News / World

Tennessee: $100K in damages awarded to fired Muslim trooper

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge has ordered Tennessee to pay $100,000 in damages to a Muslim state trooper fired after a military liaison falsely accused him of terrorist sympathies.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/2cZcWB9 ) U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell issued the order this week.

Last year, Campbell ruled the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security discriminated against De'Ossie Dingus because of his religion. Campbell said testimony showed Dingus had been a target of religious discrimination from the start of his career as a Tennessee trooper in 2000.

Campbell initially awarded Dingus a symbolic $1 in damages, chiefly because Dingus didn't seek counselling or other psychological treatment. To receive damages, a plaintiff must show discrimination caused emotional distress.

Then a federal appeals court in April declared the award "wholly inadequate," saying the emotional harm Dingus suffered was "egregious" and obvious.

The ruling led Campbell to reconsider damages and award a higher amount.

"He was treated as a threat," Campbell wrote in her order. "He was labeled as a possible terrorist-in-the-making. He was subjected to humiliating circumstances. All because he is a Sunni Muslim."

Dingus previously won a separate civil service hearing awarding him back pay and benefits and agreed to take early retirement.

According to court records, a military liaison called Dingus a potential terrorist in 2009 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. The liaison said Dingus was disruptive and belligerent during the class and confrontational afterward, but none of the 35 other troopers in the training class backed up the claim.

Even so, Dingus was fired in 2010.

___

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