published Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Chattanooga: 'Man sues police for false arrest' and other court news

  • photo
    Judge Rebecca Stern, left, overrules a media gag order requested by public defender Mary Ann Green, foreground, attempting to limit information the media can obtain regarding the Jesse Mathews case Monday. Mathews is charged in the shooting death of Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin. Staff Photo by Dan Henry/The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Man sues police for false arrest

A Chattanooga man filed a federal lawsuit against the police department for $1.9 million, alleging his rights were violated when an officer arrested and jailed him when he “tooted” his car horn at her.

In the complaint, Larry Ballanger, 61, alleges that on April 23, 2010, while stopped at a red light on Brainerd Road behind Chattanooga police Officer Cristina Henderson, 34, the light turned green and as traffic moved forward the officer continued looking down at her passenger seat.

Ballanger “tooted his horn” to signal Henderson that the light had changed.

Henderson pulled off to the side of the road and then behind Ballanger as he passed, according to the complaint.

She followed him for more than two miles and flashed on her patrol car lights when he entered a store parking lot.

Henderson exited the patrol car and told Ballanger, “You shouldn’t be honking me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he replied.

Henderson went back to her car, returned and cited Ballanger for noise violation and blocking/obstructing traffic.

Ballanger refused to sign the citation. Henderson then cited Ballanger for disorderly conduct, arrested him and took him to the Hamilton County Jail, according to the complaint.

Charges against Ballanger were dismissed in January.

Judge rejects gag order request

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern overruled a public defender’s request for a gag order in a high-profile case involving the shooting death of a Chattanooga police sergeant.

Assistant District Public Defender Mary Ann Green is one of three attorneys representing Jesse Mathews, who is charged with the shooting death of Sgt. Tim Chapin.

Green had asked that the Hamilton County Jail, where Mathews is being held, not be allowed to release Mathews’ image, photographs or voice recordings to media.

“That is really a gag order motion and I’m not inclined to sustain a gag order motion at this time,” Stern told Green, overruling her request.

Mathews’ charges were sent to the grand jury for a possible indictment on April 13. Police say Mathews shot and killed Chapin as Mathews fled an attempted robbery at the U.S. Money Shops on Brainerd Road on April 2.

Judge allows evidence for prosecution

A local judge overruled an attorney’s motion to limit evidence that prosecutors say could prove criminal intent in the 2007 death of a local nursing home patient.

Defense attorney Steve Brown asked the court not to allow prosecutors to use evidence that could compare the size of a blunt force trauma wound to Robert Young’s head with the size of a shower head where Walter Small showered him shortly before Young died.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern overruled the motion and will allow the evidence in the June 7 trial but also allowed Brown to admit the results of a polygraph test, which Small passed.

Assistant District Attorney Boyd Patterson told the judge that Small had lied to police multiple times before admitting that Young may have hit his head in a fall while Small showered the paralyzed man.

A grand jury indicted Small on charges of criminally negligent homicide more than a year after Young’s Nov. 6, 2007, death.

Small also will be brought back to the grand jury on charges of filing false reports to police in relation to his early interviews with officers, Patterson said in court Monday.

— Compiled by staff writer Todd South. Contact him at or 423-757-6347.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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GeorgiaRebel said...

Officers with a chip on their shoulder should be fired

April 26, 2011 at 9:10 a.m.
BOOBOO99 said...

Cristina Henderson should be fired for what she did, I hope this man gets his money, because this officer"s ego got the best of her...This huzzy needs to be flipping hamburgers not protecting our city.

April 26, 2011 at 9:41 a.m.
sangaree said...

When will Chattanooga stop hiring these babies and pretty girl pretty boy cops who get peed if they break a nail? We need realy, decent and honorable cops without poor self-esteem issues. Who didn't get beaten up and bullied in school and now want to take it out on citizens. Get rid of these d*&kheads and maybe these lawsuits will stop.

April 26, 2011 at 10:51 a.m.
Jennam said...

I love when cops think they're special and above the law. They park in handicap spaces, speed like crazy down the highway while yakking on their cell phones, I saw one cop flagrantly texting while driving last week, and now they think they can arrest people for making them pay attention while behind the wheel? What B.S.! And what beats all is when you see them breaking the law, who do you tell? It's not like you can call the police and report them because it's their word against yours, and you know if you whip out your cell phone to record a video of them while you're driving you'll get pulled over and fined. They feel like they can do whatever they want because the same laws we all have to live with don't apply to them.

April 26, 2011 at 11:26 a.m.

$1.9 million....really??? And you idiots think the police officer is the problem.

April 26, 2011 at 1:53 p.m.
joeguy said...

Clearly the guy should NOT get 1.9 mil for this issue, but from the limited info in the article, he should not have been cited either. I would say the police officer was out of line.

@Lib4Freedom — Your thought process is an embarrassment to the true Libertarians. You are suggesting that we should not treat police officers as equals who should follow the basic standards of society because they have power to enforce laws. So, we should heed to the power of their position and obey them blindly out of fear?

We have an obligation to watch them and insure they follow the laws as much as they enforce them. Believe it or not, there are bad people in this world and some of them are police officers. Many are not, but the few that are, are not above reproach.

April 26, 2011 at 3:46 p.m.
sage1 said...

I agree 100% with you Jennam. They think they are members of Congress or the Senate, being above the law an all!!!

