Judge issues rare ruling, favors fired Fairview police officers

(Photo: WKRN)

FAIRVIEW, Tenn. (WKRN) – A federal court has ruled that Williamson County D.A. Kim Helper has no prosecutorial immunity and can now be sued individually by two fired police officers.

Pat Stockdale and Shane Dunning were investigated for alleged wrong-doing. After approximately half a year of being paid to stay home, the investigation ended with no findings.

The two lieutenants returned to work at the police department with no complaints or problems.

The men were then fired. At the time, city manager Scott Collins told News 2 he was advised by DA Helper she would not prosecute any cases the officers worked, forcing him to fire the men.

According to the officers’ attorneys, they have sued city of Fairview and the DA individually for a combined 12 million dollars.

The DA argued she had prosecutorial immunity from such a case.

But last week, Judge Aleta Trauger out of the US District Court Middle District of Tennessee ruled against Kim Helper.

“For the reasons discussed in the accompanying memorandum, the motion to dismiss filed by defendant General Kim Helper, is hereby Denied,” the judge wrote.

According to Bryant Kroll at the Blackburn Firm, which represents the officers, D.A. Helper was not acting within the scope of her duties when she interfered with the city’s personnel decision.

“She had gone out of her way to get her employee as the chief,” he told News 2.

Kroll explain further in an email to News 2, saying:

Prosecutors typically enjoy absolute immunity for actions taken within the scope of their duties as prosecuting attorneys. The Complaint alleges, among other things, that she was not acting within the scope of her duties when she attempted to influence the staffing decisions in the City of Fairview and had Lt. Stockdale and Lt. Dunning terminated by ‘Giglio impairing’ them. This impairment is essentially an attack on their credibility as a witness for the State. If they cannot testify, then they cannot be police officers arresting people on the street. The Complaint alleges that she had no basis to attack their credibility, and that she did so purely out of personal, political, and retaliatory motivations, none of which fall within the duties of a prosecutor.

Gen. Helper had filed a motion to dismiss our lawsuit on grounds that, regardless of her motivations, she was entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity. DAs typically enjoy prosecutorial immunity, but only if they are acting as an ‘advocate for the state,’ which falls within the scope of their employment as a District Attorney.

Last week, Judge Trauger found that Gen. Helper is not entitled to any immunity whatever. Although Helper did not raise the defense of qualified immunity, Judge Trauger nonetheless found that she would not be entitled it. This means that if we prevail, she is personally liable for any damage award.

News 2 reached out to DA Helper for comment. So far we have not heard back.