Local News

Civil Rights Lawsuit Comes Just Before Election for Sheriff

Posted October 24, 2006

— A Garner preacher who filed a lawsuit against Wake County, the sheriff's office and three former deputies met with the Democratic sheriff's candidate the day he filed suit, WRAL has learned.

In the lawsuit, Robert Wise claims that his Fourth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights were violated during an Aug. 26 altercation involving the officers outside an Applebee's restaurant.

Wise said the officers, who later resigned, yelled at him, his wife and daughter and tried to pull him out of his car. He said he was beaten, sprayed with pepper spray and handcuffed.

The lawsuit was filed Oct. 19, weeks before the Nov. 7 general election in which Republican incumbent Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison is running against former sheriff John Baker, the Democratic candidate.

Baker, who has publicly criticized Harrison for not immediately firing the three deputies, also met with Wise at Wise's home on Oct. 19, but told WRAL Tuesday that the meeting was not political and that it was the first time the two had ever met.

"I did not advise him to file a lawsuit," Baker said. "I did not advise him to meet with my wife and my campaign manager. He said this was something he wanted to do, so I granted him an audience."

But John Midgette, executive director with the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, which represents one of the three deputies, questions the timing of the lawsuit.

"Politically, I think there's no doubt about the timing of this lawsuit," he said. "To politicize this hurts both sides in this situation."

Neither Wise nor his attorney was available for comment on Tuesday.

The three deputies -- Christopher Roth, Katie Broda and Kevin Hinton -- resigned voluntarily more than two weeks after the incident, and Harrison said he recommended the State Bureau of Investigation further investigate the matter. The Wake County District Attorney's Office is still considering whether criminal charges are warranted.

Harrison has not been served with the lawsuit and, therefore, said he could not comment on it. But in past interviews he has said he did not fire the deputies immediately because he did not want to rush to judgment.

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