Jury finds in favor of former investigator who sued sheriff

by Tonya Brown
Posted: 12.19.2012 at 3:08 PM
Updated: 12.19.2012 at 7:15 PM

A jury has found Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone committed slander against his former investigator Phil Hanna, according to Hanna’s attorney Patrick McLaughlin.

Hanna filed a civil suit against Boone in 2010 saying he used his power to stop Hanna from a getting a job as a constable with the Florence County Magistrate Office.

McLaughlin said the jury awarded Hanna $125,068 in actual damages.

Jurors decided in favor of Boone on the accusation of tortuous interference.

The jury deliberated for nearly seven hours before reaching a decision.

Hanna worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 18 years until he was fired in 2008.

Florence County Sheriff’s Office Captain Michael Nunn issued a statement on behalf of Sheriff Boone.

Nunn said, “We greatly respect the role of the jury in our system of civil justice and the work of this jury in particular. Naturally, we’re disappointed in the decision and the judge has allowed us to make post trial motions in the coming days.”

“We continue to believe that Sheriff Boone was in his rights as Sheriff to comment on his views about possible interagency conflicts. And we believe Judge Cooper’s testimony that Sheriff Boone’s call did not play a part in his decision not to hire Mr. Hanna. Beyond that, we don’t have any further comment at this time.”

Hanna’s attorney, Patrick McLaughlin, said during closing arguments Hanna was a leading candidate for the job but didn’t get it after Boone made a call to the Chief Magistrate Eugene Cooper.

“Phil Hanna didn’t get the job, and you in the interim, Kenney Boone, called Judge Cooper and let him know it wasn’t a good idea to hire Phil Hanna and that hiring Phil Hanna would create conflict, ” said McLaughlin.

Hanna believes he was more than qualified for the job.

“This was a personal, political grudge,” McLaughlin said.

Boone is being represented by Michael Battle of Conway.

Battle told jurors during his closing arguments that Boone had nothing to do with Hanna not getting the job. He read a quote from an affidavit from the Chief Magistrate Cooper.

“I made the final decision not to appoint Mr. Hanna as constable. Sheriff Boone’s communication with me did not affect my decision,” said Battle.

He went on to tell jurors Judge Cooper didn’t give Hanna the job because he was over-qualified.

Battle argued this lawsuit is Hanna’s revenge for being fired from the Sheriff’s Office.

“He has sued not the Florence County Sheriff’s Office,” Battle said. “He has sued Sheriff Boone individually and in his personal capacity. He wants you to reach into his wallet, into his house and get his money. He doesn’t want Florence County’s money. He wants his money.”

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