Sheriff's Office That Employed A Deputy Facing 9 Lawsuits And 44 Criminal Charges Says It Has Lost All Of His Dashcam Footage

from the nothing-suspicious-about-this-at-all dept

Hamilton County (TN) Deputy Daniel Wilkey is in more trouble than possibly any other law enforcement officer has ever been in. Currently facing nine lawsuits over his bizarre and disturbing rights violations, Wilkey is simultaneously facing 44 criminal charges, 25 of which are felonies.

Wilkey’s rights violations were especially creative. He forced one woman to undergo an involuntary mid-winter baptism in a nearby lake in exchange for some assistance with the drug charges Wilkey was filing against her. In another incident, Wilkey pulled over a car full of minors, forcing the only male occupant to strip to his boxers while he alternated between swearing at the teens and preaching to them.

The criminal charges against Wilkey are a hideous blend of mundane and horrifying — ranging from reckless driving to false imprisonment to stalking to rape. Wilkey could have been taken off the street anytime before this turned into national news, but the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department apparently felt eight internal affairs investigations in ten months was acceptable behavior, rather than a continuous stream of misconduct it should have diverted before it overflowed the office’s capacity to control the narrative.

But the Sheriff’s Office seems determined to protect Wilkey from the consequences of his actions. As Courthouse News reports, a whole lot of camera footage from Wikey’s patrol car has suddenly gone missing. The attorney for the woman who was forcibly “baptised” by Wilkey has just discovered months of possibly-damning footage has mysteriously vanished.

A few weeks ago, the woman’s attorney, Robin Flores, learned that the county admitted in another case in Tennessee state court that the server storing all the dash-cam footage the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office recorded from Oct. 25, 2018, to Jan. 23, 2020, suffered a software failure.

According to the county, all the footage is gone and unrecoverable.

Flores has asked the court to ensure any recoverable footage is recovered and anything else that may have been recorded be preserved and handed over to his client. The court agrees this is a suspicious and oddly convenient software failure.

Before appointing a forensic examiner or considering sanctions against a Tennessee county for the loss of months of dashboard-camera footage — possible evidence for nine lawsuits against a single sheriff’s deputy accused of a range of misconduct — a federal magistrate wants to ensure the footage is actually gone.

Calling the loss of the data a “front-burner item,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Steger in Eastern District of Tennessee said Tuesday that Hamilton County, which sits in the southeast corner of the state, had a duty to preserve evidence — including the dash-cam footage of the traffic stops in question.

The preservation request [PDF] points out that the date range of the “lost” footage covers most of the incidents Wilkey is being sued over. It also points out the Sheriff’s Office never notified any of the nine plaintiffs (or the judges overseeing the cases) about the lost footage.

Here, this data appears to have been lost for more than a month yet no notice of its loss has ever been provided to the Plaintiff, notwithstanding her spoliation demands and her properly served discovery demands. The only way this loss came to Plaintiff’s attention today (February 28, 2020) was when counsel was reviewing the Hinds matter and saw the undated letter attached to a state court pleading filed on the same day. The letter indicates that the Sheriff’s Office has been working on this problem for “several weeks” and it may be inferred that the loss occurred on or about January 23, 2020, the last date for which the data was lost.

There’s nothing in it for the Sheriff’s Office. Ensuring the footage remains intact only raises questions about why it didn’t do anything sooner to get Wilkey taken off the streets, if not removed from the force entirely. So, it took 180 hours of dashcam footage, moved it to an external hard drive, and than claimed a “software failure” suddenly made all of this evidence irrecoverable. There’s no reason to believe this was an accident — not until the Sheriff’s office makes some sort of showing it actually cares about the people it’s supposed to be protecting and serving.

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Comments on “Sheriff's Office That Employed A Deputy Facing 9 Lawsuits And 44 Criminal Charges Says It Has Lost All Of His Dashcam Footage”

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

“Oh sure, blame us for the footage disappearing! Did you ever stop to think it was Wilkey who did it?”

“Your system is so insecure that anyone with a badge can erase their own bodycam footage without you knowing about it?”

“…we’d like to clarify that last question, Your Honor.”

“I’d love to see you try.”

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The Sheriff’s Office did a damn fine job of making its law-breaking law enforcer look guilty, what with its “losing” the footage of his misdeeds in what looks like a conspiracy to cover up said misdeeds. All we have now is the eyewitness testimony of the people he victimized. Given how extreme (and believable) those stories are, they can easily inflame a jury into voting “guilty”, especially when the accused can’t really justify shit like a forced baptism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Like it or not, the departments testimony is now hopelessly compromised. Nothing they say should be relied upon. Lawsuits are civil cases, so the standard is “balance of probabilities”, meaning since the plaintiffs testimony is at least as reliable as an uncompromised police officer and the testimony of officers from the department can absolutely not be relied upon, those lawsuits are a slam dunk.

