Hamilton County expected to pay $150,000 to Chattanooga rapper who was punched, kicked by deputy in 2018 viral video

Staff photo / Charles Toney Jr., right, and his attorney, S. Lee Merritt, leave a meeting with former District Attorney Neal Pinkston in 2018 before a news conference at the Courts Building in Chattanooga. Toney and his attorneys are expected to receive a $150,000 settlement from Hamilton County.
Staff photo / Charles Toney Jr., right, and his attorney, S. Lee Merritt, leave a meeting with former District Attorney Neal Pinkston in 2018 before a news conference at the Courts Building in Chattanooga. Toney and his attorneys are expected to receive a $150,000 settlement from Hamilton County.

Chattanooga rapper Charles Toney and his attorneys are expected to receive $150,000 from Hamilton County in a settlement reached more than five years after a video of a deputy punching and kicking him while in handcuffs went viral.

Hamilton County commissioners introduced a resolution Wednesday to allow a $150,000 payment to Toney and his attorneys for full and final settlement of all bodily injury claims arising from a Dec. 3, 2018, arrest involving the Sheriff's Office. Commissioners are expected to vote on its approval next week.

A bystander filmed Deputy Blake Kilpatrick beating Toney while he was handcuffed and on the ground in 2018. The next year, Toney filed a federal lawsuit against the county, claiming his constitutional right against excessive force was violated.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office declined to comment because it's an ongoing and pending legal matter, spokesperson Matt Lea said.

"Furthermore, it is Sheriff (Austin) Garrett's opinion yesterday's commission resolution speaks for itself," Lea said in an email Thursday.

What happened

Six members of Operation Triple Beam, a task force comprised of state and federal law enforcement officers, prepared to arrest Toney on several felony warrants Dec. 3, 2018, according to federal court filings.

The purpose of the task force was to target street level criminal activity, the filing states. Officers had received anonymous tips concerning the whereabouts of Toney.

Kilpatrick was a member of this task force, the filing states.

The members went to the parking lot of an apartment building where Toney's vehicle had been spotted, the filing states. When they arrived, Toney was standing next to the car with another man.

Authorities informed Toney that he was under arrest, but he allegedly asked questions, stalled and refused to follow their orders, the filing states.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County detective seen on video punching, kicking handcuffed man is placed on 'desk duty')

A neighbor began to film the interaction from her second floor window, the filing states.

Toney allegedly spat at Kilpatrick during the altercation, but that is not shown in the video, the filing states.

The video showed Kilpatrick cocking his right fist and punching Toney in the face, the filing states. Kilpatrick dragged a squirming Toney on his rear end a couple of feet, and Toney kicked out his leg, the filing states.

"Then Kilpatrick, who is standing over Toney sitting on the ground with hands cuffed behind his back, delivers a flurry of blows to Toney's head, face and the back of his neck, knocking him to a prone position on the pavement," the filing states. "According to Kilpatrick, not all of these blows actually landed, but it appears to the court that most or all did."

January ruling

A federal judge denied Kilpatrick's motion for a ruling in his favor in January because there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether Kilpatrick used excessive force against Toney, the filing states.

In Tennessee, a police officer cannot be held liable for assault and battery if the officer is using reasonable force during an arrest, the filing states.

Kilpatrick argued his strikes and kicks were reasonable in this incident, but the court disagreed, the filing states.

The court concluded that punching handcuffed suspects in the face, even if they spit in an officer's face, may amount to excessive force, the filing states.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga rapper sues Hamilton County, sheriff's office and deputy for 2018 beating)

"It was clearly established that, where a handcuffed suspect is offering some resistance to law enforcement officers but actually presents little threat to the officers, they may not constitutionally administer force that is grossly disproportionate to the threat presented -- such as multiple fist strikes to the face, head, or torso, or a kick to the groin," the filing states.

The judge ordered the parties meet for mediation in February and report whether a settlement was reached by Feb. 16, the ruling states. Toney would likely have taken his lawsuit to a jury if the county was not willing to settle.

The Hamilton County attorney's office did not respond Thursday to request for comments. Andrew Clarke, Toney's attorney, declined to comment.

Contact Sofia Saric at ssaric@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

  photo  Staff photo / Charles Toney Jr. listens as his attorney speaks during a news conference in 2018 at the Courts Building in Chattanooga. Toney and his attorneys are expected to receive a $150,000 settlement from Hamilton County.
 
 


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