A civil rights lawsuit against a former Tennessee sheriff's deputy has been approved by a U.S. District Court judge last Thursday, accusing the deputy of baptizing a woman against her will during a 2019 traffic stop, the Chattanooga Times Free-Press reports.
"It had nothing to do with God [or]... with saving [her or]... with [anyone] being a good person. It had something to do with power and control," the woman, Marie Riley, alleges.
The former deputy, Daniel Wilkey, was indicted in 2019 on 44 charges including rape, assault, and official oppression after he pulled over Riley and during the course of the traffic stop found her to be in possession of marijuana and placed her under arrest. While searching her as she was in handcuffs, Riley says he inappropriately touched her crotch. He then told Riley to pull up her shirt and shake out her shirt and bra, but he did not find any additional contraband.
"Wilkey and Riley next discussed religion. They spoke for another thirty minutes, and McRae left sometime during this conversation. Riley testified that Wilkey asked her whether she had been baptized. She responded with concern that she may not be ready. But, according to Riley’s testimony, Wilkey told her 'God [was] talking to him' and assured her that, if she got baptized, he would only write her a citation and she would be free to go about her business," the judge's ruling explains. "According to Riley, Wilkey also indicated that he would speak at court on her behalf if she agreed. Riley decided to go along with this plan because she '[did not] want to go to jail.' She also 'thought [Wilkey] was a God-fearing, church-like man who saw something . . . in [her], that God talked to him,' and testified that 'it felt good to believe that for a minute.'"
When later asked whether Wilkey “gave [her] the option not to do this,” Riley answered: What do you mean gave me the option? I mean it wasn’t, it wasn’t by gunpoint . . . or anything. . . . I don’t know, like - I’m not sure he told me - I mean, . . . I don’t know if those words [came] out. But I mean, I know that I didn’t have to do it. I mean, I know that I’m a grown woman and I know I didn’t have to do it," according to the judge's background on what happened.
The traffic stop happened in front of Riley's ex-mother-in-law's house, and Wilkey suggested that Riley retrieve towels from the house for the baptism. After she got the towels, both Wilkey and Riley returned to their respective vehicles. They both then drove to Soddy Lake. On the way, Wilkey requested that another deputy, Jacob Goforth, come to Soddy Lake to witness the baptism.
"Goforth believed Wilkey was baptizing someone who he knew personally. Goforth did not learn that Riley had been cited for a criminal offense until he arrived at the boat ramp," reports the Times Free-Press. "Goforth avers that he 'asked [Wilkey] if he had thought about [baptizing Riley] in an effort to provoke reconsideration,' but that Wilkey 'wanted to proceed.'"
The lawsuit accuses both men of excessive force, assault and intimidation, among other charges.
You can read more details of the case at the Chattanooga Times Free-Press.