Agreement reached in lawsuit about Fulton inmates being held too long

Attorneys for Fulton County government and a group of inmates who claim they were wrongfully held in the county jail have reached an agreement in federal court.

Both sides agreed to a $2 million payout — with Fulton paying up to $1.2 million to former inmates and $800,000 in legal fees, according to court filings.

Hundreds of Fulton inmates were held more than 24 hours past their release time in November 2014 because of a glitch in the Georgia Crime Information Center system, which is a database that houses statewide criminal history.

Deputies didn’t act correctly when the system went down and wrongfully held the inmates, said Mark Begnaud, an attorney who represents a group of the inmates. He said the case started six years ago.

A judge approved class action status for the group, which includes, 313 former inmates, in 2018.

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One of those inmates was Sterling Palmer, a talented defensive end who played for Florida State University before being drafted by the now Washington Football Team.

He was arrested in November 2014 on a misdemeanor charge after, according to him, trying to stop a man from attacking a woman in a Phipps Plaza parking lot.

Palmer, according to previous reporting, could have left that same day on a signature bond. Instead, he spent three more days in jail. He has said in jail he missed several days of medication for his kidney that was removed due to cancer.

Another person, Begnaud said, was a mother arrested on a drunk driving charge (that he said was later dismissed) who had to fly in a family member to take care of her child.

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The judge still needs to approve the settlement, but Begnaud said he sees no reason why that won’t happen.

“In class action, the judge does need to independently review the settlement,” Begnaud said, " … But we did a lot of heavy lifting to address any potential concerns that (the judge) might have and I strongly believe that the settlement is very favorable to all the class members.”