After indicating at the time that he was keeping his options open, former Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister has decided to exercise one of those options and file suit against Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway and two sheriff’s deputies.
The suit, filed Monday, accuses Conway and Gwinnett County sheriff’s deputies Michael “M.G.” Cummings and Vardis “Buzz” Benson of false arrest, false imprisonment and retaliatory prosecution.
The law suit is as a result of Bannister’s arrest in 2010 for supposedly driving under the influence. Bannister was stopped after leaving a Lilburn restaurant in his county issued vehicle. A patron at the restaurant called the authorities and reported that Bannister had been drinking. Although two breath tests showed no alcohol in his system, Bannister was still arrested and booked into the county jail. In addition, he was taken, shackled, to Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville for blood tests. When those tests also came back negative, Conway was forced to apologize for the incident and the charges were dropped.
The incident was the beginning of the end for Bannister who stepped down a few months later citing health issues as a result of all the stress. However, the unveiling of a grand jury investigation into former Commissioner Kevin Kennerly for alleged shady land deals revealed that Bannister was about to be indicted for perjury. Bannister’s resignation appeared to settle the issue for him, but Kennerly was indicted .
At the time, Bannister would not confirm whether or not he would sue. But now, two years later - and when Conway’s name is about to be on the ballot for reelection - Bannister has filed suit.
According to a story in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Bannister is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for extreme humiliation, embarrassment and anguish.
"Unfortunately, the sheriff thinks you can use the unbridled power of the office for your own personal and political gain," Atlanta attorney David Walbert, one of Bannister's attorneys, told the AJC. "If the Constitution doesn't provide a remedy for this then we don't have a Constitution anymore."