Court dismisses civil rights claims against Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — The Federal Court has dismissed all ten Civil Rights claims against the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. The Federal Court made this announcement on Thursday.


The federal lawsuits began in July 2019. There were ten total lawsuits filed against the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. They alleged former Patrol Deputy Daniel Wilkey practiced misconduct, and they sought roughly $400 million in damages.

One lawsuit was filed against the sheriff’s office in October 2019. It related to an incident from that February. In this incident, former Deputy Daniel Wilkey baptized Shandle Riley following a traffic stop.

The sheriff’s office said he was acting outside his official capacity and training. The incident gained national media attention and sparked a series of allegations against former Deputy Wilkey.

The lawsuits claimed that Wilkey’s misconduct violated civil rights of individuals in five incidents. They argued that Wilkey’s actions showed a pattern of Hamilton County allowing its employees to violate constitutional rights of its citizens.

Former Deputy Wilkey resigned in December 2019.

Another claim was that someone had destroyed video and data evidence soon after this lawsuit began. It stated that there was a “catastrophic data loss.”


However, investigators determined that there was no data loss in these cases. They stated that the video evidence was “fully preserved, authenticated and uncompromised.”

The decision for the White vs. Hamilton County, et al case was determined on Wednesday. The Court stated there was no sufficient evidence that Hamilton County has a practice of tolerating constitutional violations. This led them to dismiss all civil rights claims in this case.

The entire decision reads:

Thus, Plaintiffs have not pointed to sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could find the County operated pursuant to an ingrained practice of tolerating constitutional violations that served as the moving force of their injuries … Accordingly, all 1983 [civil rights] claims brought against the county by Riley, Mitchell, Menifee, Knox, Johnson, and Jarnigan are hereby dismissed.

A Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office press release states, “four of the ten lawsuits were previously dismissed as to the County and all other Defendants, including Wilkey.”

On March 29, Judge Travis McDonough, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, dismissed the remaining six claims.

“The Hamilton County Attorney’s Office investigated both the data failure and the civil rights allegations levied in this lawsuit against the County. Throughout this litigation, the County has maintained that its practices, customs, and policies exceeded what is required of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. The ruling of the federal judge yesterday confirms the contentions of former Sheriff Jim Hammond, current Sheriff Austin Garrett, and County officials,” stated R. Dee Hobbs of the Hamilton County Attorney’s Office.


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