Lilburn, GA – A veteran Lilburn police officer has been awarded over $131,000 from a female suspect who falsely accused him of sexually assaulting her during a traffic stop.
Lilburn Police Officer Andy Blimline pulled Marsha Baldwin over for driving with an expired registration in September of 2016, Law.com reported.
During the course of the stop, the officer learned that Baldwin’s registration was actually suspended.
“He went ahead and called the tow truck and asked her to get out of the car and told her she was being arrested for suspended registration,” Officer Blimline’s attorney, Molly Gillis, told Law.com. “She was not happy, obviously.”
The officer conducted a “brief pat-down – not a full-body pat-down – checked her waistband for weapons, and put her in the [patrol] car,” Gillis explained.
Another officer later placed her in handcuffs before she was transported to jail.
Approximately one week later, Officer Blimline learned that Baldwin had contacted the Lilburn Police Department (LPD) and accused him of sexually assaulting her during the stop.
Baldwin claimed that Officer Blimline touched her “between her inner buttocks and thighs, between and underneath her breasts, and in her vaginal area” while she was standing in front of his patrol unit, Law.com reported.
“[That] would be a sexual battery in Georgia, which would require someone to a lifetime reporting under the Sex Offender Act” if Officer Blimline had been charged and convicted, Lance LoRusso, another attorney for the officer, told WXIA.
Lilburn police immediately uploaded bodycam and dashcam footage of Baldwin’s arrest and contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) to look into the allegations, Law.com reported.
Despite Baldwin’s claim that the alleged sexual assault took place in front of the officer’s patrol vehicle, the dashcam footage showed no evidence that any of her allegations were true.
Baldwin then changed her story.
First, she accused the LPD of altering or deleting footage of the supposed assault.
A GBI forensics expert determined that the footage had not been tampered with, Law.com reported.
Baldwin then alleged that the supposed assault occurred on the side of the car, and claimed that the bodycam footage must have been tampered with since it showed no evidence to corroborate her story.
The GBI forensics expert determined that the bodycam footage had also not been altered.
Investigators concluded that Baldwin was lying about the supposed assault, and she was ultimately indicted on misdemeanor charges of falsely reporting a crime and making false statements to police, Law.com reported.
Officer Blimline filed a defamation lawsuit against Baldwin in September of 2017.
“[Baldwin] didn’t do herself any favors at trial,” Gillis told Law.com. “She showed no remorse. She was the opposite of apologetic.”
Gwinnett County Chief State Court Judge Pamela South ultimately awarded Officer Blimline a total of $131,424, which included $34,434 in attorney’s fees, $25,000 in punitive damages, and $72,000 in damages, Law.com reported.
Despite the financial compensation, “the damage to his reputation was very hard to measure,” Gillis noted.
LoRusso said that Baldwin’s lies have the potential to follow Officer Blimline around for the rest of his life.
“It can be a career killer when they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong,” the attorney told WXIA. “These are the types of allegations that make people hang it up. We have had officers who have had false allegations against them and then they or their spouses have said ‘we’re done.’”
Officer Blimline remained on the force, and is now a Gwinnett County Public Schools safety officer, Law.com reported.
According to the LPD’s official Facebook page, he has served as a law enforcement officer for the past 15 years.
The officer made headlines in 2014 when he discovered that a homeless man had walked 29 miles in single-digit temperatures in order to make it to court for his scheduled hearing, WDAF reported.
After the man’s hearing concluded, Officer Blimline spotted him putting his gloves on in preparation for his long walk back to the homeless shelter.
“I asked him, ‘Hey, did you find someone to come and pick you up?'” the officer told WDAF. “He said he didn’t have money for a cab, and I said, ‘Well let me pay for you.’ At first, he said no, but I told him I wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Officer Blimline and several of his fellow officers pooled their money to pay for the man’s $80 cab fare.
“As he was getting in the cab, he said ‘God Bless You,’ and gave me a big hug,” Officer Blimline recalled.
In 2018, the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce honored Officer Blimline and Lilburn Police Investigator Cody Belcher with its Lifesaving Award after they heroically saved the life of a person who was struck by a train, the Gwinnett Daily Post reported.
The victim was still on the tracks when the officers arrived.
“[They] ran down the railroad tracks to find that the victim had both legs amputated just below the knee,” Nefertiti Jaquez said during the awards ceremony, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post. “While both officers were applying tourniquets to the victim’s severed legs, they kept not only themselves calm but continued to keep the victim calm as well.”
“Since there was no way to get a vehicle down the tracks, Officers Blimline and Belcher had to help the Gwinnett firemen and paramedics carry the young man a little over a quarter of a mile to an awaiting ambulance,” Jaquez explained.
The emergency room surgeon told investigators that the victim “would have died due to extensive blood loss” if Officer Blimline and his partner hadn’t applied the tourniquets so quickly, Jaquez said.
The misdemeanor charges against Baldwin are still pending, Law.com reported.
She faces up to $2,000 in fines and potential jail time if she is convicted.
Her attorney, Althea Prince, said she and Baldwin were “disappointed by the judgement,” and claimed they were also ““concerned about the impact it might have on persons who consider filing citizen complaints with a police department following troubling encounters with police officers on the street,” according to Law.com.