Decatur, GA—In the recent DeKalb County State Court trial, Zarinah Ali and Sheneeka Bradsher v. Stan Watson (13A47805), the two plaintiffs filed suit against DeKalb Commissioner Stan Watson for slander, false imprisonment and battery as a result of a July, 2012, incident at the Tanqueray Lounge in Decatur. Both Watson and the plaintiffs, Zarinah Ali and Sheneeka Bradsher, were at the lounge that evening.
To prove their case, plaintiffs presented the testimony of several DeKalb County police officers and lounge security guards who investigated the incident. These witnesses and the plaintiffs testified that Watson frequently resorted to profanity and repeatedly accused the two women of stealing his wallet and insisted that they be arrested. Several witnesses noted that Watson appeared visibly intoxicated.
Bradsher also testified that Watson bought her a drink and then asked her to go home with him. After she refused and walked away from him, he then accused her of the theft. During the police investigation into Watson’s claim, Bradsher was temporarily handcuffed and placed in a squad car but was eventually released with a warning. Watson later found the wallet in his car.
After plaintiffs rested their case, Watson took the stand in his own defense. On direct examination, he denied most of the allegations against him, including being intoxicated and soliciting Bradsher. He admitted buying Bradsher and Ali a drink when they were sitting across the bar from him, but said he never talked to Bradsher until she came up to him later to thank him for the drink. Watson stated that he noticed his wallet was missing shortly after that. When the police arrived, he mentioned that Bradsher had been the only patron who had spoken to him in the lounge but did not accuse Bradsher of stealing the wallet at that time.
In addition to discussing the events in the lounge, Watson also testified regarding his lengthy public service record and added that the reason he went to the bar was that he was upset because he had just returned to Atlanta after attending his sister’s funeral. Defense attorney Charles Vrono thus faced the task on cross examination of challenging the credibility of an elected official who had just suffered an emotional personal loss.
Vrono was able to take advantage of a discrepancy between Watson’s trial testimony and statements he made in an earlier deposition. After Watson testified that he went out to the car to look for his wallet during the incident, Vrono had Watson read an answer he gave at the deposition that directly contradicted the claim made at trial. Watson’s initial refusal to acknowledge the contradiction gave Vrono an opportunity to bring up the contradictory statements a second time.
Watson’s next statement gave Vrono another opportunity to attack the Commissioner’s credibility. When Watson claimed he didn’t remember some of the things that occurred that night, Vrono reminded the jury that Watson’s memory was also “fuzzy” regarding a number of other events that he was asked about in direct examination.
Watson then tried to explain his memory lapse by reminding the jury that he was in a depressed mood the night of the incident with Ali and Bradsher due to the death of his sister. Vrono tried to deflect possible jury sympathy for Watson by first having Watson confirm that he chose to change clothes and wear a DeKalb County shirt with his name on it when he went to the bar. Vrono was then able to elicit an admission from Watson that he wore the shirt to let people know that he was “Stan Watson, Commissioner, DeKalb County.”
The jury evidently believed the plaintiffs’ version of events rather than Watson’s. The jury deliberated for approximately two hours before awarding over $150,000 to the plaintiffs, including punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
Watch on-demand video of the trial as soon as it becomes available.
Not a Subscriber? Learn more about CVN's unparalleled coverage of top Georgia trials.
Defense attorney Charles Vrono faced the task on cross examination of challenging Watson’s credibility