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

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

April 26th, 2011 by Todd South in News

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

Judge Rebecca Stern, left, overrules a media gag...

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.