That sound is the backboard shattering.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Like it or not, personally in this case I don’t like it, but we are ALL innocent until proven guilty, the Sheriff played the system well."

Then that means anyone arrested or harrassed by the sheriff’s department must have been innocent, lacking all footage from the cameras and untested in a court of law, right?

Boy, that’s a lot of legitimate assault charges aimed at LEO’s coming up, then…

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: presumption of innocence

Like it or not, personally in this case I don’t like it, but we are ALL innocent until proven guilty

Yes, we are. However, if evidence in your custody and control disappears or is otherwise destroyed, the jury considering the proof of guilt is likely to get a “spoliation” instruction. That is, they are to presume that the missing evidence will show what its proponent claims it shows.

If someone claims that the film shows forced immersion in winter, or a road-side strip searches, normally we would just look at the footage. If the footage has gone missing, however, the judge should instruct the jury that the sheriff’s dept had control and a duty to preserve it, failed to do so, and probably had a good reason for wanting the evidence gone.

The exact language will vary, of course. The film-based terms may not exactly describe the situation. And the law may be different in your state.

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
Bobvious says:

It's all good, Judge.

Although the original data has been destroyed I’ve still got a copy. I kept it all in this screenshot I took of the folder where the desktop links are stored. Plus another copy in my Yahoo Groups account.

Oh yeah, and I got my cousin to keep a copy in /dev/null.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Under the circumstances they should take the plaintiffs at their word and move forward with these cases. Assume that the video evidence would have corroborated plaintiff’s arguments and damned those of the police department. They must not be allowed to get away with this.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Upstream (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Under the circumstances they should take the plaintiffs at their word and move forward with these cases. Assume that the video evidence would have corroborated plaintiff’s arguments and damned those of the police department. They must not be allowed to get away with this.

Yes, this. Unfortunately we are a very long way from making this happen. We have courts that mumble something about "suspicious and oddly convenient" and then go back to sleep. And we have legislators (and the rest of the "powers that be") who aggressively ignore the existence of these problems.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

How many police departments actually keep their own BWC footage locally? Most are kept on the camera-company’s server, ie Evidence.com.

But with all those months of video’s lost, how many other criminal cases are going to get dismissed because of that?

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not defending the cop, sounds like a POS, as does the sheriff, but if you’ve worked with law enforcement systems, and I have, well, a little podunk sheriff might, really, have lost the backups.

I’m not saying he did, I’m just saying that by definition of what they are, it’s a whole lot more plausible than it should be.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Except encryption, forensics can recover at least some data for all those options. Not that software of course, but there are forensics companies that can take the drive and put the platters in new hardware to recover data (this will work against heat), and worst-case the platters themselves can be scanned and data fragments recovered (this will work against hammers). It’s expensive, but since the chances of a huge payout if that evidence is available is very, very high, I’m sure the plaintiff’s lawyers will be willing to pay for it.

The odds are the Sheriff’s office has shot themselves in the foot here. A competent forensics examiner will find evidence of deliberate deletion, which will lead to the court considering all the missed evidence as against the Sheriff’s office. (Due to deliberate evidence deletion.) And a competent forensics examiner will be able to recover much of that video, unless the department did a very, very thorough job of destroying it. Of course if they did manage to destroy it entirely, there’s going to be evidence of that, so you’re back to the court counting it against them anyway.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'Looks like you're guilty. Of everything.'

Pretty sure the rule if someone without a badge destroys evidence is for that evidence to be treated as if it was all incriminating, so assuming a judge that’s actually got enough spine to punish someone with a badge it would seem that this attempt to bury the metaphorical bodies could very well have buried the corrupt sheriff they were trying to protect instead, along with nicely highlighting how he is not even close to the only corrupt officer in that department.

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Thuong Mai Mua Sam (profile) says:

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ROGS says:

Re: Re: Re:5 really? Muphry's law?

Turnabout is fair play.

Muphry, lol

The only difference is that you took it upon yourself to call me stupid, while you yourself stuck your nutsack in the idiot cracker.

Or something like that.

I read/write well over 100,000 words per week, and TD et al is just for fun– a place where my egregious spelling errors will definitely aggravate the normies, the word nazis, and the spergs.

I admit that.

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ROGS says:

Re: Re: Re:7 really? Muphry's law?

Dear Muphry:

You obviously do NOT understand what dialectic space is, or how it can be weaponized against individual speakers, and their sycophants.

