Jury rules against ex-deputy who sued

The plaintiff said she was discriminated against as a woman.

Published: Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 31, 2009 at 11:52 p.m.

A jury ruled unanimously Friday against a former deputy who had made allegations of gender discrimination and retaliation against Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.

Jurors returned their verdict Friday evening in the federal civil trial of Kathleen New versus Darnell after about five hours of deliberation.

New had sued Darnell, in her capacity as sheriff, saying her demotion and eventual termination occurred after she complained about a male deputy who said women had no place in command positions.

In opening statements, New's attorney also said she was singled out for discipline based on allegations in which others had behaved similarly. The attorney listed names of deputies who had been disciplined for various matters but continued to work at the Sheriff's Office.

But an attorney representing Darnell told jurors New had only herself to blame for being fired.

New had been demoted from a lieutenant to a deputy after allegations were raised that she had falsified patrol statistics and that she had been spending too much time on eBay at work. She was assigned to work as a bailiff, but, after being counseled on several occasions for performance issues, a prosecutor complained she repeatedly had walked over and spoken to a defense attorney during a hearing.

The judge instructed New not to have further contact with the lawyer, and an investigation raised questions about whether the defendant at the hearing had access to New's gun because of her actions. She was terminated in 2007.

"There was injustice for Kathleen New," her attorney, Marie Mattox, said after the trial.

Darnell said of Friday's verdict: "First and foremost I want to thank the staff members of the Sheriff's Office who did their jobs well day to day, which resulted in this positive outcome." She also thanked the jury for its time and its decision.

The trial started Monday at the federal courthouse in Gainesville.

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