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This story was updated at 10:57 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, with more information.

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Daniel Wilkey

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Deputy Daniel Wilkey has been indicted on 44 criminal charges, including 25 felonies, "pertaining to incidents he was involved in while on duty in an official capacity," according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Wilkey, 26, has been at the center of a criminal investigation and at least four separate 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 has been on paid administrative leave since July.

Charges include six counts of sexual battery, two counts of rape, nine counts of official oppression, extortion, stalking, assault and others. Rape and sexual battery are felonies.

He was arrested Tuesday and was booked into the Hamilton County Jail late in the evening. He was later released on a $25,000 bond.

On July 12, Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston released dash camera footage of Wilkey and another deputy, Bobby Brewer, kicking, punching and stripping the pants off a handcuffed black man on July 10 before allegedly performing a body cavity search on the side of a Soddy-Daisy road.

The case was referred to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which finished its investigation in August and handed its findings back to Pinkston's office.

On Wednesday, Pinkston's office declined to comment on the arrest citing a pending case.

The handcuffed man's attorney, Robin Flores, has filed a $17 million federal lawsuit against the county, Wilkey and Brewer. He has also filed three other lawsuits against Wilkey — two detailing the alleged groping of minor females during a traffic stop and and one detailing the alleged baptism.

The incidents sparked outrage among Chattanooga's black leaders, with the NAACP characterizing the cavity search as aggravated rape and pleading for criminal accountability from law enforcement and unity from citizens in order to bring an end to police brutality against people of color.

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Several others, including a group of 50 Hamilton County black pastors, have called for the resignation of Sheriff Jim Hammond, who said he would "stand by his men in terms of their ability and their training."

Hammond has said he won't step down. But the 75-year-old has announced that he won't run for re-election in 2022, citing wishes to spend more time with his family.

He won't fire his deputies, either, he has said, without following the proper process.

Public employees facing termination possess legal protections that employees in the private sector don't have. While nothing prevents governments from quickly firing public employees, those employees then can sue them for monetary relief.

However, the sheriff's office has fired employees once they face criminal charges.

"Throughout this process, my staff and I will continue to cooperate with the District Attorney's Office and provide any evidence or records necessary to aid in their investigation," Hammond said in a statement late Tuesday.

But he reiterated the need to "follow a specific process as to how his employment status is addressed during the investigative phase and once formal charges have been issued."

"In accordance with Civil Service guidelines, a Pre-Determination Hearing will be scheduled to address Deputy Wilkey's employment status," Hammond said.

Wilkey's attorney did not respond to a request for comment sent late Tuesday. 

THE CHARGES

Felonies-25
Extortion
Rape
Rape
Sexual battery
Sexual battery
Sexual battery
Sexual battery
Sexual battery
Sexual battery
Official oppression
Official oppression
Official oppression
Official oppression
Official oppression
Official oppression
Official oppression
Official oppression
Official oppression
Reckless endangerment
Reckless endangerment
Reckless endangerment
Reckless endangerment
Reckless endangerment
Reckless endangerment
Reckless endangerment

Misdemeanors-19
False imprisonment
False imprisonment
Assault
Assault
Assault
Stalking
Stalking
Stalking
Stalking
Reckless driving
Reckless driving
Reckless driving
Reckless driving
Reckless driving
Reckless driving
Reckless driving
Reckless driving
Reckless driving
Reckless driving

Source: Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

Wilkey was hired by the sheriff's office in February 2018, just six months after leaving the Rhea County Sheriff's Office in August 2017.

Six months before that, in February 2017, Rhea County reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit that claimed Wilkey fatally shot Steven Lee "Buddy" Howell while employed as a deputy with the Rhea sheriff's office.

Since being hired in Hamilton County, Wilkey has had eight internal affairs cases opened against him. Two of those were found to be within policy. The rest, including two vehicle pursuits, do not list a disposition.

(Read more: Federal judge denies request to halt civil suit against embroiled Hamilton County deputies; hold granted in another case)

Three other deputies — Brewer, Jacob Goforth and Tyler McRae — have been named in at least three separate incidents alleging they stood by and watched Wilkey reportedly violate citizens' rights.

Attorneys for the deputies have asked judges in each case to put the civil suits on hold while the criminal investigations move forward.

Judges have so far made a decision in only two cases: the alleged baptism and the alleged roadside body cavity search.

The only case in which a hold was granted is in the one involving the apparent cavity search. Chief Judge Pamela Reeves granted a 90-day hold.

As of October, Brewer had been assigned to clerical duties while under internal investigation. Goforth, however, returned to active duty Oct. 17. McRea was still patrolling and had not been placed under investigation at that time.

"In the days that follow, I want to reassure our community, each and every day the men and women of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office are to perform their duties in a deliberate, honorable, and professional manner," Hammond said. "We are charged to protect this community and its citizens and this is a responsibility I take very seriously."

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

Hamilton County sheriff's statement

Full statement from Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond:

"Earlier this afternoon, I was notified the Hamilton County Grand Jury handed down indictments against Patrol Deputy Daniel Wilkey pertaining to incidents he was involved in while on duty in an official capacity.

As an employee of the HCSO, Deputy Wilkey is covered under Civil Service which requires this agency to follow a specific process as to how his employment status is addressed during the investigative phase and once formal charges have been issued. In accordance with Civil Service guidelines, a Pre-Determination Hearing will be scheduled to address Deputy Wilkey's employment status.

Throughout this process, my staff and I will continue to cooperate with the District Attorney's Office and provide any evidence or records necessary to aid in their investigation. 

In the days that follow, I want to reassure our community, each and every day the men and women of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office are to perform their duties in a deliberate, honorable, and professional manner. We are charged to protect this community and its citizens and this is a responsibility I take very seriously. 

My staff and I will continue to follow the steps laid out by Civil Service and cooperate with the District Attorney's Office throughout the course of this investigation.

Deputy Wilkey is currently at the Hamilton County Jail being processed at this time."

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