But I appreciate the three trolls below my nutsack here, outing themselves as your allies. Note taken.

Flag away, it means little to me, but means a lot in the longer argument string.

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ROGS says:

Re: Re: Re:7 really? Muphry's law?

re: stuck your nutsack in the idiot cracker

Don’t you have some police unions to defend somewhere Toom1275?

I mean, last I recall, you are all about protecting and serving the public sector union thugs who have themselves eradicated actual workers unions.
Who gives a f@ck about internet jargonese and coded anti-Irish racism, re: Muphry, next to what those unions are doing to black children right now?

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ROGS says:

Re: Re: Re:7 in-house TD trolls v the actual "people"

Well, Stevie shitpants, thanks for admitting that you are the "flagger in chief" here at TD. It will help me identify your unflaggable posts here in the future, for others who will verify my claims.

Trust me, I have been studying TD/Guardian/ Intercept comment systems for quite awhile.

You wont be the first nor last unflaggable commenter that I reveal.

In other news, maybe, troll harder:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200402/03110144220/tiktok-users-china-temporarily-banned-speaking-their-own-cantonese-language-instead-using-official-mandarin.shtml?threaded=true#c95

And maybe (just sayin’) learn some languages other than ADLified "Trollspeak" and SJWismsismsisticlisms.

Fucking idiot; stupid fag douche.

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Automated Reply says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Yeah! Wut U sed!

Idiot. Obsessive faggot idiot.

Maybe take a look here, faggot idiot:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200403/11491244233/benjamin-netanyahu-hater-fake-news-purveyor-fake-news.shtml?threaded=true#c531

Do you have anything worth saying? No? Not aware of the layers of cross-site dialectic spaces? Big surprise there.

Of course, you are too stupid to recognize these opportunities, Right!? Because you are a stupid fag. A flag-fag.

"Stephen T, Stone cannot help itself but stalk ROGS posts. What a FAG."

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Lighting one up now, after all that Techdirt faggery, via the fagisticistic Stephen T. "Faggot like a Maggot" Stone.

Fuck dear lord and saviour Jeebus, dont let that fag flag me!!!! It said it would flag me!!!! I need a Golem for protection against these flaggots!

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ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 really? Muphry's law?

LOVE IT..
I love those ‘Word perfect'(CR) people.
that really dont get how our language has come around to be a complicated Pile of Doodoo.

I dont mind fixing a few things, but thinking the English(and about 1/2 of american) is EASY, is being stupid.

We have taken words from other Languages, and Some translated to a proper form and Some to the same, then ADDED the rules of the other language to our own, and tried to make it work for the few we added.
Then lets go back to our roots. And understand we have taken letter OUT of our language. 10-12 of them. AND added a few to fix that.
Then there is the thought of the meanings CHANGING. Which is so much fun. Ever see a FULL dictionary?? NOT abridged? ITS HUGE.. and there are more words Never used, words for special Uses like Electrical, Plumbing, Science’s, that will never be common.

Dont get me started on the thought of transcribing text on paper, to be interpreted as speech. With little references to HOW they are expressed. Punctuation Does help, but isnt enough.

ECA (profile) says:

1+ years of Video...

Barely, 1 years video.. For 8-12 Employees, On call, and recording at least 2-3 of them daily, 8hours x 24 hours..
GPS IN THE CAR??
Radio contact??
Other recordings??

Not backing up to DVD/Off site and 1 other..?? PRICELESS.
Why aint there an offsite storage that the Attorney general and/or state police should have..
City/county/state police?? Who is responsible if they arent doing things correctly?

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Upstream (profile) says:

Law Enforcement Accountability and Reasons versus Excuses

The Sheriff or the evidence management or IT personnel will likely come up with many reasons why the video evidence was lost. These reasons might be simple mistakes, poor evidence handling practices, insufficient training, hardware malfunctions . . . the list goes on. But these are just reasons, they are not valid excuses. A valid excuse might be something like the local storage facility, the off-site storage facility, and all five of the cloud service provider’s widely distributed mirrored data storage facilities were simultaneously hit by lightning and then completely destroyed by the resulting fires. Anything short of this, or something very similar, is not a valid excuse.

Absent a valid excuse, heads must roll. And by that I mean that the Sheriff, the evidence handling personnel, the IT personnel, and anyone else involved in the loss of the evidence must be fired and have their law enforcement credentials permanently revoked. They must be prohibited from obtaining any other law enforcement credentials for any other jurisdiction in the nation, be it local, state, or federal. Additionally they must be permanently prohibited from holding any government position, be it elected, appointed, hired, or subcontracted, and this prohibition must also apply to any jurisdiction in the nation.

