Resident claims Clayton sheriff harassing him over basketball goal

A disabled veteran in College Park is seeking a temporary restraining order against Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill because he says the lawman has been harassing him for refusing to take down a basketball goal.

Derick Fisher alleges sheriff’s deputies have continually parked outside his home for the last couple of weeks, shining the blue strobe lights from the patrol cars into his home, aggravating his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Fisher’s attorney William Claxton said. The incident continued even after Fisher told deputies about his condition.

“It’s intimidation and harassment,” Claxton said. “There are nights where he did not sleep. He finally had to leave his house and stay elsewhere because it was too disruptive. It’s had a negative effect on him. He was afraid that they would barge in the doors and arrest him.”

The request for the restraining order, filed in Clayton County Superior Court on March 10, is asking that the sheriff and his deputies stay 500 yards from Fisher’s home. It also seeks an outside law enforcement agency such as the Georgia Bureau of Investigations or another sheriff’s office to enforce the order if it is granted. The order also asks that the sheriff and deputies get remedial instruction into what constitutes excessive intrusion under state and federal laws.

Three of Clayton’s four superior court judges have recused themselves in the case. It’s unclear if the fourth judge will hear the case or whether it will be heard by an outside judge, Claxton said. By law, the issue must be addressed within 30 days of the filing, Claxton said. If granted, the restraining order would be in effect for about a month.

Efforts to get a response from Hill’s office were unsuccessful.

But neighbors on Isleworth Court say Fisher isn’t telling the full story. They say they’ve been in an ongoing dispute with Fisher for the last several years over him allowing kids, most of whom are teenage boys who do not live in the neighborhood, to play basketball in front of his home in the cul-de-sac. It was often noisy and disruptive, neighbors said.

“It’s just gotten worse,” said Karen Triplett who lives across the street from Fisher. “This place was once quiet. There’s cussing and loud music. One day I counted 25 kids out there. This is not a park. We have to listen to this noise and listen to the ball bouncing. There’s paper, trash and soda cans. We’re just sick of it.”

With the weather starting to get warm and hoping to avoid further problems, neighbors said they recently reached out to law enforcement. They first contacted the Clayton police, which said nothing could be done because Fisher hadn’t broken any ordinances, Triplett said.

Clayton Deputy Chief Joseph Woodall said Thursday there isn’t anything his department can do as long as the goal is anchored in the ground and not obstructing the right of way.

Neighbors then contacted Hill’s office. Hill personally came out to the neighborhood and asked Fisher to take down his goal. Fisher refused. Hill responded by placing patrol cars in the cul-de-sac, Triplett said.

“We’re very thankful to Sheriff Hill for addressing it,” Triplett said. “While the sheriff’s cars were out there, the neighborhood was peaceful and quiet and I didn’t have to pick up any trash. It stopped a lot of the traffic.”

According to the county ordinance basketball goals must be attached to the home or erected adjacent to and abutting the driveway but “not within the right-of-way of a public street or sidewalk.” Fisher’s goal is anchored in his front yard, with play focused mostly in the driveway.

On Wednesday, about a half dozen teenagers played basketball in Fisher’s driveway with some of the activity spilling into the street. No sheriff’s patrol cars were in the neighborhood. Neighbors said the patrol cars haven’t been in the neighborhood in about a week.

When asked why Fisher didn’t take down the goal as a neighborly gesture, Claxton responded: “There’s basketball goals throughout (the community). They were just picking on him. Nobody can tell a property owner to take down the goal unless there’s a violation of some ordinance or statute. If he took it down, what happens next? It just becomes a never-ending litany of complaints.”

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