by ANDY SEVILLA
The city of Kyle is standing behind its police chief in a federal civil rights lawsuit that alleges Jeff Barnett orchestrated a campaign of harassment against a Louisiana doctor while having an affair with the man’s estranged wife.
“The (Kyle) City Attorney believes that this lawsuit, as it relates to the City of Kyle, is without merit, substance or viability,” officials said in a statement. “The City stands behind and supports Chief Barnett during this difficult time for him and his family.”
In a suit filed in U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of Texas, Dr. Glen Hurlston alleges that then-Princeton Police Chief Jeff Barnett instructed his officers to carry out a campaign of harassment against the physician. Hurlston further alleges the harassment continued even after Barnett left the north Texas town in May 2011 to lead the police force in Kyle.
Barnett has not publicly commented on the suit, as he has not been served, but his attorney, Bob Gorsky, said in a statement “Barnett had nothing to do with Dr. Hurlston’s arrest or any contacts the doctor had with the police.”
“This lawsuit presents a case study in what frivolous litigation is all about,” Gorsky said.
Princeton Police Lieutenant Robert Michnik and other officers arrested Hurlston on Jan. 1, 2012, on a felony domestic abuse battery charge for allegedly choking his wife, Suzanne, according to the federal complaint. Hurlston and Suzanne are involved in divorce proceedings.
In the federal lawsuit, Hurlston said Princeton police arrested him “without substantial evidence.”
Suzanne Hurlston said in an interview with ABC News that aired Monday that she and Barnett had an affair while she and her husband, Glen, were still legally married, but “my husband beat me up and choked me and sent me to the hospital. That was on Jan. 1, 2012. I called the police.”
Hurlston and his wife do not live together, according to Gorsky, nor did they during her affair with Barnett.
Still, the doctor maintains in his legal complaint that “the investigation was performed in such a slipshod and careless manner as to shock the conscience of any reasonable persona and amounted to a violation of Dr. Hurlston’s rights to life, liberty under the 5th and 14th amendment(s) to the U.S. Constitution and other pertinent of Texas Law,” the suit said.
In addition, Hurlston’s complaint said that Princeton police officers arrested him “based on information and belief on instructions from (their) former Chief.”
Though Hurlston ultimately was not convicted of the felony domestic abuse battery charge, he plead no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge in the matter, according to court documents.
Hurlston’s Jan. 1, 2012, arrest came about nine months after Barnett took the helm at the Kyle Police Department.
“It strains the imagination that many months after (Barnett) left Princeton, Jeff Barnett would be a ‘puppet master’ controlling the actions of a city police department,” Gorsky said. “Furthermore, by Dr. Hurlston’s own admission he did not contest the criminal charge, which is telling.”
Collin County Jail records show Hurlston was also arrested June 19, 2012, on a violation of a protective order charge. It is unclear whether that arrest was in connection with his estranged wife. However, that charge was dismissed Jan. 23, 2013. An open records request for the court documents in that case was unfulfilled at press time.
On Dec. 27, Hurlston filed the civil rights suit against the cities of Kyle and Princeton, as well as Barnett, Mitchnik and other unnamed officers.
Hurlston alleges in his complaint that Princeton police officers have continued harassing him, including threats of arrest if he “showed his face” in Collin County. He also claims police harassed him for calling and texting his wife and her new boyfriend, Gabriel Brow.
Hurlston said in his complaint that since his 2012 arrest his wife has “waxed hot and cold,” going along with him as long as he provided money for her support, including paying a photography course in France.
He is seeking an unspecified amount of money for damages and attorney’s fees, and said in his complaint that Princeton and Kyle are liable for clothing Barnett with “sufficient state authority to allow him to use his public office for private purposes, namely harassing and threatening to arrest (Hurlston) without cause.”
Kyle city officials disagree.
“As a result of prior allegations by the Plaintiff (Dr. Hurlston), the city conducted a review into these allegations and concluded that Chief Barnett is not in violation of any city rules or standards of conduct that would directly or indirectly influence his status with the City of Kyle,” officials said in the statement. “…We believe that given due course and time, the true merits of this case will show the frivolous nature of this lawsuit.”
ANDY SEVILLA reports for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print