Clinch County sheriff, wife sued over man's arrest for groping incident in Henry County

A man has filed a federal lawsuit against the sheriff of Clinch County and his wife after he was arrested for allegedly groping the sheriff's wife, who is also a deputy, at a QuikTrip store in Henry County.

The alleged incident happened on April 7, 2022. According to the lawsuit, Darius Rice, who was 37 years old at the time and a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps, made "unintentional and incidental contact" with Clinch County Deputy April Tinsley as she backed away from the coffee counter inside the store.

The lawsuit says that April Tinsley told her husband, Sheriff Stephen Tinsley, after she exited the store that Rice had groped her buttocks. Sheriff Tinsley immediately attempted to arrest Rice and body slammed him into a concrete wall, causing him to lose consciousness.

At that time, Rice's girlfriend, Ashley Jackson, began asking what was happening and began recording the incident. Deputy Tinsley reportedly grabbed Jackson's phone and threw it into the back of a truck, leading to a physical altercation between the two women and Jackson's eventual arrest.

When Henry County law enforcement arrived on the scene, the lawsuit says Deputy Tinsley "falsely" accused Jackson of grabbing Sheriff Tinsley.

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The lawsuit also claims that Deputy Tinsley never identified herself as law enforcement before arresting Jackson.

The case was taken over by the Henry County Sheriff's Office, and Rice was charged with sexual battery and transported to the Henry County Jail.

The lawsuit claims that all the plaintiffs' injuries and damages are a direct result of Deputy Tinsley's "knowingly false accusations."

The lawsuit contained attachments from Deputy Tinsley's personnel file that appear to show that she previously lied about her work during a 2016 drug case in Ashburn. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges Deputy Tinsley was accused of falsifying mileage sheets in 2018. 

Sheriff Tinsley is accused of using an unreasonable amount of force and violating the Fourth Amendment rights of Rice. The lawsuit also says Sheriff Tinsley's actions and use of force were malicious and/or involved reckless, callous, and deliberate indifference to Rice's rights.

The plaintiffs are claiming loss of constitutional and federal rights; physical injuries; great pain and emotional distress, including humiliation, anxiety, and depression; aggravation of pre-existing conditions; and more.

They are asking for compensatory and consequential damages in excess of $10,000,000, economic losses, special damages in an amount to be determined at trial, punitive damages in an amount in excess of $1,000,000, attorneys' fees and costs, and more.

The lawsuit was filed on April 9 by national civil rights attorneys Harry Daniels, Bakari Sellers, and Latrice Latin.