Jury clears former Richland deputy of excessive force charge in Taser incident

jmonk@thestate.comAugust 28, 2013 

Charles Green in 2008

THE STATE — File photo

— A federal jury in a civil case has found that a former Richland County deputy did not violate the rights of a convicted drug dealer whom the deputy repeatedly blasted with a Taser in a widely publicized 2008 case.

After two hours of deliberation Tuesday evening, the jury found then-Deputy Tom Hodges did not use excessive force in subduing Charles Green, whom the deputy said was resisting arrest and whose mouth was stuffed with crack cocaine.

Hodges is now an investigator with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, but he was never suspended from his Richland position as a result of the Taser incident.

“The facts were clear from the start that he had acted appropriately,” Richland County Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Cowan said Wednesday.

Green, 49, a state inmate at Turbeville Correctional Institution serving a nine-year sentence for drug trafficking, was representing himself in a “pro se” civil suit he brought against Hodges, Sheriff Leon Lott and the sheriff’s department following his arrest. In pretrial action, Lott and his department were dropped as defendants from the suit.

The verdict was announced at the Matthew Perry federal courthouse after Judge Joe Anderson heard the case. Green was assisted in his defense by court-appointed lawyer Robert Butcher of Camden.

Green, who had pleaded guilty in state court to the drug charges in 2008, filed suit in federal court in 2010, alleging Hodges had deprived him of his constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment to the Constitution by using excessive force when arresting him.

After he was Tasered, Green spent 4½ months in a coma at Palmetto Health Richland hospital. Green contended the multiple Taser shocks had caused him to be hospitalized for two months for kidney failure, seizures, breathing problems and severe muscle weakness.

The incident began in January 2008, when deputies investigating reports of drugs and guns at a Northwest Richland house found Green inside a vehicle.

When confronted, Green shoved the deputies and fled. When deputies caught up with him, they shot him with a Taser to get him to surrender a large amount of cocaine he had in his mouth, Lott has said.

Lott, who was not available Wednesday, has repeatedly said that Green’s allegations were just an attempt “to take the focus off of him selling poison in our community and falsely accusing a deputy of doing his job.”

In fact, Lott said, Hodges saved Green’s life by shocking him into spitting out the crack cocaine. “The amount of crack cocaine Green was attempting to swallow would have likely killed him.”

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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