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Search Lawsuit

Marcus Hyatt and Ashley Barrett are no longer suing former Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan. The pair filed a federal lawsuit in August accusing Duncan, Sheriff Quentin Miller and six deputies of unlawful search and seizure and violating their rights to due process. The allegations surround two January 2018 incidents. Deputies strip-searched Hyatt in a gas station bathroom after a traffic stop. On the same day, they searched Barrett’s home and vehicle after pulling her over for lapsed car insurance. She was Hyatt’s girlfriend and they lived together at the time.

One of the pair’s attorneys, John Sutton of Candler, wrote in the initial lawsuit that sheriff’s deputies “manufactured reasons” to detain and harass the couple in searches that were based on “falsified and racial biases.” The suit is ongoing, but since its filing, the plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed their cases against Duncan and three others: Christopher Stockton, Darrell Saucier and Steven J. Hendricks. Chad Ray Donnahoo -- an Asheville attorney also representing Hyatt and Barrett -- said in an email that Duncan, who served as sheriff from 2006-18, was dropped from the case due to “purely a technical, legal issue.”

“The original complaint named both Van Duncan, as former sheriff, and Quentin Miller, as the current sheriff, as defendants in their ‘official capacity’,” Donnahoo wrote. “Official capacity claims are claims against the governmental entity itself (in this case, the Buncombe County Sheriff) and not the individual. So, it was redundant and unnecessary to keep both Van Duncan and Quentin Miller in the lawsuit since they are technically the same party, i.e., the Buncombe County Sheriff.”

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