By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A former Albany County sheriff’s deputy is asking a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former co-worker that accuses him of racial discrimination.
In court documents filed earlier this week, Christian Handley said that plaintiff Jamin Johnson’s lawsuit accusing Johnson of racism that created a hostile work environment was filed after the statute of limitations for such claims and therefore should be dismissed.
“The only timely allegation of adverse treatment involves a discrete disciplinary action in which Handley supposedly persuaded former Albany County Sheriff David O’Malley to issue an ultimatum to Johnson insisting he either accept a suspension and demotion or resign,” the court documents said. “This allegation is conclusory, devoid of the factual detail necessary to plausibly suggest the decision was the product of racial animus and therefore fails to meet the pleading standards for employment discrimination cases…”
In January, Johnson filed the lawsuit against Handley, alleging that during the 10-year period he worked at the sheriff’s department, from 2007 to 2017, his supervisor Handley “relentlessly” demeaned him with racial slurs and innuendos, even once in front of Johnson’s wife and children.
The lawsuit alleges that at the end of 2016, Handley was promoted to patrol sergeant and “immediately orchestrated a sham disciplinary process” to force Johnson out of the department due to his race.
Handley’s request for dismissal argued that Johnson’s complaint provided no details of the “sham disciplinary actions” and provided no details about specific conduct at issue or how Handley treated him differently from any other officer under his supervision.
Johnson’s lawsuit also said Handley fabricated numerous disciplinary actions against Johnson in rapid succession and then persuaded the department to give Johnson an ultimatum: Johnson could demote himself to a position still under Handley or leave the department.
On Aug. 2, 2017, Johnson resigned.
But Handley’s request said Johnson did not claim to have notified anyone in the sheriff’s office chain of command about the “pernicious racism and discrimination” he allegedly endured for years from Handley.”
Handley’s lawyer also said that Johnson waited for several years to file a lawsuit, doing so only after another lawsuit was filed against the former deputy.
The earlier lawsuit, filed in 2020, alleged Handley and another officer pressured sexual assault victims to recant their allegations. Handley and the other officer were dropped from the lawsuit when a judge ruled they could not be held personally liable in the case. However, the judge also said the officers handled the case poorly.
Johnson’s lawsuit said in 2021, the department conducted an internal investigation, which substantiated Johnson’s claims of racism. It also alleged that the investigation showed Handley had received unfair preferential treatment throughout his employment at the department, which emboldened his misconduct.
According to Johnson’s lawsuit, Handley routinely referred to Johnson, the only Black officer in the department, with slurs such as “jigaboo” and the n-word. It alleged Handley once also asked if Johnson had sex with a Black woman and when Johnson said nothing, Handley said “That would be nasty. That would be like having sex with a dog.”
Johnson is asking for damages due to his lost income and benefits from having to resign, lost employment opportunities, psychological and emotional anguish, distress, pain and suffering and attorneys’ fees.