Racial profiling case settled for $15,000 by Orange County Sheriff's Department


The Orange County Sheriff's Department last year paid a Danville man $15,000 after he accused officers of unfairly targeting him based on his skin color, according to a lawsuit filed in court.

A sheriff's department captain in 2011 pulled over Jamaican-American Bentley Morgan for failing to use a turn signal, then conducted a nearly month-long investigation to prove whether Morgan was actually Fidel Maragh, a man with a similar birthday wanted in Florida on a charge of cocaine possession.

The Vermont Human Rights Commission took on Morgan's case. A settlement reached in December not only awarded Morgan monetary damages but asked the sheriff's department to update its bias-free policing policy and train staff in "fair and impartial policing."

The Legislature this session also passed a bill reforming state laws around racial profiling by police, after legislators learned about incidents like this one.

Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak said the department has taken steps to improve its policy.

"After working with the Human Rights Commission on a allegedly bias motor vehicle stop, the Orange County Sheriff's has completed a Fair and Impartial Policing training for all deputies," Bohnyak said in an email Tuesday. "Our bias policing policy is in compliance with the Attorney General Office."


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