Defense attorneys for three Hamilton County deputies at the center of a number of lawsuits have asked a federal judge to put the civil cases on hold while the criminal investigations continue.
Deputy Daniel Wilkey is named in multiple lawsuits, both in county and federal court, that detail an array of misconduct allegations. Deputies Jacob Goforth and Bobby Brewer are also named in at least two of the lawsuits as having stood by and watched Wilkey reportedly violate citizens' rights on two separate occasions.
In the cases, which involve an alleged baptism of a woman during a February traffic stop and the apparent roadside body cavity search of a man in July, attorneys James Exum and Gerald Tidwell, who represent the deputies, say their clients are "confident that any criminal investigation will exonerate them of any wrongdoing." They also say that forcing their clients to respond to the complaints will jeopardize their constitutional right against self-incrimination because it would "surely include interrogatories and depositions."
They also argue that it's in the public's interest for the civil cases to be put on hold because it will show that "the judicial system does not require defendants to compromise their constitutional rights against self-incrimination."
While the attorneys did not respond directly to most of the allegations set forth in the lawsuits, they did state that the plaintiffs' version of events are "heavily disputed."
In the case involving the alleged baptism, the attorneys claim the woman actually asked Wilkey to baptize her.
According to the lawsuit, however, Wilkey reportedly asked the woman if she had ever been "saved" and told her that he "felt the Lord wanted him to baptize [her]." He told her if she let him baptize her, she could avoid jail time for having the butt of a marijuana cigarette in her car.
The woman agreed, stating "she would be baptized if it helped her avoid going to jail," the lawsuit states.
Possession of the butt of a marijuana cigarette would be a Class A misdemeanor, according to state law.
In the case of the apparent body cavity search, the attorneys make no assertions of what happened other than stating that the incident is "the subject of much dispute, despite the existence of dashcam videos showing the Plaintiffs acting in a non-compliant manner."
The video shows Wilkey and Brewer kicking, punching and stripping the pants off a 41-year-old man before performing an apparent body-cavity search on the side of the road in Soddy-Daisy. The man and and the driver, a woman, were handcuffed.
The woman stands to the side before sitting down as the deputies search the man. At no point does the video show her becoming hostile toward the deputies. The man is seen standing still as the deputies frisk him before shoving his head onto the hood of the patrol vehicle and bending his arms behind his back.
The cases both started in Hamilton County Circuit Court and have now been moved to federal court. At least one more lawsuit remains in circuit court but is expected to also be moved to federal. That suit alleges Wilkey groped multiple female minors during a traffic stop in April and ordered a boy to strip off his clothes while another deputy, Tyler McRea, stood by.
Another federal lawsuit, filed earlier this year, alleges Wilkey conducted an improper traffic stop during which the driver was detained until a K-9 unit from the Soddy-Daisy Police Department arrived and found nothing.
As of Oct. 31, Wilkey remained on administrative leave with pay and was not allowed to patrol, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. Brewer has been assigned to clerical duties. Goforth, however, returned to active duty Oct. 17. McRea was still patrolling and had not been placed under investigation.
Contact Rosana Hughes at email@example.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.