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Ala. woman arrested after council meeting wins damages

By The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Jurors awarded a Walker County woman $175,000 in damages related to her arrest after she spoke against the Parrish Water Board at a Town Council meeting.

The federal court jury in Birmingham on July 20 ruled in favor of Sharon Myers and against the Town of Parrish and Mayor Wilford Cagle.

The verdict included $150,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages against Cagle.

Myers' attorney, Bill Dawson, said the verdict was fair.

Tom Hale, an attorney for the town and the mayor, said there was never a dispute that Myers had the right to free speech.

"The mayor took certain steps to try to exercise his right and responsibility to maintain some control and reasonable order of any such future council meetings," Hale said.

Myers sued in March 2003, claiming she was falsely arrested and her First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly were violated after she spoke at a Sept. 23, 2002, council meeting.

The suit said there had been a controversy over the water board's handling of finances and fees. Myers spoke out against the board during the meeting.

About two days later, Cagle swore out a warrant charging her with harassment and using abusive language.

She later was jailed and paid bond, according to her suit. The suit said the charges were dismissed on Nov. 5, 2002, but Myers was banned from any more meetings.


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Speaking at public meetings

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