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Settlement reached in state police handcuffing of black teen

August 15, 2018

Louisiana State Police and a black Indiana man who was handcuffed and detained in New Orleans' French Quarter when he was a teenager in 2015 have settled a federal lawsuit.

Lyle Dotson’s suit claimed he was illegally assaulted and detained by troopers while visiting New Orleans as a 17-year-old high school senior. He initially lost on most of his claims but, in June, U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan ruled that he was entitled to a new trial due to racial discrimination in jury selection.

The son of a Ball State architecture professor, Dotson was in the city in October 2015 with his father’s architecture class on a field trip.

During the class’s stop to see the interior courtyard at Pat O’Brien’s bar, Dotson’s son could not enter because he was too young. The teenager arranged to meet the group at the bar’s back entrance but got lost.

He was stopped by troopers and, according to Morgan’s June opinion, he was handcuffed while they checked his driver’s license. When one trooper tried to take a photograph of Dotson, the teen did not consent and a struggle ensued. He was jailed briefly.

An assault case against Dotson was ultimately dismissed.

Terms of the settlement have not yet been made public.

Dotson’s lawyer on Tuesday praised his decision to pursue the lawsuit. The head of state police said Tuesday night the department stands by the troopers involved.

Col. Kevin Reeves said the jury that first heard the case “found that Dotson sustained no damages” as a result of the encounter.

“The decision to settle this claim was a business decision to terminate continued costs associated with litigation,” Reeves’ emailed statement said. He said the settlement was not an admission of liability.

“Lyle demonstrated his integrity, courage and strength of character in his willingness to come back to New Orleans to challenge the oppressive state police tactics in court,” said Jim Craig, an attorney for Dotson.

Craig, Louisiana director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, said in an email that Dotson is now a student in Ball State’s School of Fine Arts. He will use the money to pay for his education.

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