ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WSPA) – In a settlement reached in the summer of 2018, the city of Asheville agreed to pay Johnnie Rush more than half a million dollars following the injuries he received at the hands of a police officer in 2017.
Now we’re getting an inside look at who saw their money immediately and who’s waiting to be paid.
In the civil settlement the city didn’t admit liability but agreed to pay Rush $650,000 for “personal injuries.”
It was related to the 2017 beating caught on the body cam of a now former officer with the police department.
To break it down, $307,500, which is roughly 47% of the total amount, went directly to Rush’s attorney, Charlotte-based civil rights attorney James Ferguson.
The rest, $342,500, will go to Rush but he won’t see the first payment until August 2021. That’s three years after the settlement was reached.
The money will be broken up into annuities, invested, and paid out in monthly and annual payments to Rush over 30 years.
That arrangement doesn’t sit well with Dee Williams of the Asheville-Buncombe County chapter of the NAACP.
“His attorneys got $307,500 off the top and the first time he’ll get a nickel is in 2021,” she told 7News.
“If I had an attorney to draw something up like this but he got paid upfront?,” she questioned.
Rush’s attorney told 7News via phone Wednesday attorney-client privileges prevent him from giving many details.
Ferguson did say his “client was in agreement to how the settlement was structured” and “there’s nothing unique about it.”
Another personal injury attorney not connected to the case said attorneys getting paid upfront is standard and in cases like this it’s likely some of that upfront money paid to the lawyers went into a trust to be made available to their client immediately.
But, Williams said that’s still not clear if that happened in Rush’s case.
“Almost 50 percent of that upfront and in cash? Hcould have garnered at least 50 percent of that,” she said.
The personal injury lawyer who looked over the settlement said clients waiting for years for structured payments is typical so that the money grows over time in annuities, or investment accounts, which he said will likely pay off even more for Rush over time.
Still, Williams said she sees it as a raw deal with everyone but Rush getting paid first and she said she doesn’t think this helps mend what she calls broken trust between the black community and City Hall.
“He was out of his league unfortunately,” said Williams.
Polly McDaniel, a communications specialist with the City of Asheville said the entire $650,000 was paid out in August 2018.
McDaniel said the City paid $500,000 and the City’s insurance carrier paid $150,000.