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The Law Office Files Suit on Behalf of Wrongfully Arrested Public Defender

New Orleans Times Picayune

Public defender sues Sheriff’s Office over 2009 arrest in court

Published: Thursday, November 11, 2010, 2:56 PM Updated: Thursday, November 11, 2010, 3:43 PM
Gwen Filosa, The Times-Picayune Gwen Filosa, The Times-Picayune

An Orleans Parish public defender has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office, claiming that deputies roughed him up and slapped “false and malicious” charges on him last winter as he was fighting for the release of a wrongly arrested man.

Stuart Weg filed the lawsuit on his own at U.S. District Court, paying the $350 filing fee and retaining attorneys Stephen Haedicke and Gary Bizal.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman and two deputies were served by the federal court on Nov. 8. Their written responses to the suit are due by Nov. 29.

Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton said that he isn’t taking a position on Weg’s lawsuit. But Bunton said judges at the Tulane Avenue courthouse play fast and loose when it comes to ordering the arrest of lawyers, on both the defense and prosecution sides, during heated court hearings.

Weg’s lawsuit, filed Nov. 4, stems from his arrest in Judge Ben Willard’s Section C on Dec. 4, 2009, when the public defender said he couldn’t believe Willard would not order the release of a man wrongly arrested because his name was similar to the suspect.

The man, Tyrone L. Claiborne, had been in jail for 10 days when Weg demanded his release.

“Go find Tyrone,” Willard ordered Weg, according to a transcript of the hearing included in Weg’s lawsuit.

Weg was booked by deputies with battery, criminal trespass and resisting arrest. The charges were dismissed in March.

After the incident, Bunton sent a letter to the state judiciary commission reporting that Weg was the second public defender physically removed from Willard’s courtroom in 2009.

In the Municipal Court gist, a deputy wrote that Weg “turn(ed) around and struck” the deputy and refused to leave.

Weg was taken to the ground during the incident, the suit says, and a deputy identified only as S. Livingston “positioned himself on Weg’s back and placed Weg in a chokehold around his neck.”

Another deputy, called E. Gray in the suit, “then hit and kicked Weg about his head and body as he lay on the court’s anteroom floor, causing him to suffer bruised ribs and other injuries.”

The dust-up took place over Willard’s resistance to release a man after prosecutors determined he was wrongly arrested.

The man, Tyrone Claiborne, had been mistakenly arrested on a warrant meant for a man with the same birthday named Tyrane Claborne. The wanted man had failed to pay his fines and fees while in the Section C drug court after pleading guilty to attempted heroin possession with the intent to distribute.

Another judge had handled the drug plea before Willard took over the section.

According to Weg, Willard asked whether the two men were related. “Upon discovering that the two are brothers, the judge declared that the matter was a ‘family affair’ and that he intended to continue holding Tyrone L. Claiborne until he… could cause his brother to appear before the court,” the lawsuit says.

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