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Boarding Sex Offender Wasn’t the Sheriff’s Idea

VALDOSTA, Ga. (CN) - A Georgia sheriff is not liable for the acts of deputies who placed a registered sex offender in a boarding home located close to a school, church and day care, a federal judge ruled.

Timothy Winters claimed that sheriff's deputies for Lowndes County, Ga., forced him to let a registered sex offender live in his boarding home, despite the fact that the property was close to a school, church, park and day care facility. He claimed the sheriff's office failed to remove the boarder at his request.

The presence of the sex offender damaged his business and caused him emotional distress, Winters claimed in a complaint against the city of Valdosta and several officials, including Sheriff Chris Prine. Winters' complaint sought to hold Prine liable, in his official capacity, for the deputies' actions.

U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson ruled that Prine was not responsible for the acts of his subordinates since he had not personally participated in the alleged unconstitutional conduct.

The court found that Winters failed to establish a causal connection between the sheriff's policies and the deputies' alleged misconduct. Though Winters alleged that Prine's custom or policy resulted in the violation of his constitutional rights, he could not point to a specific policy or custom, Lawson found.

Prine had also moved to dismiss the complaint on 11th Amendment immunity and improper-service grounds. The court declined to address these arguments, finding that Winters' failure to state a claim warranted dismissal of the complaint against Prine.

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