Chattanooga officer accused of kidnapping, sexual battery hires ex-judge for defense

Chattanooga officer accused of kidnapping, sexual battery hires ex-judge for defense

December 7th, 2018 by Zack Peterson in Breaking News

Updated at 4:56 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, with more information.

Benjamin Dessalines

Benjamin Dessalines

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

A Chattanooga police officer charged with kidnapping and sexual battery has hired former Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern as his defense lawyer.

Benjamin Dessalines, 28, will have a preliminary hearing on felony charges Feb. 4 in Hamilton County General Sessions Court, Stern said.

Stern declined further comment, saying she will use the time to meet with her client, who appeared Friday with a handful of family members and friends after posting $15,000 bail last month.

Dessalines, a Chattanooga police officer since 2016, remains on paid leave while the department completes an internal affairs investigation and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office conducts a criminal investigation into the Nov. 8 incident. Once they're done, investigators will turn the results over to District Attorney General Neal Pinkston.

According to court documents, the woman filed a police report Nov. 27. The Times Free Press does not name alleged victims of sex crimes.

A criminal affidavit says the woman told investigators she was caught shoplifting around 11 p.m. at a grocery store where Dessalines was working as a security guard. Dessalines said he would take her home when his shift ended about 45 minutes later, the affidavit says.

Dessalines picked the woman up from a nearby business in a black SUV and said he needed to meet someone at his apartment. Once there he took her inside, kissed and fondled her and asked for sex. She refused, the affidavit says.

He eventually took her back to his vehicle, where he pulled a handgun from a bag and began to load it, the woman told investigators. She asked why he had a gun and he said he was going to an unfamiliar area. When Dessalines turned into an alley, the woman thought she was being taken there to be killed, the affidavit says.

Instead, he took her to an address she provided. He said she had more to lose than he did and that she shouldn't tell anyone, the affidavit says.

A black handgun and two white bags matching the description given by the woman were found in the vehicle.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.


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