April 26, 2011 at 3:48 p.m.
eyesWIDEopen said...

sunnydelightlover and you really think the cop with the attitude is NOT the problem? Does that mean you also think the church organization isn't liable when their priests molest little girls and boys? Boy! You have a warped value system.

April 26, 2011 at 3:49 p.m.
Leaf said...

L4F said, "Whether you like it or not, they are the law. . ." No, they one cog in the machine that upholds the law. They are NOT the law.

I don't know the specifics of this particular case, but it is quite commonplace for LE to think they are above the law.

April 26, 2011 at 3:50 p.m.
eyesWIDEopen said...

I think joeyguy summed it all up. Cops with these type attitudes have no place in the profession anyway. The sad part is it is these type cops with serious identity and even emotional problems that are being hired these days, and the profession will often look the other way or even harass the citizen that dare take a stand and file complaint. These type cops damage the reputation of the profession as well as the reputation of decent honorable cops.

If you check, apparently nothing was done to Officer Henderson. She remains on the force and is still out and about making arrests. It can all be easily looked up on the hamilton county gov. website by clicking on the records icon and scrolling down to general sessions court and criminal sesseions then simply keying in the officer's name.

April 26, 2011 at 3:56 p.m.
chet123 said...

i havent seen the face nor picture of police nor Ballenger....but i'm willing to bet...ballenger a white male....know the police was a woman..LOL LOL beleive me if this was a black man he would have gotten beaten down by back up happen all the good example of the duel justice system...LOL LOL.. most of these people defending Ballenger would take the cop side....only in America...libertariansfreedom...I beleive you are consistent on this one LOL LOL

April 26, 2011 at 4:42 p.m.
cantfixstupid said...

I am not saying what officer Henderson did was right, but all this guy had to do was SIGN THE FREAKING TICKET!!!!! Had he done this, the case would probably have been thrown out in court, (which it was) and saved the city the cost and aggravation of yet another civil lawsuit. Simply put, he was stopped because he caught her goofing off and she got even. But where is he entitled to 1.9 million tax dollars for this? anyone that says he SHOULD be awarded that amount must have forgotten where that money comes from, US!!!!! I agree that officer Henderson should be reprimanded for her actions in this case, but losing her job is a little extreme.

April 26, 2011 at 4:45 p.m.
sangaree said...

@Libertarians4Freedom said... Leaf, cogs in the machine or not they have the power to make your life miserable, so why would you piss them off? This isn't about politics, it's about common sense.

If honking your horn to let someone know the traffic light has turned green is enough to set one of these bozos off, especially a cop, then they already had serious emotional and psychological problems from the start. They should be ranked right up there with the road rage lunatics and freaks and have no place in law enforcement. The question should be how in the world did this moron pass the psyche test or was she just cute enough that they let her obvious psychosis problems slide?

April 26, 2011 at 5:56 p.m.
sangaree said...

@cantfixstupid said... I am not saying what officer Henderson did was right, but all this guy had to do was SIGN THE FREAKING TICKET!!!!! Had he done this, the case would probably have been thrown out in court, (which it was) and saved the city the cost and aggravation of yet another civil lawsuit.

Your logic is right up there with the individual who would say all the rape victim had to do was drop his or her drawers and let the rapist have his way thenthe rapist wouldn't have brutally beat plus raped the victim. If no one challenged these fruitcakes, be they cops or crooks, they'd walk all over the average citizen. Of wich the bad cops are already doing and getting away with it.

Isn't that is what is suppose to make America so much better than those other rogue countries with equally rogue, brutal and crooked law enforcement? We, as American citizen, do have the right to challenge authority when especially when they're in the wrong? In fact, we have an obligation to challenge. Lest America become like those other bad guys we tell our young people they must go to war and fight and die so others can enjoy U.S. freedoms? @

April 26, 2011 at 6:08 p.m.
Schubie said...

I don't know. Tailing some guy a couple of miles over a horn toot sounds pretty serious. Maybe 'tooting' can lead to 'the hard stuff'.

April 26, 2011 at 6:14 p.m.

Seems to me there was no need for the officer to over react. She needs a good lesson in how to pick her battles. Quite frankly don't blame the 61 y/o Mr. Ballanger but he should have used more common sense. Suits such as his are a loose/loose situation. No one really wins.

April 26, 2011 at 8:46 p.m.
McRand said...

The law doesn't belong solely to the police. The law belongs to the citizens of the USA, State, County and City. Those employed in law enforcement are public servants. They work for us. Our taxes pay them. A portion of the police officers taxes goes towards paying them, but that doesn't give them an exemption from obeying the law. Sometimes they do though.

For example:

Sometimes a police officer will tailgate someone without probable cause to run a plate. When the officer does this, he or she is jeopardizing that persons safety, or whomever else is in the car; adults or children. The laws apply to everybody and the police need to treat people with respect. If they can't control their emotions on the job while on the road, then maybe they should surrender their weapon and ask for a desk job.

April 26, 2011 at 9:02 p.m.
chet123 said...

oh yeah?

April 27, 2011 at 12:45 p.m.
chet123 said...

how about police shooting a derainge man 50times

April 27, 2011 at 9:03 p.m.
chet123 said...

no complaint there....maybe because he was black???hmmmmmmmmm

April 27, 2011 at 9:05 p.m.
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