Jury awards man $100,000 in case against Talladega
by CHRIS NORWOOD
TALLADEGA — A Talladega County jury of nine women and three men have awarded $100,000 to a Talladega man who claimed he was wrongfully assaulted and imprisoned by the Talladega Police Department.

According to testimony, Shermon Scales was working as a cook at Kentucky Fried Chicken on the morning of April 19, 2009. While he was at work, James Pointer fled from Officer Alan Wheeles during a traffic stop, starting a chase. Pointer eventually bailed out of his vehicle while it was still moving and jumped into the ditch between the old Food World shopping center and KFC. According to testimony from law enforcement, Pointer fell on his hands, and refused to show them to officers. Wheeles hit him twice in the thigh with his baton to make him comply.

At this point, Scales and the other KFC employees had come out to see what the commotion was. In his own testimony, Scales said he saw seven or eight officers in the ditch, at least two of whom were beating on Pointer while he was handcuffed. Scales also testified that he saw Pointer, who he did not know, being pepper sprayed.

Pointer himself never complained of police brutality, according to the testimony.

Scales said he took four to six photographs of the beating with the camera on his cell phone, and when Pointer was being led to a patrol car, he began yelling to him, “I got your back” and “they’re doing you wrong.”

Wheeles asked to see the photos, and Scales refused. He also refused to give his last name, and was arrested for obstruction of government operations. In the complaint accompanying the arrest, Wheeles wrote that Scales was arrested for not showing the pictures, although both sides conceded that he did not have to.

After he was arrested, Police Lt. Alan Kelley said he saw four to six photos on the phone, which was then given to the officer transporting Scales to the jail. The phone was returned to him when he was released, about an hour and 40 minutes later.

He was tried in Talladega Municipal Court in June and was acquitted.

Scales testified that all but two of the pictures had been deleted. Police Chief Alan Watson visited Scales in person at his job, and said he was shown two pictures, which were different from the ones still on the phone.

Scales consistently refused to let the phone be examined by the state Department of Forensic Sciences to determine when the photos had been deleted and what they had depicted beforehand. He said attorney Steve Adcock had advised him not to turn over the phone because the state could not guarantee the integrity of the phone after examining it. The phone has been in Adcock’s office for the past three years.

During the time between his arrest and his trial, Scales said he had difficulty sleeping and suffered deep embarrassment and humiliation after being handcuffed in front of his co-workers and most of his family. He also claimed that having to state he had been arrested may have cost him some jobs because he had it listed on his application.

In fact, Scales had been arrested once before, for rent fraud. He was convicted in municipal court but appealed to circuit court, where he was acquitted. He said this arrest did not count because he had not been handcuffed or gone to jail.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com.

© 2012