Hamilton County sheriff's deputy facing fifth lawsuit, second in alleged groping of minors

Daniel Wilkey / Photo provided by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office
Daniel Wilkey / Photo provided by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

Yet another lawsuit has been filed against Hamilton County sheriff's deputy Daniel Wilkey, who is at the center of a criminal investigation and multiple lawsuits, both in county and federal court, that detail an array of misconduct allegations.

The $11 million lawsuit, filed in Hamilton County Circuit Court on Wednesday, adds more information to one filed in mid-October on behalf of a 14-year-old girl, identified only as C.P.S., who said Wilkey groped her and other female minors during a traffic stop in April and ordered a boy to strip off his clothes while another deputy, Tyler McRae, stood by.

Despite Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond having publicly commented on the matter at the beginning of the investigation into Wilkey's alleged misconduct, Chief Deputy Austin Garrett referred all questions to county attorney Rheubin Taylor, who declined to comment.

photo Daniel Wilkey / Photo provided by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

The first lawsuit stated the stop took place on April 21, but new documents say it was actually the 18th, according to the latest suit.

Wilkey allegedly ordered the six juveniles to keep their phones in their laps and "not move a muscle" while he frisked each one, one at a time, Wednesday's lawsuit states.

McRae reportedly "maintained watch over the children" and made sure they sat still and looked only straight ahead.

Another minor identified as M.R.S. said she heard one of the girls complain about the search and asked for a female officer when Wilkey responded, saying the girls "don't know the law" and to "shut the f -- up."

When it was M.R.S.' turn to be searched, she said, Wilkey told her to "place her hands against the vehicle and spread her legs."

He then "grabbed [her] hips, and pulled her toward him," the lawsuit states. He then frisked her through her clothing, "squeezing her breasts and abdomen" and felt up her thighs and "squeezed" her genitals and buttocks. No contraband was found.

photo Tyler McRae / Photo provided by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

During the search, Wilkey reportedly told the minors they were "going to hell 'like your parents;' that they needed to 'find Jesus;' that their parents do not love them and that the children were going 'nowhere' in their lives," according to the lawsuit. McRae allegedly made similar comments.

The driver of the vehicle - also a minor identified only as A.M. - was arrested, allegedly for possessing an unidentified form of contraband in her underwear.

Mothers of both M.R.S and C.P.S tried several times to file complaints with the sheriff's office internal affairs division, according to the lawsuit. The mothers' 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.

But the interviews, for which the investigators "never obtained permission" from parents to conduct, "focused mostly on what [the child] did not see."

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.

The children's attorney, Robin Flores, argues the investigation into A.M.'s complaint "was conducted in such a manner as to retaliate against A.M. and to keep her quiet." By filing the felony charge, it sent a "signal to the other minor victims to not pursue any legal action against Wilkey and McRae," he argues.

Flores argues the deputies and the county were negligent and violated the constitutional rights of juvenile passenger"M.R.S." Specifically, it states her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and to be free from injury or harm while in custody were violated.

The deputies are also accused of battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Wednesday's lawsuit is the fifth filed against Wilkey, both in county and federal court, and the second filed against McRae.

Two of the cases involve an alleged baptism of a woman during a February traffic stop and the apparent roadside body cavity search of a man in July. Those have been moved to federal court.

Another suit, filed in federal court earlier this year, alleges Wilkey conducted an improper traffic stop during which the driver was detained until a K-9 unit from the Soddy-Daisy Police Department arrived and found nothing.

The remaining two cases deal with the April 18 traffic stop involving the minors.

Flores argues that the county's failure to address the 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." And led them to believe they would "not be punished in any significant way."

As of Oct. 31, Wilkey remained on administrative leave with pay and was not allowed to patrol, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. Brewer has been assigned to clerical duties. Goforth, however, returned to active duty Oct. 17. McRea was still patrolling and had not been placed under investigation.

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