Birmingham, AL–In the story below, Alabama family law attorney Stewart Springer got some justice for a former legislator who was arrested on false DV charges shortly before an election in which he lost his seat.
Former Alabama state Rep. Eric Major (pictured), the target of the accusations, called it “dirty politics.” He explains:
“They tried to ruin my political career and put a stain on my good name…I’ve said from the very beginning that it was not right how I was treated. I wanted to make sure this does not happen to anyone else.”
From Major wins $500,000 in lawsuit (Birmingham News, 11/10/07):
Former state Rep. Eric Major won a $500,000 civil jury award Friday against the city of Birmingham stemming from his 2004 arrest and acquittal on charges that he physically attacked his ex-fiancée.
Friday’s verdict was the second in Major’s favor in the case. In March 2006, a Jefferson County District Court jury found him not guilty of a misdemeanor criminal charge of domestic violence.
“I’ve said from the very beginning that it was not right how I was treated,” Major said Friday. “I wanted to make sure this does not happen to anyone else.”
Major also repeated his claim that his arrest was part of a political vendetta against him by his accuser-a former chief to staff to County Commissioner Shelia Smoot-and Birmingham and county officials. The criminal trial took place a week before he qualified to seek re-election for the District 55 seat, which he lost in a primary runoff.
“It was dirty politics,” he said Friday. “They tried to ruin my political career and put a stain on my good name. This puts it to rest.”
Major was arrested after his former fiancée, Shamanda Joseph, told a Birmingham police officer that Major had hit and choked her after the Prince concert on April 29, 2004. After he was acquitted on the criminal charge, Major filed a civil lawsuit against Joseph, arresting officer Al Anger and the city of Birmingham.
In a trial this week in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Tom King Jr., the jury ruled in Anger’s favor. Joseph was dismissed as a defendant at the beginning of the trial.
The jury, however, agreed with Major’s claim that his civil rights had been violated.
Alabama law normally sets a $100,000 cap on compensatory damages against municipalities. But a 1992 federal case from Alabama said the cap does not apply in state suits brought under the federal civil rights law Major cited in his lawsuit.
“We’ll make the appropriate post-trial motions and, if necessary, any appeals,” said Tom Bentley, the Birmingham assistant city attorney who tried the case.
“Justice, total justice,” Stewart Springer, Major’s lawyer said of the civil verdict. “Eric was abused. He was treated like a common criminal, like a dog. They called him names. Domestic violence laws and the way people are treated in the city of Birmingham need to be changed.”
Major said domestic violence is an awful crime.
“I’m against domestic violence,” he said. “But it should be more than someone making an allegation. I did nothing wrong.”