Lawsuit Filed On Behalf Of Man Cursing On 911 Call

The Southern Center of Human Rights issued a press release saying that they have filed a lawsuit on behalf of Whitfield County resident Boyd Green against Whitfield County law enforcement after he was arrested for using foul language on a call to 911. (Note: I did star out the words for our audience since they were uncensored in the press release.):

ATLANTA – Today, lawyers from the Southern Center for Human Rights and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Boyd Green against Whitfield County law enforcement officers who jailed Green for saying the words “bulls***” and “a**hole” during a 911 call. Mr. Green, a 58-year-old, indigent, disabled veteran of the United States Marine Corps, was arrested for uttering two expletives in passing while registering a verbal complaint about a police officer over the telephone. The case, Green v. Chitwood, et al., was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

The pertinent facts are as follows:

In June 2013, Green lived in Rocky Face, Georgia, with his ailing 83-year-old mother, Ada Green. Green was his mother’s sole caretaker.

On June 20, 2013, a Dalton police officer arrested Green for driving under the influence. Green told the officer that his mother was ill and alone, and he implored the officer to have someone check on her. No one checked on Ada Green. Once incarcerated, Green again notified officials about his mother’s condition. No one checked on Ada Green despite Green’s pleas. Green was still in custody, five days later, when Ada Green was found in her home by a friend, deceased. Devastated, Green was subsequently released and placed on probation for DUI.

Nearly one year later, on June 2, 2014, Green dialed 911 and was connected to a 911 dispatcher. Green complained to the 911 dispatcher that his mother died the previous year because law enforcement officials failed to heed his requests to check on Ada Green. During the 82-second 911 phone call, Green did not raise his voice, threaten the 911 dispatcher or anyone else, or insult her in any way. He used expletives two times, in passing. First, he said, “[t]he sorry d*** a**hole knows me,” referring to the Dalton police officer who had arrested him in 2013. Later in the conversation he used the words “d*** bulls***.”

About thirty minutes later, Whitfield County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at Green’s home and arrested him. The stated reason for the arrest was a violation of O.G.C.A. § 16-11-39.2 (B)(1), a Georgia statute that purports to make it illegal to use vulgar language during a 911 call. Green spent three days in jail as a result of the “vulgar language” arrest. The charges against him were later dismissed.

“In this country, people have a right to register a verbal complaint about the police without being jailed as a consequence,” said Sarah Geraghty, Senior Attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights. “Law enforcement officers abused their authority when they arrested Mr. Green for making a complaint about a police officer over the telephone.”

In his lawsuit, Mr. Green’s seeks damages for violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights and injunctive relief to prevent authorities from enforcing the statute. The defendants are Scott Chitwood, the Sheriff of Whitfield County, and the Sheriff’s deputy who arrested Green.

I wonder how many folks get arrested under this statute for using “vulgar language” while making a call to 911. It seems like it’s a bit much to have someone arrested who may let a word fly from being under duress. Perhaps it’s one of those laws that could be reviewed by one of our lawmaker readers.

22 comments

  1. Michael Silver says:

    After reading the statute and this summary, I’d say that their client indeed violated that section of the law. 911 is for emergencies, its not a place you register a complaint about the PoPo or exercise your first amendment rights. This suit isn’t going anywhere.

    The real scandal is why this guy had to spend 3 days in jail for a misdemeanor.

    Georgia is one of only five states that doesn’t allow for citation in lieu of arrest. If Georgia law wasn’t stuck in the 1700’s, the PoPo could have written him a citation and called it a day. Instead, they had to haul him downtown.

    By not allowing for a citation in lieu of arrest, our jails end up being filled with poor people who can’t make bail while waiting for their day in court for simple misdemeanors. Its unjust.

    Someone in the General Assembly needs to push for this change.

    More information about Citation In Lieu of Arrest is here:
    http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/citation-in-lieu-of-arrest.aspx

    • Teri says:

      This is definitely where I get hung up. I completely understand why this man is aggrieved, and he’s right to file a complaint, but why through 911, which is for emergencies? It makes no sense at all, particularly since he has the wherewithal to lawyer up for this complaint. So why not lawyer up for the initial issue, which is the fact that upon his arrest for DUI, no one addressed his request that someone check on his mother, rather than calling 911?

    • gcp says:

      16-11-39.2 b4 may have been a more appropriate charge.

      As for releasing on citation for misdemeanors its often done for minor taffic offenses; red light, speeding but for some misdemeanors you must arrest otherwise the behavior will continue; dui, domestic violence, no drivers license. Also often identity can’t be verified without a fingerprint check which is usually done at a jail. Further by posting bond you have strong reason for a person to appear in court so you don’t have to chase him down later.

