Howard Hoffman attorney Troy Durham

PRINCESS ANNE - A former Somerset County sheriff's deputy was awarded more than $ 1 million Thursday after a jury found he had been denied his First Amendment rights.

James "Troy" Durham, 44, of Pocomoke City, who was fired after filing a grievance against Sheriff Robert N. Jones, was awarded $ 412,000 in economic damages, $ 700,000 in noneconomic damages and $ 200 in punitive damages in U.S. District Court, said Howard Hoffman, Durham's attorney.

"Troy has been fully vindicated," he said.

Hoffman said he asked for only $ 1 in punitive damages since Jones is not a wealthy man, and was pleased the jury awarded 200 times that amount at the end of the four-day trial in Baltimore.
He said he also plans to ask the court to award Durham the cost of his legal fees.

The former deputy has been fighting a legal battle against the Sheriff's Office since 2008 when he filed a grievance alleging internal corruption and accusing co-workers of forcing him to change a police report.

In his lawsuit, Durham alleged he was ordered to alter a police report, but refused. He said he was threatened with his job and relented, but later filed a grievance with the Somerset County Commissioners.

Five days later, Durham was placed on administrative leave and was told his grievance was being investigated by Jones.

Durham was eventually terminated and has alleged Jones fired him in retaliation.

Durham filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court seeking reinstatement and claiming wrongful termination, but Judge W. Newton Jackson III said in a 2010 ruling there was not enough evidence to support Durham's claims.