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Minister Sues Family of Dead Woman for $490,000 Spokesperson 'Tithe'

An Atlanta minister who filed a lawsuit against the estate of a woman killed in a confrontation with police officers in 2006 might have suffered a setback when a judge on Friday denied his request to put a halt to the family's spending of settlement money awarded by the city.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Doris Downs denied the Rev. Markel Hutchins' request for a temporary restraining order against the family of Kathryn Johnston, the 92-year-old woman who was killed by police in 2006 during an ill-informed drug raid.

Hutchins claims Johnston's niece, Sarah Dozier, had agreed in word to give him 10 percent of the settlement money for his assistance to the family amid the deadly police raid.

"The agreement was ten percent, a tithe, a tenth of whatever was recovered in the lawsuit," Hutchinson told CBS Atlanta on Aug. 26.

He added, "We didn't know whether the lawsuit would recover $100,000 or $10,000,000. We didn't know what it was. The $490,000 is literally a tithe, or a tenth, of what the recovery was."

Johnston's estate was awarded $4.9 million by the city of Atlanta.

Hutchins claims that attorneys with the Cochran Firm also asked him to represent the family "from the night Kathryn Johnston was killed," according to CBS Atlanta. Hutchins said he assisted the Johnston family for four years.

“I had an expressed agreement. I could not in good conscious put a contract in their face,” Hutchins told CBS Atlanta. “But when you go to work for someone, and you perform a task, and you do it in excellence, you are obligated to pay them!”

William Hill, Jr., the attorney representing Dozier and the Cochran Firm, also named in the lawsuit, denied his client ever made such an agreement.

"There ain't no writing in which Miss Dozier agrees to pay Mr. Hutchins. Mr. Hutchins offered to speak on behalf of the Neal Street community. She never had a conversation about paying him," Hill said in court, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Hutchins said that he addressed the media on the family's behalf, provided advice, and aided them in various other capacities during the time of Johnston's death, and he would like to be compensated.

"I served as the family and estate's spokesperson, strategist, advisor and consultant with a clear understanding of how I would be compensated," Hutchins said in a statement last Thursday. "My staff and I holistically managed the public and private efforts that made the significant settlement possible and yielded Mrs. Johnston's heirs millions of dollars."

Downs on Friday ruled that the Atlanta minister and his attorney, Foy Devine, had other means of attaining the money.

Hutchins and Devine have vowed to pursue the matter.

Hutchins told CBS Atlanta that if Johnston's family members and Cochran Firm attorneys had simply agreed to meet and discuss his compensation, the lawsuit could have been avoided.

Johnston was killed in 2006 when a police narcotics unit, having obtained a "no-knock" warrant, entered her home without alerting the 92-year-old woman beforehand. Johnston grabbed a revolver and fired a shot when police officers kicked in her door. Officers shot back, firing 39 bullets, killing the woman.

When no drugs were discovered in Johnston's home, officers planted evidence from another raid on the premises.

Four officers pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate Johnston's civil rights and were sentenced to prison in 2009.

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