Federal Judge Denies Ex-Cop’s Dismissal Request In Racism Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A federal judge has denied the request of a former Albany County sheriff’s deputy that the racial discrimination lawsuit filed against him be dismissed.

Judge Scott Skavdahl rejected Christian Handley motion for dismissal of the lawsuit filed against him by by Jamin Johnson, a former Albany County deputy who is Black, disagreeing with Handley’s arguments that the time limit for filing a complaint against him had passed, so the lawsuit should be dismissed.

However, after Handley filed his request, Johnson filed an amended complaint over Handley’s alleged discriminatory actions, expanding on certain details and stating that Handley was not punished for his racist practices due to a “good ole’ boy” network.

“It was widespread knowledge among ACSO employees that Mr. Handley was part of ACSO’s ‘good ole’ boy’ network and enjoyed the patronage of, and a special relationship with, the sheriff,” Johnson’s amended lawsuit complaint reads. “A ‘good ole’ boy’ network refers to an informal system where white men of a similar background use their influence for their mutual benefit (and often to the detriment of those who are not part of the ‘good ole’ boy’ network).”

The amended complaint contained allegations of actions that occurred within the time limit to file complaints, so the judge did not dismiss the lawsuit against Handley. Skavdahl also noted that Handley had not yet responded to the amended complaint.

However, Handley has filed a new motion to dismiss part of Johnson’s lawsuit — specifically the sections about Johnson’s claims of a hostile work environment, again citing the statute of limitations.

The original lawsuit against Handley was filed in January. It alleged that during the 10-year period Johnson 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.

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.

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 the 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.

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