Citing a potentially yearslong prosecution, a federal judge denied now-criminally indicted former Hamilton County deputy Daniel Wilkey's requests to put multiple civil suits on hold until the criminal case is resolved.
The 26-year-old former deputy is at the center of 10 current civil lawsuits, and in December, he was indicted on 44 criminal charges, including six counts of sexual battery, two counts of rape and nine counts of official oppression. Some of the criminal charges stem from the allegations set forth in the civil cases.
Most of the civil suits Wilkey faces involve traffic stops, during which he is accused of engaging in several instances of alleged misconduct, including a forced baptism, groping of underage girls, illegal drug searches and an alleged roadside body cavity search that was captured by dash camera footage. Other deputies have also been named as having stood by and watched Wilkey reportedly violate citizens' rights on two separate occasions.
Wilkey's attorneys have asked for nearly all of the civil cases to be put on hold to protect their client's constitutional right against self-incrimination.
But on Wednesday, Judge Travis McDonough issued orders denying those requests in four of the cases:
— Two involving the alleged groping of five underage girls under the pretext of a drug search during an April traffic stop. (Each girl has filed her own lawsuit.)
— One alleging an extensive history of stalking and sexual battery.
— One detailing the alleged forced baptism.
While Wilkey does not currently face criminal charges in the case involving the minors, he does face criminal charges in the other two cases, indicating that requests to pause the other cases will likely be denied as well, regardless of criminal indictment.
In fact, McDonough noted, "the Court's interest would best be served by denying Wilkey's motion, so that discovery can proceed in all of these cases simultaneously."
Attempts Thursday to contact Wilkey's attorneys for comment were unsuccessful.
BASIS FOR DENIAL
Based on his analysis of case law, McDonough said Wilkey "has not met his burden of showing a 'pressing need for delay,'" according to the order.
In the cases involving the minors, McDonough noted that there is no overlap between the civil and criminal cases because Wilkey faces no criminal charges in connection to that incident.
"Although the allegations of the complaint could be incriminating if true," McDonough wrote, "Wilkey is not, at this time, subject to criminal prosecution based on" the allegations in the suit.
THE CIVIL SUITS
— Five cases involve underage girls who claim Wilkey groped them during a traffic stop.
— One involves a woman who claims Wilkey groped her and forced her into a baptism.
— One involves a woman who says Wilkey stalked and sexually battered her.
— One involves a man who alleges he was body cavity searched on the side of the road.
— One is a class action suit brought by a man who claims Wilkey fondled him during a traffic stop.
— One was filed by a citizen who claims Wilkey illegally drug searched his vehicle.
— One alleging Wilkey wrongfully shot and killed a Rhea County man. The case was settled in 2017.
Another factor is that Wilkey isn't the only defendant listed in the suits. Deputy Tyler McRae and the county itself are also named. McRae hasn't been criminally charged, and "a large portion of the discovery will center on the County's practices and policies, as well as others' behavior, rather than on Wilkey's behavior," McDonough noted.
The county's policies, practices and decisions concerning discipline of its law enforcement officers wouldn't overlap with the criminal aspect.
And even in the cases in which Wilkey does face criminal charges, the court could issue a "protective order" — essentially barring anyone from discussing certain information — "which will significantly lower the risk that he will be compelled to make incriminating statements," McDonough stated.
Additionally, the criminal case is likely to last years, McDonough noted.
"The preparation on the parts of both the prosecution and defense for such a trial involving a large number of witnesses will surely take much longer than an average criminal case," he wrote. "Consequently, a [delay] pending the resolution of the criminal proceedings could last years."
And a delay is "particularly harmful to a plaintiff when the risk of [destruction] of evidence, failed memories or witness unavailability is high."
The public's interest is also something McDonough took into consideration.
"[T]he allegations in the complaint, if true, concern conduct by Wilkey, [other deputies], and the County that is extremely harmful, not only to the Plaintiff individually and others who have been directly affected, but to the entire community," McDonough wrote. "The public has an interest in the expeditious resolution of claims concerning the government's abuse of power and violation of core rights."
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