      As for this character he was likely incarcerated because otherwise he would have continued the calls. Also depending on the police agency policy there is often leeway allowed where an individual can be released on a citation.

      Also why is this guy referred to as a “disabled veteran”? How does his veteran status relate to his behavior? There are plenty of veterans both disabled and not disabled that don’t act like this clown.

        • gcp says:

          And if he was a nonveteran should he have been called a “nonveteran” and if he was a college grad should he be called a “college grad” or if he is a Baptist? Of course not, just as you can’t excuse his behavior or enhance his status by referring to him as a veteran.

          • xdog says:

            And if he were you, we could refer to him as enabled. Stop already. I don’t know why you’re so upset. By news accounts he’s impaired and also a former Marine. I have no way of knowing if those two facts are connected but imo they are both worthy of note in a report of his arrest.

            • gcp says:

              Well why the veteran emphasis? Should we also know his complete arrest record, if he is alcoholic or drug user, his job history, educational level?

      • John Konop says:

        In all due respect this behavior if true was outrageous. I do not care what the person is arrested for….If the police get warning about a person in danger they should at least make a phone call….If someone called the police department about a neighbor they were concerned about you think they should ignore it?

        …………..On June 20, 2013, a Dalton police officer arrested Green for driving under the influence. Green told the officer that his mother was ill and alone, and he implored the officer to have someone check on her. No one checked on Ada Green. Once incarcerated, Green again notified officials about his mother’s condition. No one checked on Ada Green despite Green’s pleas. Green was still in custody, five days later, when Ada Green was found in her home by a friend, deceased. Devastated, Green was subsequently released and placed on probation for DUI. ………

        • gcp says:

          Its two issues; he was arrested for making the phone call, the death of his mother was a year earlier.

          • John Konop says:

            You are right it is 2 issues….Yet, knowing the circumstances you would think it should of been taking into consideration…keeping the guy in jail for 3 days because he lost his cool about the behavior of the police ( who never checked on his mom via his warnings and is dead) is just flat out wrong in my book.

            • gcp says:

              He was kept in jail because he was arrested for violating the law and because he could not make his bail just like most any of us would be treated.

              And as someone already asked above, if pd was negligent for not checking on his mother a year earlier where is that lawsuit?

  2. PegM says:

    I’ve heard worse language at the poker table….the law may be correct, but it’s application seems to lack common sense.

    • gcp says:

      We all have heard worse language but you don’t use 911 for such when there may be a true emergency trying to call in.

  3. Raleigh says:

    Something about this doesn’t pass the smell test.

    Obviously he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So according to this story he lived with and was caretaker for his ailing Mother. So this guy was taken to jail for a DUI. He claims he ask the police at least twice to check on her but no one with the police did and 5 days later a friend found her dead. This Guy was finally released on probation. Now 1 year later he calls 911 to complain and used some bad language causing his arrest for violation of some code that prohibits cursing on 911.

    OK Here is my problems.

    1. Why didn’t the police check on his mother? They do that sort of thing all the time when someone has concerns about another’s wellbeing?
    2. Why didn’t the guy get the Police to call the friend? Was he not allowed to contact someone?
    3. Why call 911, 1 year later, to complain? Again obviously he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    I’m sorry but there has to be more to this story. This just doesn’t add up.

    If it had have been me the lawsuit would have been filed 1 year ago but then again I wouldn’t have gotten a DUI in the first place.

    • John Konop says:

      The guy obviously has some needs for mental health issues….it should of been treated in that manner….beyond the lawsuit issue…..

      From the above link:

      ……….He has considered suicide several times. He lives alone except for his cat, Lucky, which he suspects will die soon. He sleeps on an uncovered mattress in the living room and refuses to go in the bedroom, where his mother slept.

      He keeps a picture of Ada in a chair in the corner of the living room. It’s where she always sat. It’s also right next to where she died. As he stared at that chair last week, Green said that his mother wasn’t the first person to die in the house……

  4. Will Durant says:

    Belligerent drunks often receive less than stellar treatment from police. That being said, I’m sure he sobered up over the course of 5 days and if they still ignored his requests to check on his mother then they failed to do their job properly.

    I just find it ironic that Whitfield County would pursue something so trivial as cussing on a 911 call and yet not even arrest the ex-cop that shot and killed an unarmed Alzheimer’s patient for wandering up to the wrong door.

    • Raleigh says:

      Belligerent drunks may receive less than stellar treatment from police but that should not extend to an innocent ailing old woman. If there was a hint of someone in distress they should have checked. As I said there must be more to this story.

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