Bluffton man accused of manslaughter sues Bluffton Police, Beaufort County Sheriff's Office

astice@islandpacket.comApril 25, 2013 

A Bluffton man who has been awaiting trial for a manslaughter charge for more than two years is suing Beaufort County law enforcement agencies, alleging he was falsely accused.

William Shane Moreland, 33, filed a lawsuit against the Bluffton Police Department and the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office late last year.

It says he was falsely imprisoned on charges related to the shooting death of his neighbor, 50-year-old Thomas Mullins Jr., in November 2010. The town of Bluffton and Beaufort County also are listed as defendants.

In court hearings, Moreland has argued that he shot Mullins in self-defense. On Nov. 19, 2010, Moreland called 911 to report he shot Mullins in his front yard on Moonbeam Court and had put the weapon in his truck.

In hearings and in his lawsuit, Moreland says Mullins threatened him and his girlfriend before coming over and banging on his front door at about 9 p.m. Court records say there had been an "ongoing dispute" between the neighbors.

According to his suit, Moreland told Mullins to leave his property. When Moreland, armed with a handgun, went out through the garage door, Mullins approached him in an "aggressive and threatening manner" before Moreland fired, the suit says.

A Beaufort County sheriff's deputy arrested Moreland.

Officers from the Bluffton Police Department "did not conduct an adequate investigation" before he was taken to jail, the lawsuit says.

Among the lawsuit's claims are false imprisonment, abuse of process, negligence and conspiracy.

In a court hearing in July 2011, Moreland's defense attorney, Jim Brown, argued his client should be protected by the castle doctrine, which shields a person from trial for protecting his home. However, Judge Thomas Cooper ruled that Moreland was not immune from prosecution because there is no evidence that Mullins tried to break into his house.

Brown said Thursday he isn't going to waste time appealing that ruling because he is confident Moreland will win the criminal case in court.

"We feel very strongly that a favorable outcome will be had," he said.

The trial was rescheduled twice last year by the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office, Brown said.

Solicitor Duffie Stone said his office has since turned the case over to the S.C. Attorney General's Office to prosecute because of "a potential conflict of interest." He said he could not give further details.

The Attorney General's Office has not yet scheduled a trial, according to its spokesman, Mark Powell.

Moreland's lawsuit, in which he is representing himself, was filed in November. According to the S.C. Code of Laws, the statute of limitations for filing a civil suit alleging false imprisonment is two years after the arrest.

Moreland declined to comment on the suit Thursday.

The town of Bluffton responded to the suit this month by filing a motion to dismiss.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/IPBG_Allison.

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