Former police captain’s civil rights lawsuit awaiting appeal to U.S. Fifth Circuit Court

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More than a year after former Quitman police captain Terry Bevill filed a civil rights lawsuit against former district attorney Jim Wheeler and Sheriff Tom Castloo and District Judge Jeff Fletcher, the case is awaiting an appeal to the U.S. circuit court.

The three had sought to have the case dismissed based on governmental immunity, but the judge in the federal court in East Texas granted only limited immunity, which the three appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit.

The most recent ruling prevents some discovery to proceed until the federal appeals court rules on the immunity appeal by the three defendants.

Discovery may continue for the city of Quitman, former Mayor David Dobbs and Wood County, but not for Wheeler, Castloo and Fletcher.

All the defendants have denied any wrongdoing, and the city of Quitman and Dobbs argued that Bevill was terminated for violating department policy.

The case stems from an affidavit Bevill signed in 2017 stating that former sheriff’s department employee David McGee, who faced charges of aiding an inmate to escape from the county jail and tampering with government records, could not receive a fair trial, citing the close relationship of Castloo, Wheeler and Fletcher.

After McGee was denied a change of venue, he was tried and convicted, and Fletcher immediately moved to charge Bevill with aggravated perjury.

Bevill’s suit for First Amendment free speech civil rights violations stems from his eventual dismissal from his position with the city of Quitman and the alleged role of the three county officials in that dismissal.

In his ruling on the request for immunity, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant said, “After considering Plaintiff’s pleadings, the Court is satisfied that Plaintiff has carried his burden of pleading both the existence of a conspiracy involving state action and the deprivation of his civil rights in furtherance of that conspiracy.”

He also stated, “The Court is satisfied that Judge Fletcher, DA Wheeler, and Sheriff Castloo had ‘fair warning’ that allegedly using their respective government positions to violate Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights would be objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law at the time.”

Mazzant also denied a claim of immunity for Wood County, saying “that it had policies or customs that allowed for unconstitutional harassment, oppression, and retaliation against private citizens like Plaintiff.”

The perjury charge against Bevill was rejected by the Wood County Grand Jury.