magistrate's office to look through Fleetwood's Pawn shop, which the Gordons own. The warrant claimed that several items from burglaries had been sold through the Trion, Ga., shop.
But the lawsuit alleges Dodd then went back to get a second search warrant, telling the judge that the first warrant had an error and needed to be changed. Instead, the lawsuit claims, Dodd had written the Gordons' home address in place of the pawn shop address.
After the judge had signed the second warrant, Everett dispatched two deputies to guard the entrance to the Gordons' house, the suit claims. The house was searched for at least an hour, and several personal items taken, the suit claims.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...