Meridian Star

September 13, 2013

Man files law suit against Jackson County, sheriff

The Associated Press
Associated Press

GULPORT, Miss. — A Jackson County man has filed a federal suit against Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd and others alleging he was the victim of false arrest when he was picked up on allegations he possessed child pornography.

Court records show Ron Tuskan is seeking a total of $20 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

According to the suit, Deputy Hope Thornton and others were acting under Byrd's direction on March 8, 2011, when they went to Tuskan's workplace and told his supervisors he was under investigation for possession of child porn and would face arrest.

The deputies, the suit said, detained Tuskan when they placed him in the back of a patrol car and drove him to his home, where he voluntarily gave Thornton access to his home computer.

As a result of the actions of Byrd and his investigators, Tuskan's co-workers also learned of the "false" allegations Byrd and his deputies made against him.

The investigation abruptly ended, the suit says, after Thornton did a manual scan of Tuskan's home computer and found no evidence he had ever possessed child porn. Tuskan's computer had a wireless connection that was not protected by a password and could have been accessed by someone outside his home.

At all times, the suit said, Byrd, Thornton and others should have known "there was no evidentiary or factual basis with which to investigate, arrest, detain, or charge . Tuskan, with any criminal conduct for possession of child pornography or downloading child pornography."

The suit alleges Byrd ordered the investigation without probable cause and told investigators to go to Tuskan's work to make the arrest.

Mike Mangum, president of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors, said he was not aware of the lawsuit.

The suit is among at least three filed against Jackson County, Byrd, sheriff's investigators and the county insurance carrier by people who were arrested or accused of wrongdoing, but never faced any formal charges.