They Serve, Protect & Do Odd Things
ANAHUAC, Texas (CN) - A Texas sheriff's deputy was demoted for trying to protect an elderly woman from two men she said had kidnapped and abused her, the deputy claims in court.
Paul Schaffer sued Chambers County in Chambers County Court. The county is the only defendant.
Schaffer was hired on Jan. 1 to work security at the courthouse for the Chambers County Sheriff's Department, he says in the lawsuit.
He says he was making his rounds on Sept. 11 when Gloria Turner, a juvenile probation department worker, told him her phone was missing, and she feared it had been stolen.
"Around the same time, a woman named Barbara Schell approached plaintiff as well. Earlier in the day, Ms. Schell, from Lafayette, Louisiana, had appeared in court for a 'driving while intoxicated' charge," the complaint states.
"She had been dropped off at the courthouse by two men who had not come back to get her. After Ms. Schell described the men, someone present indicated that the men had been seen in the area where Ms. Turner's phone was last seen."
Schaffer says he got the number of one of the men, called and "informed the two men that the mobile phone did not belong to them (maybe having been picked up by accident), and told them to return to the courthouse and pick up Ms. Schell to take her back to Lafayette." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Schaffer says he did not know Schell was terrified of the men.
"After the men confirmed they would return to the courthouse, Ms. Schell began to plead with plaintiff not to let them take her because she feared for her life," the complaint states. "She explained to plaintiff that the two men, Travis Hulin and Troy Landary, had previously come to her home and kidnapped her.
"She went on to explain that they had disconnected her home telephone and taken her mobile phone to prevent her from calling anyone for aid - and that they had taken possession of her credit and debit cards without permission to take money and purchase items for themselves. She further said that they had been abusive to her and that she feared for her life if she left with them."
Alarmed, Schaffer says, he reported the story to sheriff's Capt. Griffey when Griffey arrived at the courthouse.
Griffey's first name is not mentioned in the lawsuit.
"Captain Griffey began to ask plaintiff (and not Schell) where the alleged offenses had occurred," the complaint states. "Plaintiff told him they likely occurred at Ms. Schell's home in Lafayette, where she claimed they were keeping her captive. Captain Griffey told plaintiff that it was not plaintiff's or Chambers County's concern and they would let Lafayette law enforcement handle the issue after Ms. Schell made it home." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Schaffer says Hulin and Landary then arrived at the courthouse and Griffey went out to meet them.
"After a while, Captain Griffey came back inside the courthouse and showed plaintiff the recovered mobile phone. Plaintiff also saw that Hulin had been arrested, assuming it was due to the theft of the cell phone and as a suspect in Ms. Schell's abuse claims," the complaint states.
Schaffer says as he was getting ready to go home he saw Griffey outside talking to Landary.
"Plaintiff went outside to see if Landary was being arrested as well, and overheard Griffey tell Landary to take Schell back to Lafayette," Schaffer says.
Schaffer claims that the next morning as he sat at his desk Hulin was waiting outside a courtroom for his hearing. Hulin had not been arrested for the cell phone theft or abuse, but on a warrant out of Louisiana, and he was being extradited.
"Hulin further confessed to plaintiff that he did not really know Landary and that Landary was a bad person because he mistreated Schell and was potentially involved in a previous murder," Schaffer says in the complaint.
Alarmed and shocked that Griffey had let Landary go with Schell, Schaffer says, he reported Griffey to Judge Jimmy Silvia.
It wasn't long before Griffey caught wind of Schaffer's report to Silva.
"Later that afternoon, Captain Griffey carne to the courthouse in an agitated mood and told Plaintiff that Chief Phillips wanted to talk to him," the complaint states. "In Chief Phillips' office, plaintiff was grilled about why he reported the events of the previous day to Judge Silvia. Plaintiff kept asking if he was in trouble for doing his job. Things became heated and Chief Phillips told plaintiff he was fired and to turn in his gun and duty belt, and to retrieve his personal items and go home."
Schaffer claims that as he said his goodbyes to the courthouse staff, Sheriff Brian Hawthorne showed up and told him "that he was not fired" but would be suspended with pay during investigation.
Schaffer says Phillips later demoted him to jailer "based on his actions to protect Ms. Schell." That meant Schaffer would not get a promised promotion to senior deputy and the corresponding $15,000 raise.
Schaffer says he went home after the meeting feeling ill and what he learned that night made him sicker.
He claims a jail employee told him Griffey had visited the officer who would be Schaffer's boss at the jail, Sgt. Vicky Joe Perez.
"Captain Griffey explained to Sergeant Perez that when plaintiff showed up for work the next day, she was to find a reason to write him up for any infraction - or to make up an infraction - to make sure plaintiff would be fired once and for all," the complaint states.
Schaffer says the news put him in a deep depression. His doctor referred him to a psychologist, and Schaffer went on sick leave, which is continuing.
He seeks lost wages and benefits and punitive damages for whistleblower violations.
He is represented by Michael McCormick with McCormick & Hancock.