Local News

Wake County, Sheriff's Office Named In Civil Rights Lawsuit

Posted October 24, 2006 5:18 a.m. EDT

— A Garner preacher who said he was harassed and assaulted by three undercover sheriff's deputies outside a Garner Applebee's in August has filed a lawsuit claiming his civil rights were violated.

The suit, filed by attorneys for Robert Wise last week in Wake County Superior Court, names Wake County, the Wake County Sheriff's Office and three former deputies who were involved -- Christopher Roth, Katie Broda and Kevin Hinton -- in the Aug. 26 incident in which Wise alleges the officers assaulted him in front of his family after a verbal altercation over how he parked his car.

Wise said he, his wife and 11-year-old daughter were leaving the restaurant when a man came up to their car window, yelling at them. Wise said the man did not identify himself as a law enforcement officer and tried to pull him out of the car. He said he was beaten, sprayed with pepper spray and handcuffed and needed to be taken to a hospital for treatment.

The incident, according to the lawsuit, violated Wise's Fourth Amendment right -- which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures -- and Fourteenth Amendment right -- which requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all people.

A Wake County Sheriff's Office spokesman said Monday afternoon that they are aware of the lawsuit but have not yet been served with a copy and cannot comment.

Roth, Broda and Hinton submitted their resignations to Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison last month, but the lawsuit says no disciplinary action was taken against them, that "no criminal charges have been filed, nor has any one of their professional records been affected by this 'unlawful' behavior."

"We sincerely hope that the court system, when all this fleshes out, will see this as what it was and not something that Mr. Wise has created," said Hart Miles, who represents Roth.

Miles said Roth disputes many of the allegations in the lawsuit.

"He hopes the citizens of Wake County will remember that he worked hard for them and that he took drug dealers off the street," Miles said.

The State Bureau of Investigation and the Wake County District Attorney's Office are investigating the case at Harrison's request. District Attorney Colon Willoughby said it could be several weeks before he receives the SBI's report and decides whether to file criminal charges in the case.

The lawsuit goes on to say that Wise, his wife and daughter "have suffered severe emotional distress and humiliation" and are entitled to compensatory damages in excess of $10,000 and punitive damages in excess of $10,000.

Wise refused to publicly comment on the suit Monday evening but did release the following statement:

"I was badly abused and disrespected as a husband, father and citizen," Wise said in a written statement released Monday evening. "And I expect justice to be served. My family is still traumatized."