Criminally indicted Hamilton County deputy Daniel Wilkey faces four more civil lawsuits

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photo Daniel Wilkey

Four more lawsuits were filed against Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Deputy Daniel Wilkey on Monday, shedding more light on the details of his criminal charges and adding more information to previous lawsuits alleging the groping of minors during an April traffic stop.

The 26-year-old deputy has been at the center of a criminal investigation and several lawsuits involving traffic stops, during which he is accused of engaging in misconduct ranging from illegal drug searches and a roadside body cavity search to a forced baptism and the groping of female minors. He was indicted last week on 44 criminal charges, including six counts of sexual battery, two counts of rape and nine counts of official oppression.

While grand jury proceedings are sealed, the indictment itself revealed a timeline of alleged criminal offenses. And one of the lawsuits filed on Monday offers more details involving the earliest offenses listed in the indictment, which took place between April 2018 and April 2019.

Each of the lawsuits alleges the plaintiffs endured religious scoldings by Wilkey, to the point they felt berated.

Despite Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond having publicly commented on the matter at the beginning of the investigation into Wilkey's alleged misconduct, stating he would "stand by his men in terms of their ability and their training," sheriff's office spokesman Matt Lea declined to comment Monday.

According to the indictment, Wilkey is alleged to have stalked a 23-year-old woman between April 2018 and April 2019. And between June 2018 and March 2019, he is accused of sexually battering her and committing official oppression six times each.

Official oppression is defined, essentially, as subjecting another person to mistreatment, arrest, detention, stop, frisk or seizure while acting in one's official capacity, according to Tennessee law. The indictment doesn't make clear if the charges for official oppression stem from the same incidents as the sexual battery.

The Times Free Press is not identifying the accusers because of the nature of their encounters with Wilkey.

Monday's lawsuit claims Wilkey started a "lengthy series of unlawful seizures and assaults" in 2017, the first of which took place when the woman worked at a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Middle Valley.

The woman was taking a smoke break when Wilkey pulled up and started asking her personal questions, including about her love life and whether she still lived at a certain address, the lawsuit claims. The woman didn't remember mentioning anything about her home address.

Wilkey then told the woman her pupils looked big, to which she explained that her prescription medication could be the cause. But Wilkey proceeded to search her and her purse, the lawsuit states.

He "'searched' [her] by placing his hands deep into her pants pockets, press his hands around her butt cheeks, and then pressed his hands into [her] crotch," the suit claims. "Wilkey then put his hands on [the woman's] breasts, and then told [her] to lift up her bra. [He] then put his hands underneath [her] bra, and swept his hands and fingers around the band of her bra and touched [her] breasts and nipples."

That kind of behavior is alleged to have continued into 2018 as he made "frequent and numerous" traffic stops of the woman and conducted the same type of searches.

Another deputy, Jacob Goforth, was reportedly present during at least one of those stops. Goforth also was allegedly present at the time Wilkey reportedly forced a woman to be baptized during a February traffic stop.

During one of the stops involving the first accuser, Wilkey "berated [the woman] by telling her she needed to get saved, asked her why she was 'hanging around with that guy,' and told [her] she was going to Hell," according to the lawsuit.

Then, around March of this year, Wilkey and another, unidentified deputy, allegedly showed up at the woman's former residence where she once lived with her parents.

The deputies shined flashlights into the woman's bedroom. When the woman's mother saw the lights, she went outside and recognized Wilkey.

"[Her] mother told Wilkey he needed to leave and leave [the woman] alone," the suit claims.

Wilkey explained that he was looking for the woman because there was a warrant for her arrest - something that wasn't true - and he needed to speak to her, the lawsuit states.

He then allegedly convinced the woman's sister to call her so he could talk to her, and when the woman heard his voice on the phone, "she burst out in tears."

The $15 million suit claims that Wilkey deprived the woman of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. It also accuses him of negligence, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The remaining three suits, filed on Monday and on behalf of three different minors, detail the same traffic stop in April during which Wilkey allegedly groped five female minors and ordered a boy to strip off his clothes while another deputy, Tyler McRae, stood by.

Both deputies have been accused of multiple civil rights violations, in addition to battery and assault.

Each lawsuit claims Wilkey stopped the vehicle, driven by a minor identified only as A.M., on or about April 18 after following them "for miles." It doesn't state where the stop took place or what time, but his reason was for an alleged window tint violation. The vehicle had factory windows, the lawsuit states.

Goforth arrived not long after, and the two deputies approached the vehicle when Wilkey claimed to have smelled marijuana.

Wilkey then ordered the minors out of the vehicle and "began a series of comments to the minors about religion and that he was 'praying' for them," according to the lawsuit.

"Interspersed in his comments about God, Jesus and religion were Wilkey's insults, foul language, and comments about how the minors will end up like their 'piece of [s--] parents' and become 'disappointments.'"

Wilkey searched the female minors, one at a time and each out of the sight the others, squeezing their breasts and abdomen, the lawsuit claims. He touched at least one minor's genitalia.

Some of the parents of the minors reportedly filed internal affairs complaints, but their calls were not returned.

Internal affairs investigators did show up to the children's high school, though, to interview the children about the search of A.M., whose guardian had also filed an internal affairs complaint.

The investigators said the children's descriptions of the searches "did not sound inappropriate in nature." As a result, A.M. was charged with making a false report, a Class C or D felony. That charge was later thrown out.

Additionally, shortly after the complaint was filed, Wilkey is said to have repeatedly followed and tailgated A.M. "for miles and at times with his police vehicle's highbeams on."

"Wilkey's retaliatory conduct placed the [girl] and her guardian in fear that [he] would escalate his conduct into violence, and therefore they did not follow up on their complaint to [internal affairs]," the children's attorney, Robin Flores, claims in the lawsuit.

Flores argues that the county's failure to address the growing list of alleged misconduct of its deputies "created an environment that allowed [the deputies] to believe that abusive behavior would not be properly monitored, investigated not punished and was tantamount to a policy of the County." That led deputies to believe they would "not be punished in any significant way."

And the belief was only reinforced by Sheriff Jim Hammond's public comments supporting his deputies "before any meaningful investigation by his own [internal affairs]," the suit states.

Additionally, Flores points out that Wilkey was hired not long after leaving his position at the Rhea County Sheriff's Office, where he and the county were sued after he shot and killed a man at a hospital in 2014.

"The hiring of Wilkey as a deputy was tantamount to unleashing a monster upon the citizens of Hamilton County and upon the Plaintiff[s]," one lawsuit states.

Wilkey has been on paid administrative leave since July and will remain so pending his disciplinary hearing, which is set for Dec. 30, according to the sheriff's office.

The sheriff's office spokesman, Matt Lea, human resources director, Carole Miller, and chief deputy Austin Garrett did not return multiple questions over the course of three days to confirm Wilkey's yearly and hourly salary, something that is public record.

Contact Rosana Hughes at or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.