- Associated Press - Friday, April 8, 2016

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A federal appeals court says a $1 damages award to a Muslim state trooper fired after a military liaison falsely accused him of terrorist sympathies was “wholly inadequate.”

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (https://bit.ly/1Vd7ON0) the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the lower court to consider a more appropriate damages award for De’Ossie Dingus.

U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell previously found that the Tennessee Department of Safety discriminated against Dingus because of his religion. In order to receive damages, a plaintiff must show that the discrimination caused emotional distress.

Campbell awarded Dingus only a symbolic $1 in damages, primarily because Dingus did not seek counseling or other psychological treatment.

The 6th Circuit said in its Tuesay opinion, “In light of the egregious nature of the (department)’s conduct, the $1 award of damages for Dingus’s mental anguish and emotional distress is wholly inadequate.”

Dingus’ attorney Arthur Knight III spoke to the newspaper after the ruling.

“Our position (on damages) all along has been Dingus shouldn’t be punished because he didn’t run to a psychiatrist and cry and talk about everything wrong with his life since then,” Knight said.

According to court records, military liaison Maj. Kevin Taylor called Dingus a potential terrorist after Dingus complained about a video on the radicalization of children shown during a class that was supposed to teach troopers how to recognize weapons of mass destruction.

Taylor claimed Dingus was disruptive and belligerent during the class and confrontational afterward. But none of the 35 other troopers in the training class backed up Taylor’s claim.

“You have a guy who is an American citizen who served in the armed forces, who was honorably discharged,” Knight said of Dingus. “It’s a heck of a thing in this day and age to be called a terrorist because somebody says you are and then they railroad you out of the Department of Safety.”

Dingus previously won a separate civil service hearing that awarded him back pay and lost wages. He also won his job back but opted for early retirement instead.


Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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