CLINTON—With no discussion Monday, the Anderson County Commission denied a payment request from a local attorney who had allegedly demanded money before filing a lawsuit over an incident last fall where he was detained while taking pictures near Clinton Middle School.
Clinton attorney Phil Harber said he was photographing school buses that were parked on Marshall Street in Clinton on Oct. 10 when he was detained. The buses allegedly block the route to his home, and he was reportedly planning to use the pictures in a lawsuit against the city, Anderson County Sheriff’s Department Deputy William S. Lucas said in an incident report.
In a draft lawsuit written with the help of attorneys Herbert S. Moncier and David S. Wigler, Harber alleged false arrest and assault and battery by Lucas. He threatened to sue for up to $150,000 in compensatory damages and another $150,000 in punitive damages.
Anderson County Law Director Jay Yeager told commissioners on Monday that an insurance company had already denied Harber’s claim, finding no liability on the part of the Sheriff’s Department.
But Yeager said Wigler had asked him to have the Anderson County Commission consider a $15,000 payment before a lawsuit was filed.
In the draft lawsuit, Harber said he was lawfully parked on public property in his vehicle while taking pictures of school buses that he thought were unlawfully and unnecessarily blocking Marshall Street.
After Lucas arrived, the deputy yelled at Harber, saying he was photographing children and that was illegal, the draft lawsuit said. Harber also alleged that Lucas told him he was under arrest, handcuffed him, and pushed and shoved him against his vehicle. He said there was no probable cause for his arrest.
As a result, Harber said, he suffered emotional distress, embarrassment, and humiliation.
In his report, Lucas said he had responded to a call from a Clinton Middle School administrator who was concerned that Harber was taking taking pictures of schoolchildren as they left the building. Harber would not cooperate with the administrator and was reportedly extremely belligerent and threatened to sue, the report said.
Lucas, who is also a school resource officer, said Harber appeared very agitated when he approached, and the attorney started patting his coat and tried to exit his car. Harber allegedly told Lucas he was not on school property and that he could take whatever photographs he wanted, whenever he wanted.
Lucas said Harber became even more agitated as the interview continued, and he gripped his steering wheel.
“He started cursing loudly and stated many times that he was going to sue me, (the school administrator), the city, the school, the school board, and anybody else involved,” Lucas said. “He then started patting at his jacket again and appeared to be feeling under and in between his front seat. Not knowing what Harber’s intentions were, and (given) his extremely excited state, I asked dispatch to send me another unit, and I had Harber exit the vehicle.”
Lucas said Harber told him: “You don’t know who I am. You better check my ID a little closer.”
That’s correct, Lucas responded, according to the report. “I did not know who he was, and that was why he was being detained,” Lucas said.
Lucas said Harber was temporarily detained for disorderly conduct or “otherwise lewd behavior” toward the school administrator and himself.
Additional law enforcement personnel arrived and so did Harber’s attorney David Stuart. Lucas said Stuart was able to calm down Harber to some degree. The handcuffs were removed, and no further action was taken, Lucas said.