Local News

Fired Cumberland County Deputy Wins Civil Rights Case

Posted September 9, 1997

— The jury found that the deputy's freedom of speech was violated and awarded him more than $7 million dollars. Taxpayers could be liable for about a third of it, if the award survives legal challenges.

"It was a great day for me," said Scottie Worrell, fired deputy. "I'm not going to lie about that."

Worrell can't say enough about the federal jury that agreed with him in Wilmington.

Back in 1991, Worrell was a lieutenant, heading up the sheriff's special operations unit. The sheriff then, Morris Bedsole fired him, citing insubordination. Worrell said Bedsole fired him because he kept pushing for more manpower and equipment.

Worrell filed suit, on the basis of freedom of speech. The jury handed him a victory and a big award. He was awarded $281,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. But, Worrell says vindication is more important than the money.

Bedsole nor his attorney could be reached for comment, but an attorney for Cumberland County said motions will be filed, asking the judge to overturn the verdict. If that effort fails, expect to see the case end up before a federal court of appeals.

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