The last point, that they must be prohibited from any position in any company that does work (subcontract, sub-sub-contract, or whatever) for any government entity or jurisdiction is particularly important. Without that type of provision we would end up in a situation where governments would wind up dissolving their “in-house” law enforcement agencies and simply hire outside private companies to do the work. These companies would be largely staffed with former “in-house” law enforcement personnel, and they could be expected to be seriously disgruntled, vengeful, vindictive, corrupt, incompetent, and violent. And these private law enforcement contractors would be much more expensive and much less accountable (if you can imagine that) than the “in-house” government law enforcement agencies that we have today. A few examples where this problem already exists are private military contractors, private prison contractors, red light camera companies, and toll enforcement companies.

Without the prohibition of terminated law enforcement personnel working for private subcontractors we would wind up with “privatization” of law enforcement. This “privatization” would take us back to the dangerous situations that government police agencies were created to eliminate. Think Pinkertons and other similar outfits that were hired specifically to stamp out labor unions, to keep other “undesirables” in their place, and to enforce “laws” in a way that pleased the people doing the hiring.

Unless and until we have this kind of real accountability we will never see the end of the current atrocious state of law enforcement that we have today.

Of course, as has been previously mentioned, the deputy who would have been incriminated by the video evidence that disappeared should be tried on all counts, with the missing evidence presumed to exactly corroborate the victim’s accounts. The deputy should then be imprisoned, and upon release be subject to the same permanent restrictions as outlined above.

And, in the interest of fairness, this same “heads must roll” doctrine should apply equally to any government goblin that violates the public trust.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Law Enforcement Accountability and Reasons versus Excuses

And by that I mean that the Sheriff, the evidence handling personnel, the IT personnel, and anyone else involved in the loss of the evidence must be fired and have their law enforcement credentials permanently revoked.

I don’t think the court has any such authority.

They must be prohibited from obtaining any other law enforcement credentials for any other jurisdiction in the nation, be it local, state, or federal. Additionally they must be permanently prohibited from holding any government position, be it elected, appointed, hired, or subcontracted, and this prohibition must also apply to any jurisdiction in the nation.

As far as I know there is no legal provision for doing that by anyone.

Of course, as has been previously mentioned, the deputy who would have been incriminated by the video evidence that disappeared should be tried on all counts, with the missing evidence presumed to exactly corroborate the victim’s accounts.

Definitely, and that needs to happen every single time footage mysteriously disappears or the body cam somehow malfunctioned. Assume that any evidence would have fully corroborated the plaintiff’s claims. Eventually maybe police departments would figure out it doesn’t do any good to erase this stuff unless what’s on the video is actually significantly worse than what they’re being sued for. Short of fines levied personally against the people responsible and not payable by the police department, I’m not sure how to fix that one. And again such fines are, as far as I know, not supported by US law.

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nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Law Enforcement Accountability and Reasons versus Ex

Felony on their record would accomplish most of it.

I would be in favor of that but it would require action from a prosecutor against a cop. And that basically doesn’t happen. That’s another system that could use an overhaul.

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ROGS says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Law Enforcement Accountability and Reasons versu

Well great, thanks for the help overhauling all that, you there, all the way from Spain.

I am sure your opinion will help out all of the dead, jailed, police-stalked activists around my country to get the help they need.

Take yer meds, Paul.

Real life with yer face rammed into a squad car roof is a lot, um, different than armchair Liketivism, and from what I can tell ( and what I have experienced first hand from you) you aren’t helping a single bit.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Law Enforcement Accountability and Reasons versus Excuses

Dear UP..
I hope you understand your standing.
AS the only people that LEARN from a mistake(LOL) are those that experience it. and the ramifications.

Those that never did it, or those that got away with it, are the ones you should restrict/Scare the most..

RESTRICT them for a time, do what ever needs be.. THEN SHOVE THEM BACK into the job, and monitor the HELL out of them, as WE were supposed to be doing int he first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Like it or not, the departments testimony is now hopelessly compromised. Nothing they say should be relied upon. Lawsuits are civil cases, so the standard is “balance of probabilities”, meaning since the plaintiffs testimony is at least as reliable as an uncompromised police officer and the testimony of officers from the department can absolutely not be relied upon, those lawsuits are a slam dunk.

That sound is the backboard shattering.

Lou says:

What a situation!

So basically we have a system where the fox is guarding the henhouse against other foxes. Who had the great idea of having evidence against a cop being held by other cops? Also, where are the backups? Those files should have been copied unto multiple hard drives held a multiple locations. Plus seeing who had potential access, un-errassable media like DVDs and even blu-ray disk should have been used.

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