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The jury agrees with the Miami-Dade woman’s Baker Act abuse claim and awards over $500,000 in damages

Homestead, Fla. – A federal jury awarded a Miami-Dade County woman $520,000 in physical and psychological damages after she claimed she was wrongly eligible for a psychological evaluation under the Baker Act, a state law allowing emergency mental health services , been institutionalized.

The incident stemmed from a year-long dispute between residents of Glades Middle School in the Sunset neighborhood of south Miami-Dade and patrons of the Glades Baseball and Softball League, who used the school’s fields near Kendall.

In 2019, after filing a lawsuit, Susan Khoury told Local 10 News that she documented the parking issue. She took photos and videos. Some drivers involved in the youth baseball league blocked driveways and lawns. Some left rubbish behind.

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Khoury, a former federal law enforcement officer, also captured heated confrontations on video. In 2015, during one of those altercations, the mother of a youth baseball player, not wanting Khoury to film her, called the police. Officer Gregory Williams answered.

“Officer Williams was called to the scene by a concerned neighbor after reports said Ms Khoury acted irrationally and confrontationally,” attorney Blake Sando, representing Williams, said in a statement.

Khoury’s video shows Williams walking up to her and shouting, “Why are you filming?”

Khoury said Williams, a member of the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department, decided to act quickly.

“Instead of speaking to me, he tried to grab my phone, then grabbed my arm and swung it behind me, dislocating my elbow.”

The video shows Williams, along with an off-duty Homestead officer who was attending the baseball game, taking Khoury to the ground. She said she was never given a reason for the detention.

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The video was part of the evidence in a federal lawsuit against Williams. A federal jury rejected Williams’ claim for qualified immunity, which protects officials from lawsuits.

“I think officials should understand that people have rights,” Khoury said.

State law allows doctors, mental health professionals, judges and law enforcement to commit a person to a mental health treatment center for up to 72 hours if they pose a danger to others or themselves.

“Miss Khoury was no threat to anyone, she did nothing wrong. She exercised her right to public records,” said Attorney Hilton Napoleon II.

In March, a jury found that Williams had no probable cause for involuntarily committing Khoury to a mental institution, nor had any reasonable reason to believe that she would cause serious harm to herself or others.

“It was so nice to hear a panel of your peers say, ‘Yes, she was wronged,'” Khoury said.

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After her experience with the Baker Act, Khoury continued her activism to protect the quality of life in the neighborhood. In 2018 someone else called the police. Officers from the Miami-Dade Police Department responded and arrested Khoury, charging her with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Prosecutors dropped the case.

Khoury also denied these actions by the officer, and in 2021, Miami-Dade County attorneys reached a $45,000 settlement agreement with Khoury. The officers involved apologized.

Khoury and her lawyer hope the cases will help make a difference. Khoury said she wanted police officers to be held accountable for their actions so that this wouldn’t happen to anyone else.

“If you endlessly fight cases and try to pretend someone is crazy when video shows they aren’t, that’s not what our government should be doing,” Napoleon said. “That’s not what society wants.”

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Khoury said she has clearances with the federal government that she will never get back because she has it on her file.

“It stays with you for life,” Khoury said. “It’s not like an arrest where you can delete it.”

According to the Miami-Dade Schools Police, Williams remains employed with the department. The Miami-Dade School Board was not named in the lawsuit and will not be liable for any charges against Williams. Miami-Dade County public schools declined to comment on that story, citing pending litigation.

Sando said William will pursue any available post-trial relief and will appeal the verdict.

Read Sando’s statement:

Officer Williams is a distinguished US Army Veteran and a proud police officer. Every day law enforcement officers are asked to make judgment calls as part of their law enforcement services to our community. In that case, Officer Williams was called to the scene by a concerned neighbor after reports said Ms Khoury acted irrationally and in a confrontational manner. Officer Williams had no prior knowledge of Ms Khoury or any of the other witnesses he encountered on the night of the incident… In this case, Officer Williams stands by his judgment and his decision to involuntarily subject Ms Khoury to a further investigation based on the information given to him submitted that night… Officer Williams believes the sentence is excessive, particularly given that Ms Khoury’s doctors have said they have not seen or treated her for this incident for the past six years since 2015 and they have no immediate Has plans to look for additional medical care in the future. Officer Williams will pursue all available remedies following the trial and appeal of this judgment.

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https://www.local10.com/news/local/2022/05/14/jury-agrees-with-miami-dade-womans-claim-of-baker-act-misuse-awards-500k-in-damages/ The jury agrees with the Miami-Dade woman’s Baker Act abuse claim and awards over $500,000 in damages

Joel McCord

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