A York County jury awarded $150,000 in damages against the York County Sheriff’s Office for malicious prosecution of a Rock Hill-area man arrested in a 2012 stand-your-ground case in which he argued he should not have been charged.
A sheriff’s office spokesman said Thursday the office respects the jury’s decision but stands by its officers.
Russell Shane Carter, arrested for assault in a case in which prosecutors later dropped criminal charges, claimed in a lawsuit he was attacked first by another man trespassing on his property.
In a statement to police, Carter told deputies the other man “blindsided” him with a “right hook” punch before he was able to fend off the other man. Then he hit the man with a bat to subdue him before police arrived.
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Police charged Carter with assault after the other man needed medical treatment. The criminal charges were dropped seven weeks later.
Carter filed a lawsuit in 2014. He and his lawyers argued that under South Carolina’s Castle Doctrine – known as the stand-your-ground law – Carter was in the right because he was defending himself in his home.
The trial featured testimony from deputies, the magistrate who issued the arrest warrant and a prosecutor who dropped the charges, and also a videotape in which the fracas could be heard.
One of Carter’s lawyers, Chris Mills, said the lawsuit was not an “anti-police or anti-law enforcement” action, but an attempt to right a wrong and hold people to account for their actions.
Carter has great respect for police, Mills said.
“Mr. Carter feels grateful to the jury, vindicated in his position, and relieved,” Mills said. “All along he felt that it was his duty to defend his family, and his right under South Carolina law.”
Alex Postic, an attorney who also represented Carter in the criminal case, said he appreciated the jury listening to Carter’s side of the story.
The other man involved in the fight was not charged in the case.
When the incident happened, the other man had been visiting a neighbor of Carter’s in a rural area of Lesslie outside Rock Hill, according to court documents. Carter asked his wife to call police when the man refused to leave, documents show.
“I held him at bay until deputies arrived,” Carter told deputies.
Carter’s wife told police the other man was the aggressor, court documents show.
It is unclear if the sheriff’s office will appeal the verdict after the three-day trial before Judge John C. Hayes III.
“We respect the jury’s decision and we stand by our officers,” sheriff’s office spokesman Trent Faris said in a statement Thursday. “Judge Hayes has graciously allowed 10 days to file any post-trial motions, and we intend to exercise that right. Any decision to file an appeal would be made after post-trial motions are considered.”