(WBIR - Downtown Knoxville, TN) Three former KPD officers who beat a homeless man while he was handcuffed and hogtied were sentenced Thursday to one year of supervised probation.
Chris Whitfield, Jeremy Jinnett and Ty Compton pleaded guilty to felony official oppression and misdemeanor assault in June. They avoided jail time for their roles in beating Michael Allen Mallicoat after he was handcuffed and restrained.
The prosecution and defense both asked Judge Steve Sword to sentence the men to probation, citing the fact that the defendants had forfeited any right to request diversion. That means the convictions will permanently remain on their criminal records regardless of any future good behavior. A felony conviction prevents any employment in the field of law enforcement.
"I'm sorry for you as individuals that you have lost your careers, but that is a just thing to happen in your cases," said Sword.
In their statements, the defense attorneys and the judge were clearly aware that their actions would receive heavy public scrutiny.
"For those in the public that may think, 'Well, if they get probation you know they're being treated differently,' they are not," said Jeffrey Whitt, defense attorney for Ty Compton. "I think people need to understand as part of this plea agreement when this was worked out, they forfeited their right to even request diversion."
"One of the frequent complaints we hear inside the criminal justice system is we protect our own," said Sword. "The consequences they [the defendants] suffered are much more harsh than what a member of the general public would face [by ending their careers and no chance for diversion]. The fact the consequences are greater is a reflection of the fact that what is required of you is greater," said Sword.
After court concluded, the defense attorneys for Jinnett and Whitfield expressed satisfaction with the results along with sadness over the entire situation.
"We place a tremendous burden on police officers. Unfortunately, on occasion there is an overreaction to a situation," said Dennis Francis, defense attorney for Jinnett. "But this just proves that the system works and everybody has to stand up and face the consequences of their conduct."
"Based upon the circumstances we faced in this case, this ended up being the best possible outcome for us," said Tommy Hindman, defense attorney for Whitfield.
Witnesses in a North Knoxville neighborhood said Mallicoat, who is homeless, was shouting obscenities and removing his clothes while walking up and down a residential street on the morning of February 9, 2013.
Two female officers responded to the scene. They called for backup after Mallicoat resisted and caused minor injuries to one of the officers. Whitfield, Jinnett, and Compton arrived and forcefully arrested Mallicoat for disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and resisting arrest.
Neighbors said the three officers continued to beat Mallicoat after he was already handcuffed, restrained, and subdued. KPD reviewed dash-cam footage of Mallicoat's arrest that showed the men bash Mallicoat's head against a car hood, lift and drop him on the ground while his feet and hands were tied behind his back, and stand on top of Mallicoat while he was on the ground. KPD launched an internal and criminal investigation in March.
After the three officers pleaded guilty to assault and official oppression in June, KPD released the dash-cam footage of the arrest during a press conference. At that time KPD Chief David B. Rausch denounced the actions of the three.
"They will no longer be police officers. Their profession is done in law enforcement," said Rausch.