GALENA, Mo. -- Two Stone County sheriff’s deputies sued four people, including a Crane alderperson and a lawyer, Tuesday afternoon. In the lawsuit, which is filed in Greene County Circuit Court in Springfield, the deputies say the defendants defamed them with accusations of excessive force and police brutality.
The deputies arrested Jessica White, Jordan White and Donald White following a traffic stop on May 5. The three are charged with assault and resisting arrest. The lawsuit also names John Dale Wiley, the attorney for the Whites.
According to the lawsuit, Deputies Taylor Jenkins and Brandon Flack seek damages for statements that the Whites and Wiley made to a reporter for the Springfield News-Leader. Those statements reference a video that Wiley edited and published at stonecountypolicebrutality.com. The lawsuit is filed in Springfield since that's where the News-Leader is based.
"It very likely could ruin their (Jenkins' and Flack's) careers. I certainly hope it doesn't," said Stone County Sheriff Richard Hill.
Sheriff Hill says he reviewed the video and determined the deputies acted by the book.
"Certainly their statements (the deputies) were there before the video existed, and the video backs up pretty much what their reports are," Hill said.
The lawsuit says the edited video makes it seem as if Jenkins and Flack violated the civil rights of the Whites, and were “overly aggressive, brutal and assaultive without just cause or reason and of being the type of police officer who used excessive force and who arrested without probable cause.” The deputies deny they used excessive force or arrested anyone without probable cause.
"So why do I need to doctor up a video and tell people you can expect this or you can expect that?" said Richard Crites, the attorney who is representing the deputies involved.
The lawsuit says Jessica White hit Jenkins in the head, bruising his head. It says “Jessica White acted maliciously, in that she acted with the evil motive and intent and in the reckless disregard of the rights of the Plaintiff Taylor Jenkins, to be free from being assaulted and unlawfully struck on or about his body.”
The lawsuit seeks punitive and compensatory damages for “contempt and ridicule” and “emotional distress, pain and suffering” that the deputies say they suffered since the posting of the edited video.
Wiley and the Whites declined to talk to a reporter about the lawsuit on Wednesday. Wiley issued a statement at 5:45 p.m. in which he says the Whites "committed no crime and were simply trying to go into their house. The traffic stop at the end of their driveway had nothing to do with them at all. They were not allowed to enter their own home, and even the samll children were forced to stand outside while the officers made an arrest at the end of their drive."
Wiley says his clients suffered "concussions, broken ribs, torn ligaments and multiple taserings with scarring)."
Wiley says he wouldn't have released the cell phone video to the public if Sheriff Richard Hill hadn't "issued a clearly erroneous press release" (the release is at the end of this report). He also disputes that the editing of the online video distorts what really happened.
"The video ... was compiled. The video was stopped at certain points to add emphasis. But there are no missing pieces. Nothing has been removed. You see all of both videos, one from the driver of the stopped car (the one which contains video of the traffic stop), and one from Dustin White (the video which best shows the actions of the officers)."
Wiley says in the news release that his clients were not intoxicated, as Hill says, but Wiley admitted to a KY3 reporter several days ago that his clients had been drinking before the altercation.
On May 7, two days after the traffic stop and altercation, the Stone County prosecuting attorney charged Donald White and Jordan White with resisting arrest, and charged Jessica White with assault on a law enforcement officer. Those misdemeanors could result in time in the county jail if they're convicted.
News release from Stone County Sheriff Richard Hill, May 7:
Saturday evening at approximately 11:00 PM, a Stone County Deputy stopped a vehicle that was driving in a suspicious nature. When the deputy activated the emergency lights on his patrol car, the vehicle pulled into the driveway of 607 North Hemphill, Crane, MO.