Two helicopter pilots who accused the Florence County Sheriff’s Office of wrongful arrest have dropped their lawsuit in exchange for a $150,000 settlement.
Dusan Fridl and Hemming Hemmingsen sued the sheriff’s office after they were charged with “unlawful entry of an aircraft” for taking a FCSO helicopter on a maintenance flight. A jury acquitted the pair of criminal charges in 2016.
“Since their arrest, Mr. Hemmingsen and Mr. Fridl have steadfastly proclaimed their innocence and refused to be bullied. They turned down offers to drop the criminal charges if they would agree to waive civil liability, choosing instead to fight for justice and demand their day in court,” their attorney, Patrick McLaughlin of the Wukela Law Firm in Florence wrote in a news release.
“There are not a lot of folks who would have been brave enough to face ten years in prison just to stand up for what was right, but Hemming and Dusan were,” he added. “I could not be more proud of the integrity and courage these two men have exhibited over the last three years. They are truly inspiring and exactly the type of folks we need standing up for what is right in our community.”
Samuel Arthur of Aiken Bridges Nunn Elliott and Tyler in Florence represented the sheriff’s office. Arthur declined an interview request and referred questions to a FCSO spokesman, who could not be reached for comment before press time.
Fridl and Hemmingsen had sued the sheriff’s office for malicious prosecution, false arrest and imprisonment, civil conspiracy, defamation and abuse of process.
An incident report filed in the case had referred to a “CI,” or confidential informant, who “would like to give information regarding the helicopter and its status.” But in their complaint against the sheriff’s office, Fridl and Hemmingsen argued that there “never was a ‘confidential informant’ in this case.”
“The alleged CI was eventually identified as Maurice Lemond, a friend and colleague of the Plaintiffs who was present at the Lake City Municipal Airport when the Plaintiffs conducted the April 6, 2015 maintenance flight,” the suit stated. “Lemond executed an affidavit explaining he never sought to ‘report’ any information or asked for confidentiality as he saw nothing wrong with the actions of the Plaintiffs.”
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SETTLEMENT REPORT – CIVIL RIGHTS
Case name: Dusan Fridl and Hemming Hemmingsen v. Florence County Sheriff’s Office, et al.
Court: U.S. District Court in Florence
Case No.: 4:17-cv-00955
Judge: R. Bryan Harwell
Date of settlement: March 13
Attorney for plaintiffs: Patrick McLaughlin of the Wukela Law Firm in Florence
Attorney for defendants: Samuel Arthur of Aiken Bridges Nunn Elliott and Tyler in Florence