Breed denies directing Sea Pines officer to lie, stands behind complaint

tbarton@islandpacket.comJune 1, 2012 

Jurors on Friday heard portions of a deposition given by Sea Pines' security chief denying accusations he directed a subordinate to lie and say that a local judge's adopted brother was a suspect in a rash of break-ins in the gated community.

In his deposition, George Breed also stood by his belief that Hilton Head Island Municipal Court Judge Maureen Coffey "hindered and interfered" with a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigation of her brother. Breed's suspicions led him to file a judicial complaint against Coffey that was later dismissed.

"I spoke to what I believe to be the facts and what I still believe," Breed said in his deposition.

Coffey has accused Sea Pines' property owners association, Community Services Associates, and Breed of harassing and defaming her and her family as authorities tried to solve the series of burglaries in 2004 and 2008.

The judge contends Sea Pines security had no probable cause to suspect her brother, Otis Coffey, of the crimes. Her lawsuit claims Sea Pines officials conspired to have her brother jailed and to discredit her. Specifically, she alleges Breed falsely accused her of covering up for Otis Coffey and interfering with the investigation.

Coffey also claims in her suit that Breed and other CSA employees falsely accused her of having an affair with John Jolin, a former Sea Pines security officer. Coffey is now separated from her husband.

Breed denies ever making or hearing such an accusation.

In his deposition, Breed saidJolin told him he was concerned about positively identifying Otis Coffey as a suspect in a May 20, 2008, incident in which Jolin chased a man who fled after he tried to stop and question him in an area where the burglaries occurred.

Breed said he told Jolin if he did not feel comfortable obtaining an arrest warrant for Otis Coffey for fleeing, he should not do so, according to his deposition.

Charges were never filed and no one was officially named as a suspect in the break-ins. A Sheriff's Office detective also testified earlier in the week that Maureen Coffey did not impair or impede her investigation.

In his letter to the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct, Breed alleged Judge Coffey "is not able to be a neutral and detached arbiter" of cases involving Sea Pines. He also claimed she engaged "in a pattern of reactive and overt actions" that undermined the criminal justice process, including "prejudicial" conduct that results in her inability to remain impartial.

Breed said he had no problem with Maureen Coffey's handling of any cases that came before her, but was concerned that she inappropriately inserted herself into matters involving her brother.

CSA argues Coffey's lawsuit should be tossed out because S.C. Appellate Court Rules prohibit judges from filing civil lawsuits against those who lodge complaints against them. A state court ruling also bars public officials from claiming civil conspiracy based on comments regarding fitness to hold office.

Coffey said she believes she still has a right under the law to sue for defamation and damages she said she has incurred, claiming Breed tarnished her reputation by sharing the judicial complaint with CSA and town officials. Judicial complaints against judges are confidential unless disciplinary action is taken.

The trial resumes Monday.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead

Related content:

Sea Pines security officers cast doubt on former co-worker's testimony: May 31, 2012

Former Sea Pines officer testifies security chief ordered him to lie: May 30, 2012 Hilton Head judge's defamation suit moves to trial: May 19, 2012

Hilton Head judge vows to continue with lawsuit: Oct. 8, 2010 Sea Pines property owners association responds to Judge Coffey's lawsuit: Dec. 26, 2008

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service