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Lawsuits linger in wake of cop's conviction

Jay Matthew

Jay Matthew

DULUTH -- If attorneys for victims of former Duluth police Officer Jay Dailey are successful, the fallout from his bizarre attacks in February 2008 could include financial repercussions in addition to his upcoming prison stint.

At the heart of two civil suits are these key questions:

Did Dailey hold himself out as a police officer when he assaulted three citizens and shot an off-duty officer?

And did Duluth police conduct a sufficient background check on Dailey -- a law enforcement veteran with a history of mental illness -- when hiring him five years prior?

Yes and no, lawyers for the plaintiffs insist. Their opposition disagrees.

Dailey, 45, was convicted last month of beating a female motorist in the middle of a Sugar Hill roadway, pointing a pistol at two bystanders, then shooting and severely injuring off-duty Fulton County police Cpl. Paul Phillips when he'd stopped to help.

The shooting effectively ended Phillips' law enforcement career.

Phillips and the motorist, Leresa Graham, are suing Dailey, police officials who hired him and the city of Duluth.

Phillips' civil case could reach a courtroom as early as December, his attorney, David Will, said this week. A specific amount for damages has yet to be determined, hinging on lost income, accruing medical bills and pain and suffering.

"We don't want to put in a number and have to amend it," Will said.

A jury convicted Dailey on nine counts, including aggravated assault on a police officer. His sentencing hearing is scheduled Tuesday afternoon, where victims traumatized by or still recovering from his actions are expected to read impact statements. He faces decades in prison.

Duluth police have referred all questions to their attorneys regarding the pending litigation. Attorneys for the city and those representing Dailey in the civil matter did not return calls Thursday.

But court documents show glimpses of positions defendants are taking.

In an affidavit, Duluth police Maj. Don Woodruff states he performed a background check when Dailey applied for a police officer position. That investigation showed Dailey was hired by the Fulton County Sheriff's Office in January 2000, and was still employed there upon his application to the Duluth agency, the affidavit says.

Dailey passed a fitness for duty evaluation and a personal interview. A colleague in Fulton County reported no problems, Woodruff states.

A Gwinnett police report obtained by the Daily Post from Sept. 21, 2003, documents a suicidal, predawn tirade by Dailey, during which two officers were forced to wrestle him to the ground, handcuff him and involuntarily commit him to Gwinnett Medical Center. Police said Dailey had armed himself with several guns and drunkenly threatened to harm his neighbors and kill himself.

"C'mon," an officer wrote that an intoxicated Dailey told police, "I just wanna blow my (expletive) brains out."

Dailey later threatened to break a responding officer's nose, tried to kick out the rear window of a patrol car and beat up hospital security guards at GMC, the report says.

Graham's attorney, Trey Sauls, claims in court documents Duluth officials offered Dailey the police officer position nine days after that incident.

Background glimpse

In court papers filed in January, Dailey claims he was suicidal that night in 2003 and was committed to Gwinnett Medical Center and later transferred to Charter Peachford Hospital. Police brought no criminal charges, and he never made the incident known to Duluth police, the documents state.

Aside from a few "playground fights," Dailey recalled no violent outbursts. He'd been seeking treatment for alcoholism and depression since around 1989 through Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, "numerous doctors" and GRN mental health and addiction services, documents state.

Dailey conferred with a Duluth police sergeant and captain about his problems, then took sick leave in March 2005 to undergo an 18-week treatment program at GRN.

Lawyers for the City of Duluth claim police department leaders knew nothing of Dailey being arrested or involuntarily committed before hiring him.

On the morning of the 2008 assaults, records show Dailey checked in at his department for 69 minutes to meet with a solicitor and have the oil changed in his patrol car. He then left in his personal vehicle, Woodruff states in the affidavit.

At the time of the assaults, "Dailey was not on duty and was not acting in his capacity as a police officer employed by Duluth," Woodruff states.

Not so, said Phillips' attorney.

"In trial, there was testimony that he showed a badge, carried a weapon issued by city ... and identified himself as cop," Will said. "We think that kind of gave the appearance he was a police officer."

Dailey hadn't used a take-home police car since 2007, which is the only time officers are required to carry a weapon, his lawyers claim.

In Graham's case, the city's attorneys have filed a motion for a summary judgment to dispose of the case without a full trial. Graham's attorney, Trey Sauls, has opposed that action. He could not be reached for comment this week.

Will said he'd be open to settling out of court. A trial, however, could benefit Duluth citizens from a public safety standpoint, he said.

"We still have some concerns about the way the city of Duluth hires and retains its officers," Will said. "The trial would bring to light what we feel are deficiencies."