Civil trial over racial assaults, termination starts in Jefferson County

David Yates Jun. 21, 2011, 5:00am


A civil trial over the alleged racially motivated assaults of a black man by his co-workers and his subsequent termination has begun in Jefferson County.

Alleging racial discrimination, R.J. Freeman Jr. filed suit against the owners of Barnes Equipment, James and Stacy Barnes, along with two of the company's employees, Robert Flowers and Robert Deewees, on May 29, 2009, in Jefferson County District Court.

On Tuesday, June 21 jury selection began in the trial of Freeman vs. Barnes Equipment et al in Judge Bob Wortham's 58th District Court.

Court records show that on Nov. 7, 2008, Freeman, an African American Barnes equipment employee, was assaulted by Flowers, a white co-worker. A year later, on Jan. 23, 2009, another white co-worker, Deewees, again allegedly assaulted Freeman.

In his suit, Freeman alleges both incidents were "racially motivated" and were so severe that he required medical attention afterwards.

Freeman also alleges the Barneses took no action against both men and in fact terminated his employment following the second assault.

"Following each of these racially motivated attacks, James Barnes, the Caucasian owner and manager of Barnes Equipment, took no action to terminate either offender, nor did he take any steps to ensure the future safety of his workers," the suit states.

"Barnes did however fire Freeman ... based on his race."

The trial will focus on whether the owners of Barnes equipment are liable for their employees' actions and whether they wrongly terminated Freeman's employment.

Freeman will ask jurors to award him damages for his alleged physical pain, mental anguish, lost wages and medical expenses.

Beaumont attorney John Parsons of the Lindsay Law Firm represents him.

The Barneses are represented by Trey Browne, attorney for the Beaumont law firm Coffey & Browne.

Case No. A184-180

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