Former deputy and former Shelby Co. sheriff reach settlement in retaliation lawsuit

CENTER, TX (KTRE) - A former Shelby County deputy has reached a settlement with his former boss, Newton Johnson, in a lawsuit in which he alleged that his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

In a lawsuit filed in May 2012, Mark McAvoy alleged that Johnson, who was then the Shelby County Sheriff, fired him and arrested him in retaliation for McAvoy commenting on Johnson's drunk driving.

According to a mediator's report from the Marshall Division of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the settlement was reached on May 20.

"All parties and counsel were present," the report stated. "The conference did result in settlement of all matters."

The report did not give any indication of what kind of settlement was reached between the two parties.

A jury found McAvoy not guilty of animal neglect in November.  He was arrested in July following an investigation into the death of one of his horses.

The lawsuit stated McAvoy began working for the sheriff's office in November 2010, and that he began investigating drug problems in Shelby County. McAvoy claimed he learned of Johnson's daughter's drug problems and was then told by Johnson to "leave the drug dealers alone, that 'they were not my problem.'"

The lawsuit alleged McAvoy began enforcing drunk driving in the county and made four arrests for driving while intoxicated. It was then McAvoy says Johnson told him to stop conducting suspected drunk driving arrests and if he did not, he would be fired.

The lawsuit alleged Johnson called McAvoy on his cell phone in March 2011 and "sounded intoxicated." McAvoy said Johnson gave him directions to arrest someone, but gave him the wrong address. Johnson then met McAvoy in a church parking lot and had the odor of alcohol on his breath, according to the lawsuit.

"The Sheriff started to curse Plaintiff and told him that he was just 'A dumb [expletive] Yankee' and that he hated Plaintiff," according to the lawsuit.

After that, McAvoy alleged Johnson met him in a gas parking lot in Joaquin and almost ran over him, before getting out of the car and staggering over to him and cursing at him again. It was then McAvoy commented on Johnson's intoxicated driving, according to the lawsuit. He was fired two weeks later.

McAvoy then agreed to give away both of his horses, but one died before he could. In May 2011, McAvoy claimed he was told during a job interview that Johnson had filed animal cruelty charges against him.

The East Texas News reached out to both McAvoy and Johnson, but both men's cell phones were not accepting calls at this time.

McAvoy's attorney was out of the office today.

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