• Vernon Jones Loses Discrimination Case In Split Verdict

    ATLANTA - Channel 2's Richard Belcher reports a jury has reached a split verdict in a racial discrimination trial against DeKalb county, former CEO Vernon Jones and three other people.

    The jury ordered DeKalb County and the three defendants to pay damages totaling $185,000 to two of the four plaintiffs in the case. Michael Bryant was awarded $105,000 and John Drake was ordered $80,000. The other two plaintiffs will receive nothing.

    DeKalb County was ordered to pay $74,000. Vernon Jones, former DeKalb CEO, was ordered to pay $27,750. Marilyn Drew, former parks director, was ordered to pay $55,500. Richard Stogner, top aide to Vernon Jones, was ordered to pay $27,750. Belcher is working to pin down which plaintiffs receive the payments.

    READ: Vernon Jones's Official Statement

    Channel 2 spoke with one of the jurors after the verdict and he said, "we voted based on the evidence. It was was good evidence but it wasn't overwhelming, in terms of the yes/no. But you'll notice the rewards were not very big."

    During the jury deliberations, Federal Judge William Duffey told Belcher he has asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate an out-of-court telephone call between a senior DeKalb County official and a defendant in the trial.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs, four former county employees, will only say the judge told them he "was informed" of the call between former DeKalb Parks Director Marilyn Drew, a defendant in the case, and Kelvin Walton, DeKalb's current Purchasing Director.

    Who told the judge about the call isn't clear, and plaintiffs' attorney Mike Bowers said he and other lawyers have been ordered not to discuss it.

    However, Judge Duffey said he referred it for investigation because the call may have violated his order that witnesses in the discrimination trial not discuss their testimony outside the courtroom.

    In a sworn deposition given this past Monday, in the middle of the trial, Drew said she talked to Walton by phone March 22, the day the trial started, but did not discuss any testimony.

    But in his deposition Monday, Walton contradicted Drew, saying she told him his name had come up in the testimony of John Drake, one of the plaintiffs who didn't appear until March 25.

    Plaintiffs' attorney Chris Anulewicz called that and other actions by the county "shameful" yesterday, and Judge Duffey agreed with that characterization. He later said he "will likely grant the plaintiffs a new trial" if the jury finds for DeKalb County and Ms. Drew.

    Also contained in Drew's 18-page deposition obtained by Channel 2 is an explosive accusation that her co-defendant and former boss - former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones - threatened her "a lot."

    Q - Have you ever had any conversations with him in the office?

    Drew - Yes.

    Q - And were they of a threatening nature?

    Drew - Yes.

    Q - Okay. And on how many occasions?

    Drew - I don't know; a lot.

    Q - Were they of a physically threatening nature from your perspective?

    Drew - He was usually on the telephone. Most of them were by phone.

    Q - Any in person?

    Drew - Yes.

    Q - Any of those that you perceived to be physically threatening?

    Drew - Not physically threatening at that time, no.

    Drew did not provide any details about the alleged threats, and she disputed the lawyer's pointed questions about another alleged incident.

    Q - ... It's true, is it not, that Mr. Jones approached you and your husband at a parking lot of a restaurant...

    Drew - No, sir.

    Q - ... And confronted you recently?

    Drew - No, sir.

    Q - That did not happen?

    Drew - I have not seen Mr. Jones at a restaurant.

    The deposition did not reveal why the plaintiffs' attorneys were prompted to inquire about alleged confrontations between the two co-defendants in the middle of the trial.

    Channel 2 spoke with Vernon Jones' attorney late Thursday about the allegations. Brent Wilson told Belcher, "He [Jones] says if he made any threats to her, it was about the barrels [of contaminants] in Wade Walker Park, and if those weren't removed heads would roll."

    Drew was Director of Parks and Recreation for DeKalb County when the contaminants were discovered in October 2002. She was fired by Vernon Jones' successor, Burrell Ellis, last July.

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