Jury Finds St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Deputy Inflicted Emotional Distress Upon a Teenager While Filming Mother’s Arrest

NEW ORLEANS — A jury composed of citizens of the greater New Orleans area has found that a St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Mr. De’Shaun Johnson, son of Ms. Teliah Perkins, as he filmed the violent arrest of his mother.

On May 5, 2020, Ms. Perkins was violently arrested by officers Kyle Hart and Ryan Moring for a minor traffic violation she did not commit, while her son and nephew watched. Deputies Hart and Moring tackled Ms. Perkins to the ground and held their body weight on her as she told officers, “you’re choking me!”

As Mr. Johnson started to record the incident on his phone, Deputy Moring stepped in front of him to prevent him from capturing the incident. Moring shoved Mr. Johnson in the chest and aimed his Taser directly at him. When Mr. Johnson objected, saying, “You can’t Tase a child,” Deputy Moring responded: “Watch me.”

Since the incident, Mr. Johnson was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and received treatment as a result.

During the trial, the jury heard testimony from Mr. Johnson himself, as well as Ms. Perkins, Deputy Moring, and experts on law enforcement training and standards. After nearly four hours of deliberation, the jury returned its verdict, concluding that Deputy Moring intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Mr. Johnson during the incident. 

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office was ordered to pay Mr. Johnson $185,000 for the emotional distress he endured.

“We are thrilled to see justice served for De’Shaun,” said Nora Ahmed, ACLU of Louisiana legal director. “What happened to Ms. Perkins and her son was inexcusable, and as we face imminent threats to our rights to observe police in Louisiana, it is heartening that a jury of this officer’s peers chose to hold him accountable for his misconduct. As we face imminent threats to our rights to record police in Louisiana, the Justice Lab—and our pro bono partners and colleagues like the Reid Collins & Tsai LLP team with whom we prosecuted this case—will continue to fight for brave individuals like Ms. Perkins and her son and fight for a world of justice and safety for all people.”

“We are proud to represent De’Shaun and to have worked with the ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab on this important matter,” said Keith Cohan, Reid Collins & Tsai LLP partner. “There should be accountability for law enforcement officers who seek to intimidate those observing them in the line of duty. With this victory, that’s exactly what happened today.”

Perkins v. Hart marks the first jury trial-to-verdict victory for the ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab, which seeks to challenge racially discriminatory policing practices and combat police violence against people of color through intensive litigation. The Justice Lab program has obtained numerous legal victories for victims of racist policing in Louisiana, and has secured over half a million dollars in awards for those victims.

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