A Bartow County lesbian is suing the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department and others after she alleges her constitutional rights were violated when she was taken to a private residence for ex-gay conversion therapy rather than to a court-mandated psychiatric hospital for her drug abuse.
The lawsuit, filed May 13 in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Georgia by Amanda Booker, names as defendants Bartow County, Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown, Sheriff Clark Milsap and sheriff department employees Mark Mayton, Nathan Gibbs, Pam Ploof and Amanda Pedifer. Individuals Gary Allen Covington, Chris McDowell and Donna Dupree McDowell are also named as defendants.
Sheriff Milsap told the GA Voice he had not seen the lawsuit and laughed at the allegations that were in it.
“I haven’t been served. But, no ma’am, that is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Milsap said, chuckling before adding he had no comment.
County Commissioner Clarence Brown also declined comment on the suit because he said he had not seen it. Bartow County attorney Boyd Petit said his office received a notice in November of a possible lawsuit being filed, but that he had not seen a copy of the suit and also could not comment.
Attorney Anthony Perrotta, who represents Booker, said what the Sheriff’s Department and county condoned in its treatment of Booker was “egregious.”
“Any violation of a court order is egregious, and especially by the Sheriff’s Department — this is beyond the pale,” he said.
Perrotta added that Booker has been incarcerated in South Georgia at Pulaski State Prison since October after the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department arrested her and charged her for, among other things, damage to a police vehicle.
Perrotta said he learned of the case from Booker’s ex-girlfriend.
“She’s not doing well. She’s not getting the care she needs for her drug addiction. She’s hurting,” he said. “My first priority is to get her out of prison.”
Lawsuit: ‘Normal to punish homosexuals’
The lawsuit alleges throughout that, “At all times relevant to this action, it was normal procedure, practice and custom of defendants Bartow County, Brown, and Milsap to punish homosexuals and persons holding different religious beliefs.”
The lawsuit further states that it was also the normal procedure for Bartow County officials named in the suit to “harass homosexuals taken into custody, to mandate that homosexuals taken into custody refrain from living as homosexuals, and to forbid them from maintaining any homosexual relationships.”
Booker alleges in the suit that after her family called the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department in April 2010 to have her committed to a psychiatric hospital due to her drug addiction, the deputies ignored a judge’s order to take her to Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome, Ga.
According to the lawsuit, Deputy Pam Ploof picked up Booker on April 22 to transport her to the hospital. However, en route to the hospital Booker began having seizures. According to the suit, an ambulance was dispatched and Booker was taken to Cartersville Medical Center.
At the Cartersville hospital while Booker was being treated were Bartow Sheriff’s Department Lt. Mark Mayton, commander of the Bartow County Sheriff’s Drug Task Force, and deputies Ploof and Nathan Gibbs, the suit states. Also at the hospital was Booker’s probation officer, Tracy Jacobs, to administer a drug test, the suit further states.
While in the Cartersville hospital, Lt. Mayton “began harassing Ms. Booker, making numerous threats concerning her lesbian relationship with her partner,” according to the suit.
“Lt. Mayton then forbade Ms. Booker from having a lesbian relationship and ordered Ms. Booker not to contact her partner,” the suit alleges.
Evangelists asked to ‘convert’ plantiff?
Cartersville Medical Center released Booker the evening of April 22, 2010, and, according to the lawsuit, Lt. Mayton put Booker into Ploof’s squad car and Ploof drove her to a nearby shopping center.
Lt. Mayton followed Ploof to the shopping center, transferred Booker into his personal vehicle and then drove Booker to the home of his friend, Gary Allen Covington, and asked Covington to watch Booker. According to the lawsuit, Covington was paid $200 in county funds to do so. And, according to the lawsuit, Booker remained at Covington’s home up to a week.
Lt. Mayton then returned and, according to the lawsuit, transported Booker to the private residence of Chris and Donna McDowell, two self-described “evangelists.” The couple was paid $600 of county funds “to attempt to convert Ms. Booker from being a lesbian,” the suit alleges.
After several days, Booker attempted to escape from the McDowell’s home and then went to her mother’s home, where she had been staying, to get some personal items. Lt. Mayton went to the home on May 18, 2010, and attempted to arrest her without a warrant, according to the suit. Booker resisted and Lt. Mayton slammed her against a patrol car and “lifted up Ms. Booker’s shirt to expose her bare breasts.”
Perrotta said Booker has suffered immeasurably from the alleged false arrest and harassment and is asking for a jury to award her an amount to be determined.