Fulton pays $375,000 for wrongful arrest

An attorney who settled a $375,000 wrongful arrest case with Fulton County after receiving a higher verdict from a federal jury said Thursday that the county likely would have paid less if any settlement had been offered earlier.

“This case really should have resolved without going to trial, period,” said Natalie Woodward. “When you never get an offer, you have no alternative. I would suspect it would have been significantly less.”

In March, a jury found in favor of Woodward’s client, Valencia Warren, who had been charged with felony obstruction of justice.

Warren was visiting her brother in 2011 and decided to spend the night.

Sheriff’s Deputy Randolph Scott and Sgt. Kirk Markham were serving a child support warrant on her brother when they came to the door of his Atlanta apartment at 4 a.m.

When no one answered, police forced down the door. Warren was asleep in a bedroom, and was arrested along with her brother and his partner for not opening the door.

Warren was in jail for nearly three days and lost her job cleaning corporate offices. The charge was later dropped.

“It’s profiling in people’s homes,” Woodward said.

A jury awarded Warren $426,379.56 in damages and fees. The county had appealed the case to the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but Fulton commissioners approved the $375,000 settlement Wednesday.

The county’s law department said the parties negotiated the reduction after reaching a compromise. Woodward said they were required to go to mediation. She agreed to reduce the award amount to end the process.

Woodward said she was surprised the case dragged on as long as it did.

“It’s a really detailed process. It’s bureaucratic,” she said. “I don’t know that it’s the most efficient.”