Teen Awarded $185,000 for Deputy’s Interference During Mother’s Arrest

Jury Sides with Filming Bystander in Louisiana Case

A federal jury has awarded $185,000 to De’Shaun Johnson, a Louisiana teenager who filmed his mother’s arrest in 2020. The lawsuit stemmed from an incident where a deputy allegedly interfered with Johnson’s recording of the arrest.

Initial Encounter and Forceful Arrest

Fourteen-year-old De’Shaun Johnson witnessed deputies from the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office arrive at his family home in 2020. Their purpose was to question his mother, Teliah Perkins, regarding allegations of riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Perkins’ attorneys have maintained that the accusation was unfounded and never pursued.

ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Teenager

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with the law firm Reid Collins & Tsai, filed a lawsuit against the deputies on Johnson’s behalf. This action was part of the ACLU’s Justice Lab project, which tackles allegations of police misconduct.

Appeals Court Limits Lawsuit Scope

While a federal appeals court largely favored the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office regarding excessive force claims, it allowed the lawsuit to proceed with the specific issue of a deputy interfering with Johnson’s recording.

Jury Finds Deputy’s Actions Caused Emotional Distress

The lawsuit focused on the actions of Deputy Ryan Moring, who allegedly obstructed Johnson’s attempt to film the arrest by stepping in front of him and threatening the use of a taser. Following a federal civil trial in New Orleans, a jury concluded that Deputy Moring’s behavior constituted “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and awarded Johnson $185,000 in damages.

First Amendment Claim Rejected

Interestingly, the jury did not find sufficient evidence to support the claim that Deputy Moring violated Johnson’s First Amendment rights by preventing him from continuing to film the arrest itself.

This verdict signifies a partial victory for the ACLU and Johnson. While the lawsuit couldn’t challenge the deputies’ use of force, it successfully argued that Deputy Moring’s actions aimed at obstructing the filming were inappropriate. The financial award highlights the importance of citizens’ right to record police interactions.