Gwinnett settles for $2M with bounty hunters acquitted of kidnapping

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $2 million settlement with two Tennessee bounty hunters who were charged with kidnapping and home invasion in a 2014 incident near Lawrenceville.

Police said Kevin Roberson and Khalil Abdullah were trying to arrest a man on a misdemeanor traffic violation out of Tennessee when they kicked in the door of a Castlebrooke Way home and pointed guns at the fugitive’s wife and children. A grand jury in 2015 indicted them on charges of kidnapping, home invasion, false imprisonment, aggravated assault and cruelty to children. They were acquitted of all charges the following year.

Roberson and Abdullah in 2019 sued the county and two police officers, Albert Miller and Ronnetta Coates, in federal court alleging malicious prosecution.

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One of their attorneys argued in 2014 that the law allows bounty hunters to enter homes, use force and take other actions that would be illegal for police. They denied threatening the children.

Roberson spent 21 months in the Gwinnett County Jail because he could not afford his high bond, according to his lawyer, Kevin Ramon Anderson of West Palm Beach, FL.

“He was placed in jail as, essentially, a law enforcement figure,” Anderson said. “That is a very tough position to be in when you’re in general population.”

Abdullah spent five months in the jail, according to county records.

The lawsuit accused Miller and Coates of arresting the bounty hunters without probable cause in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. Roberson and Abdullah suffered emotionally, physically and financially as a result of their arrest and incarceration, the lawsuit said.

Gwinnett County Attorney Michael Ludwiczak told commissioners Tuesday that Roberson and Abdullah’s allegations in the federal lawsuit “have been vigorously disputed during the course of this litigation.”

But the county is proposing to settle because of the risks of taking the case to a jury and the expenses of continuing the litigation, he said.

“I recommend this proposed settlement to this board as a prudent resolution of this matter,” he said.

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The county’s $2 million contribution is its self-insured retention amount, allowing the county to be reimbursed by its insurer for all attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses to date, Ludwiczak said. The settlement includes a final dismissal of the lawsuit and a full release of the claims against the county and police officers, he said.

Anderson declined to say how Roberson and Abdullah will split the settlement.