Third lawsuit against Hamilton County sheriff's deputy alleges strip search, groping of juveniles

This screenshot from dashcam footage provided by the Office of District Attorney General Neal Pinkston shows the arrest of a man and woman who were pulled over Wednesday in the Soddy-Daisy area.

UPDATE: Hamilton County District Attorney's Office spokesman Bruce Garner said late Thursday night that District Attorney Neal Pinkston is still reviewing the case involving deputies Daniel Wilkey and Bobby Brewer and an alleged roadside body cavity search.


Hamilton County sheriff's deputy Daniel Wilkey - who is under investigation for a reportedly inappropriate body cavity search - is now facing a third lawsuit, this time alleging a strip search of a male juvenile and the groping of female minors. It's the latest in a series of suits filed by the same attorney on behalf of different plaintiffs within a matter of weeks.

The latest lawsuit, filed on behalf of a 14-year-old girl in Hamilton County Circuit Court on Thursday, claims that deputies Daniel Wilkey and Jacob Goforth deprived the girl of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure when Wilkey detained her and groped her during a search on the side of the road one April day.

The deputies are also accused of battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Additionally, the county is accused of negligence because, attorney Robin Flores argues, it has a "duty to properly supervise, discipline, and train its deputies ... [and] to report fellow deputy misconduct and to not hire persons as deputies with easily discoverable histories of violence."

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office referred all questions to county attorney Rheubin Taylor, who said the county "makes no comments about pending lawsuits."

According to the lawsuit, Wilkey stopped a vehicle on April 21 that was occupied by the 14-year-old girl and five other minors. The lawsuit doesn't state where the stop took place or what time.

Wilkey allegedly "followed the minors for miles" before conducting a traffic stop that lasted nearly two hours 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.

"At no time did anyone in the vehicle smoke any marijuana before the traffic stop," the lawsuit states.

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.'"

At one point, Wilkey approached the only male juvenile and "ordered [him] to strip off his clothes," the lawsuit states.

The boy complied and removed his clothes except for his boxers, according to the lawsuit. Goforth then ordered the boy to remove his boxers, but the boy pointed out that girls were present and that "the only way he would take off his boxers would be for the deputies to take [him] to the juvenile detention center."

Wilkey then turned his attention to the female juveniles, the lawsuit states.

He ordered the 14-year-old girl to place her hands on the vehicle and to "stick out her buttocks" and conducted a "slow 'search' with his hands over her breasts, abdomen, buttocks, inner thighs, and into her crotch," according to the lawsuit.

He "pressed and squeezed" the girl with his hands as he "groped [her] breasts, abdomen, buttocks, inner thighs, and crotch," the lawsuit states.

Then, he reached under her bra with both hands and "felt [her] breasts as he pulled her bra outward and gave the bra a shake," the lawsuit states.

Wilkey searched the other female minors in the same manner, according to the lawsuit, and went on to reach into one of the girls' underwear and recovered what was reported to be contraband, according to the lawsuit.

The 14-year-old girl's mother picked her up from the side of the road, and upon learning of the groping, the mother contacted someone at the sheriff's office annex in Red Bank. The unidentified employee told the mother that someone from internal affairs would contact her. But after two more attempts to file a complaint, no one from the sheriff's office contacted her to obtain a statement from the minor.

Attorney Flores argues the actions of both Wilkey and Goforth violated the girl's constitutional rights. And due to a history of misconduct and an alleged lack of punishment, the county is also liable.

Thursday's lawsuit is the third filed against Wilkey and the second filed against Goforth.

The first details a traffic stop in which Wilkey detained a woman while she was driving in the Soddy-Daisy area on Feb. 6. Before the stop was over, Wilkey allegedly forced the woman to let him baptize her to avoid jail time for having the butt of a marijuana cigarette in her car.

The second lawsuit details another traffic stop during which Wilkey and another deputy, Bobby Brewer, conducted an apparent roadside body cavity search of a man who was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over in Soddy-Daisy. Dash camera video shows Wilkey and Brewer kicking, punching and stripping the pants off the man on July 10 before performing the apparent search.

That case was referred to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which has since finished its investigation and handed its findings back to the Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston's office.

Pinkston's office did not respond to questions about where that investigation stands or whether he has closed the case.

Pinkston has said he contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in addition to the TBI, but it's not clear where the federal investigation stands.

In all three lawsuits, Flores details multiple instances of brutality by county deputies dating back to 2015.

He argues that the county's failure to address the alleged misconduct "created an environment that allowed [the deputies] to believe that abusive behaviour 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."

In the most recent suit, Flores argues the county's failure to pursue the mother's complaint was "evidence that the County would not properly supervise and investigate claims of misconduct against its deputies and constituted a policy of the County."

Deputies Wilkey and Goforth are both still being investigated by internal affairs, according to Hamilton County Sheriff's Office spokesman Matt Lea.

Lea did not return a request to confirm whether Brewer is also being investigated.

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