Citing insufficient evidence and deprivation of rights, the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office has now dismissed criminal charges against all plaintiffs in lawsuits against Deputy Daniel Wilkey, who faced criminal charges as a result of alleged wrongful traffic stops.
On Monday, prosecutors moved to dismiss a guilty plea in a case against a woman who claims Wilkey forced her into being baptized in Chickamauga Lake during a traffic stop on Feb. 6 while another deputy, Jacob Goforth, stood by and 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, according to a lawsuit.
The Times Free Press is not identifying the woman because of the nature of her encounter with the deputies.
She was charged with possession of a controlled substance as a result of that stop and pleaded guilty on March 12.
But on Monday, District Attorney Neal Pinkston threw out the conviction, stating it was "the result of deprivations and denials of rights secured by both the State of Tennessee and the United States constitution," according to district attorney spokesman Bruce Garner.
The woman was stopped again by Wilkey on June 24 and faced a number of charges related to that incident. Those were also dismissed Monday.
"We dropped the charges on [the woman] because we did not have the evidence needed to prosecute the case beyond a reasonable doubt," Garner said.
On Friday, prosecutors dismissed charges against juvenile who was driving a vehicle that was stopped by Wilkey on or about April 18. It's not clear where the stop took place or what the charge was, but Wilkey allegedly found an unidentified form of contraband in her underwear, according to a lawsuit in which she is identified only as A.M.
Four other female minors and one boy were in the vehicle at the time of the stop, according to two lawsuits. They claim Wilkey groped the female minors and ordered the boy to strip off his clothes while another deputy, Tyler McRae, stood by.
After the traffic stop, an internal affairs complaint was filed by multiple guardians, including A.M.'s. Investigators interviewed the youths at their high school without permission from their guardians, according to a lawsuit, and determined their descriptions of the searches "did not sound inappropriate in nature." As a result, A.M. was charged with making a false report, a Class C or D felony.
Earlier this year, prosecutors dismissed charges against a man who was kicked, punched and stripped of his pants during an alleged roadside body cavity search on July 10. The man was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over by Wilkey and another deputy, Bobby Brewer, in Soddy-Daisy.
Two days after the stop, Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston released dash camera footage of the traffic stop, saying he was "somewhat disturbed at what I saw."
Those charges were dropped "due to insufficient evidence," Garner said.
Since then, Wilkey has been under criminal investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the District Attorney's Office, and at least five lawsuits — both county and federal — have been filed alleging an array of misconduct during traffic stops.
It's not clear how broadly the criminal investigation reaches, but defense attorneys for Wilkey, Brewer and Goforth have asked a federal judge to put the civil cases on hold while the criminal investigations continue. They argue it would jeopardize their clients' constitutional rights against self-incrimination.
The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has largely declined to comment on the matter as more allegations have come forward. But McRae, who is named in a lawsuit that has not yet made it to federal court, took to social media on Thursday to state that it is a "shame" that "the media isn't doing anything to investigate the actual truth behind all of these lawsuits and what really happened on that entire traffic stop that night."
He went on to say the juvenile females' accounts of their searches "is not true and that has already been proven."
McRae declined to comment when contacted by the Times Free Press and referred all questions to his attorney. He did not clarify who his attorney is.
The sheriff's office referred all questions to county attorney Rheubin Taylor, who declined to comment.
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