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Falkville fire chief, accuser settle case

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

FALKVILLE — Falkville Fire Chief Eric Sawyer and the woman who brought a harassment charge against him in October reached a settlement Monday in Municipal Court.

Judge Wesley Lavender transferred the case to the administrative docket, where it will remain until February 2008. If Sawyer complies with all of the settlement's conditions, the judge will then dismiss the case.

Firefighter Holly Maxwell accused Sawyer of choking her in the early morning hours of Oct. 30 during a Halloween party at a haunted house sponsored by the Falkville Volunteer Fire Department. The department had closed the house to the public before the incident occurred.

According to her deposition, Maxwell was outside the building and talking with others when Sawyer suddenly had her jacket tight around her neck where she couldn't breathe.

Sawyer denied that he choked Maxwell. He said he was breaking up the party and getting everyone cleared out and that Maxwell mouthed off to him.

"I reached across to grab her because she kept running her mouth, and she slapped at me," he said. "I ended up grabbing her coat."

As part of the settlement, Sawyer agreed to issue a written apology to Maxwell and deliver a copy to Prosecutor Larry Madison. Sawyer also will enroll in anger-management classes and attend at least eight sessions, unless the complete course consists of fewer than eight.

He must have no contact with Maxwell or any member of her family and must not initiate contact through anyone else. Sawyer also agreed to pay court costs.

Should Sawyer fail to abide by the conditions, the prosecutor may reopen the case.

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