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County deputy amends claim blaming Taser in inmate death

LAWRENCEVILLE - A former Sheriff's deputy who blamed a Taser stun gun manufacturer in the death of Gwinnett County inmate this week amended his claim that the manufacturer's intentionally mislead law enforcement with their marketing and training tools.

In the initial cross claim, lawyers for former Sheriff's deputy Michael Mustachio said Taser International misrepresented its product as being safe and used biased scientific studies to demonstrate its effectiveness. The amendment filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta sought to omit those damning statements.

Mustachio's lawyers still maintain that Taser International - not Mustachio - should be held liable if a judge decides 31-year-old Frederick Jerome Williams died because he was stunned with a Taser.

Following Williams' death on May 27, 2004, his widow, Yanga Williams, sued Gwinnett County, the Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Butch Conway and six deputies for wrongful death.

"I think he [Mustachio] properly used the Taser in accordance with his training and his experience," said Mustachio's attorney, Terry Williams of Lawrenceville.

"We still dispute whether the Taser caused this death. We don't have any specific evidence at this point that necessarily says Taser is responsible to the plaintiff for this death, but in the event that information wasn't passed along to law enforcement we want to pursue our right to have Taser held liable."

Gwinnett County filed a similar cross claim in December which contained damaging comments about Taser International. The document was revised in January to omit those negative statements.

Like Mustachio's, Gwinnett County's cross claim states Taser International should pay if a judge or jury finds Tasers contributed to Williams' death.

Sheriff Butch Conway remains a staunch supporter of Tasers.

"I believe Taser (International) has adequately tested their product, and their training materials are good materials," Conway said in a January interview. "It wasn't misrepresented or unsafe. We continue to use Tasers. I feel they are a good tool."