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Daniel Wilkey

A Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputy facing 44 criminal charges committed the bulk of his alleged offenses within a seven-month time frame, and they involved four different people, according to court documents.

While details are limited, the indictment issued Tuesday provides an outline for the case against Deputy Daniel Wilkey.

The 26-year-old was hired by the sheriff's office in February 2018. He 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.

The Times Free Press is not identifying the accusers because of the nature of their encounters with Wilkey.

The first one listed in the indictment is a 23-year-old woman. Wilkey is alleged to have stalked the woman between April 2018 and April 2019, according to the indictment. And between June 2018 and March 2019, he is accused of sexually battering her and committing official oppression six times each. The indictment doesn't make clear if the charges for official oppression stem from the same incidents as the sexual battery.

Official oppression is defined, essentially, as subjecting another person to mistreatment, arrest, detention, stop, frisk or seizure while acting in one's official capacity, according to Tennessee law.

On Feb. 1 of this year, he stalked a second person, the indictment states. That 40-year-old woman has filed a lawsuit claiming Wilkey forced her into being baptized in Chickamauga Lake during a traffic stop late on the evening of Feb. 6 while another deputy, Jacob Goforth, watched. Wilkey reportedly told her she wouldn't have to face jail time for having the butt of a marijuana cigarette in her car if she agreed to the baptism.

Wilkey is charged with extortion, false imprisonment, official oppression and assault in connection to that case.

Extortion is defined by state law as using coercion to obtain property, services, an advantage over someone, or to restrict someone's freedom.

The woman's attorney, Robin Flores, who represents a number of other accusers, said the charges only support his clients' claims.

On March 30, another person was reportedly assaulted by Wilkey. The deputy faces two additional charges in that case: false imprisonment and official oppression.

Between May 16 and July 6, Wilkey committed nine counts of reckless driving and six counts of reckless endangerment, according to the indictment.

The offenses come to a halt on July 10 after Wilkey and another deputy, Bobby Brewer, stopped a couple driving in Soddy-Daisy.

Dash camera footage released by Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston in July shows Wilkey and Brewer kicking and stripping the pants off a handcuffed black man, who then endured an apparent body cavity search on the side of the 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.

As a result of that investigation and one conducted by the Hamilton County District Attorney General's office, Wilkey now faces two counts of rape, assault and official oppression in connection to the July 10 incident.

A lawsuit has been filed in connection to that case, as well.

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Wilkey was arrested late Tuesday night. At around 11:15 p.m., he was in the process of being booked into the Hamilton County Jail. By 12:15 a.m., he was released on a $25,000 bond. His paperwork had not yet been filed with the criminal court, so it's not clear whether he is required to wear a GPS monitor, and the sheriff's office and District Attorney General's Office did not respond to questions about the terms of his release.

The bond amount was set by Criminal Court Judge Don Poole. While the reason for why that amount was chosen is not clear, the stipulations judges and magistrates must follow when setting bonds may shed some light on the matter.

According to Tennessee law, bail "shall be set as low as the court determines is necessary to reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant as required."

In order to determine what amount to set, lawmakers have listed nine factors to consider. That includes a defendant's employment status, family ties, reputation, prior criminal record, nature of the offense, risk of danger to the community and whether any "responsible members of the community will vouch for the defendant's reliability."

"A bond is not a punishment or any sort of a reflection on the strength or weaknesses of the charges," said Penny White, professor of law with the University of Tennessee College of Law.

And the nature of each charge doesn't actually indicate whether someone is dangerous, she said, "because that would presume guilt, and at this stage, the person is presumed innocent."

"When a person has ties to the community ... it suggests that a bond should be low because the likelihood of the person not showing up to defend against the charges is slight," White added. "[Judges are] weighing the balance between this defendant's rights and the community's need to feel safe and secure and doing the very best they can to make a hard decision."

Ultimately, if prosecutors think the bond is too low, they can submit evidence to establish that the bond amount needs to be raised. Though, once the indictment came out of the grand jury and the bond was set, the prosecution was aware of it, White said. Whenever that happened, they would have had an opportunity to go before a magistrate or judge to get it raised.

"Anything that the defendant does between now and the [first court] hearing could be a basis for the prosecution trying to get it back into court and get [the bond] raised," White said.

Wilkey remains on paid administrative leave pending his pre-determination hearing, which is set for Dec. 30, sheriff's office spokesman Matt Lea said. Civil service requires an employee to have a 14-day notice to prepare for the hearing, he added.

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."

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

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

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

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

None of the other deputies currently face any criminal charges.

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

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

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