Cobb settles lawsuit filed by inmate who was assaulted by deputy

Cobb County settled a lawsuit this week with a former inmate who was assaulted by a sheriff’s deputy at the jail.

The county paid the plaintiff, Jason Parker, $48,750 out of the county’s Casualty Liability Fund, which is funded by tax dollars.

Parker was booked into the Cobb County jail in December of 2016 on a fugitive warrant from North Carolina for failing to register as a sex offender.

According to the lawsuit, Parker was restrained with waist chains in the infirmary of the Cobb detention center when Deputy Larry Clark grabbed him by the throat and took him to the ground.

Parker said Clark “ground his thumb” into his jaw while screaming, “Do you feel this?”

An internal affairs investigation was launched after another jail staff member reported the assault. At first, Clark claimed he grabbed Parker by the shirt, but the internal affairs report states video footage showed this to be inaccurate.

The Sheriff’s Office has refused to turn over a video of the incident to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A copy was provided to the newspaper by Parker’s attorney, Mark Begnaud.

Begnaud said the existence of the video forced the county to settle, adding that his client was satisfied with the outcome.

“For him, it wasn’t as much about the money as it was vindicating his rights,” He said.

Begnaud is representing another former inmate in a separate suit against Sheriff Neil Warren and command staff. That case is currently with the appeals court after a lower court rejected the county's motion to dismiss.

Begnaud said the two cases “speak to the employment practices of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office.”

“There will always be employees who step over the line,” he said. “But what we’re seeing at the Cobb County jail is the command staff just aren’t taking action when a deputy steps over the line.”

The Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on its employment practices.

Following Parker’s settlement, the county will be representing the sheriff in about six remaining lawsuits, including Begnaud’s other client, whose hip was broken by a deputy at the jail, and a transgender woman who says she was harassed and denied access to prescribed medication by jail staff.

Despite inconsistencies in Clark’s story about assaulting Parker, he was only given a verbal reprimand. But it was not the last time Clark would be disciplined over inappropriate use of force.

Clark was suspended without pay for eight hours in May 2018, and ordered to attend additional training after striking a different inmate on the head.

Afterward, Clark told a colleague at the jail, “Maybe next time I see him it will be more than a slap,” which he later claimed was a joke. He also told a deputy recruit, “That’s stuff we shouldn’t do, but sometimes in the heat of the moment things happen.”

The incident was initially missing from Clark’s internal affairs file, which was given to the AJC in response to a broad request filed under the state’s Open Records Act.

Commander Robert Quigley, who is responsible for open records in the Sheriff’s Office, said a “typo” caused “confusion” resulting in the internal affairs file given to the AJC being incomplete. He later said the case was still open, despite being more than a year old.

The file was provided in response to a follow-up request from the AJC.