Mom arrested for allowing son to drive golf cart at Bald Head
A lawsuit describing a vacationer's nightmare — a Charlotte-area family's spiraling confrontation with a police officer on a tony coastal getaway — has been settled out of court.
In her complaint, Julie Mall said she was assaulted in 2015 by James Hunter after the now former Bald Head Island police officer stopped her family's golf cart because her underage son was driving.
According to Mall, a minor incident that should have ended with a ticket or warning needlessly escalated into something more, leaving her physically bruised and emotionally battered.
Over a four-hour period, Mall says, she was pinned to the ground by Hunter, repeatedly accused of being drunk, frogmarched barefoot aboard a ferry in handcuffs, jailed in leg irons and charged with child abuse.
Her 2017 lawsuit accused Hunter of false arrest and imprisonment, assault and battery, malicious prosecution and unlawful use of force, among other claims.
In his original report, Hunter said Mall and her husband, Scott, were both intoxicated when he stopped the golf cart with their 11-year-old son behind the wheel.
He said Julie Mall was "agitated and loud" and blocking traffic when he attempted to handcuff her, and said the 5-foot-4, 125-pound software saleswoman from the Ballantyne area challenged him to a fight.
"(Mall) was physically assaultive and required me to initiate ground control to secure her custody," Hunter wrote.
The case had been scheduled to go to trial this summer.
But in a court filing late Wednesday, Mall's attorney, John Gresham of Charlotte, said his client's claims against the former officer have been settled. The terms were not immediately known.
Gresham said Thursday that Mall filed the lawsuit "to obtain a remedy for the indignities she suffered that night. She is pleased that the parties were able to reach a settlement of her claim."
A spokeswoman for Wilmington attorney Clay Collier, who represented Hunter, said Collier was in a trial and not immediately available for comment.
Attempts to reach Bald Head Island Village Manager Chris McCall also were not successful.
During a phone interview Thursday, Julie Mall said she "is pleased that the matter has been resolved." She declined further comment, including whether any money had changed hands as part of the settlement.
In her lawsuit and during an interview with the Observer, Mall said she, Scott and the couple's two children were two days into their annual visit to Bald Head Island when the confrontation with Hunter took place.
After a two-block ride for a beachfront view of the sunset, the Malls' son asked to drive the cart back to the family's $1,000-a-night rented cottage.
The parents agreed, a violation of the Island law that restricts driving privileges to those 16 and older who have a valid driver's license.
As they neared the cottage, a golf cart with a blue light came up from behind. Mall's lawsuit says Hunter and fellow Officer Robert Miller approached the Malls' cart "in loud and hostile voices to berate the family."
"How old is this kid, are you guys drinking? I could take you to court for child abuse," the complaint quotes Hunter as saying.
The Malls' son burst into tears. Mall says she later put her finger in Hunter's face and told him he should "be ashamed of himself for screaming at her children."
Mall's complaint says she and her husband had a glass of wine at a dinner for a niece's birthday that night and that nobody was drunk.
When Scott Mall returned to the scene after retrieving identification for the couple from the nearby cottage, he said he saw his wife being "assaulted and battered" by Hunter, the lawsuit says.
A video he says he shot that night with his phone shows his wife handcuffed and face down in the sand surrounded by police.
Still handcuffed, Mall says she was taken by ferry to the mainland and jailed on charges of resisting a public officer, intoxicated and disruptive, and misdemeanor child abuse. The charges were later dropped.
She says she was never given a sobriety test while in custody and needed medical treatment after she was released.
In a statement to the Observer last year, an attorney for Bald Head Island said the village "takes seriously the safety of its residents and visitors, including children, particularly in the operation of motor vehicles."
The village said its officers acted appropriately in their dealings with the Malls, and denied Julie Mall's allegation "that she was treated anything other than as professionally and courteously as the circumstances would allow."
Julie Mall said the 2015 visit had been her family's third consecutive summer trip to Bald Head Island. She says she has not been back.
When asked if she planned to return, Mall declined comment.
Researcher Maria David contributed.