Former Ga. CO wins lawsuit against state prison system

A Lowndes County jury ruled Tuesday in favor of a former Valdosta State Prison employee who accused the state prison system of retaliating against him for whistleblowing


By Terry Richards
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA, Ga. — A Lowndes County jury ruled Tuesday in favor of a former Valdosta State Prison employee who accused the state prison system of retaliating against him for whistleblowing, according to court documents.

Sherman Maine, a captain at the prison, objected to orders from his superiors to provide cell phones to an inmate being used as an undercover informant in late 2010 because of safety concerns for the inmate, according to a statement from Trent L. Coggins, Maine's attorney.

Providing a cell phone to an inmate is considered illegal without authorization from a warden and is only allowed if the plan is put in writing, Coggins said. When Maine asked for the plan to be put in writing, he was reprimanded, the statement said.

The inmate was stabbed Jan. 4, 2011, after other inmates found out he was an informant, Coggins said. The inmate was taken to South Georgia Medical Center, treated, then transferred to another prison, he said.

Maine was placed on administrative leave after he threatened to disclose the operation; after he wrote a letter detailing the operation to Brian Owens, then the commissioner for the Georgia Department of Corrections, he was fired Aug. 23, 2014, according to the statement.

Maine sued the department in August 2015, claiming he was fired tor objecting to and disclosing a violation of a Georgia law, Coggins said.

Tuesday, a Lowndes County Superior Court jury found that the state corrections department "retaliated against Plaintiff Sherman Maine for his engaging in activity protected by the Georgia Whistleblower Act when it terminated his employment," according to the judgment document.

"We are obviously very pleased with the jury's verdict," Coggins said. "This verdict confirms that my client did the right thing but sacrificed his career to do it."

The case now proceeds to the damages phase, the judgment document said.

The Georgia Department of Corrections did not responded to a request for comment.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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