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Barrett, CL sued by sergeant

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Fulton County Sheriff Sgt. Sabrina Callaway is suing Sheriff Jackie Barrett, fellow Sgt. Neel Berry, Creative Loafing reporter Mara Shalhoup, and others for alleged invasion of privacy, and portraying Callaway in a false light.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 16 in the Superior Court of Fulton County, stems from a power struggle within the sheriff's department over a promotion that Berry wanted. Callaway got the job.

Acting on information Berry says he learned from fellow employees, he filed a grievance against Callaway, claiming she hadn't completed enough of the required training deputies need to arrest people.

Shalhoup's Nov. 13, 2002, article was based on Berry's complaint and a public hearing on Callaway's qualifications before the Fulton County Grievance Review Committee. It detailed the quagmire of documents that made it difficult to prove whether Callaway was qualified.

That story was attached as evidence in the lawsuit. But two other pieces -- both explicitly stating that Callaway was qualified after all -- weren't attached to the lawsuit.

One week after Shalhoup's original story ran, CL editor Ken Edelstein, in a response to a letter to the editor sent by Barrett, wrote that documents updated after publication of Shalhoup's original story "now indicate that [Callaway] has undergone the proper level of training."

In another update, published May 29, Shalhoup reported that Berry had been suspended for 15 days and that Callaway "was fully qualified for the promotion both she and Berry sought."

Callaway's attorney, Denorris A. Heard, says, "The quintessential fact here is that Sgt. Callaway did not choose this situation, this situation chose her and her credibility was placed in question.

"As we go through the [legal] process, it will come to light exactly how Sgt. Callaway was placed in false light from the idea that there was something that was communicated that was false to the Creative Loafing."

When asked why Shalhoup's second story wasn't attached as evidence in the lawsuit, Heard replied, "I probably need to see that then."

Then, Heard was asked if he'd ever seen the second story. He replied, "No."

Within an hour after that interview, Heard called back and said that he found the second story in a file and was aware of it all along.

He added, "It still doesn't change the position that Mrs. Callaway was placed in."

Creative Loafing is required to respond to the lawsuit in 30 days.

"This lawsuit is absolutely without merit," Edelstein says. "I'm confident there will be no judgment against CL or our reporter. Everything we reported was accurate and the documents in question were public record."

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