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Sheriff Clarke confronted after FOX6 investigation prompts federal lawsuit

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Accused of a cover-up, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and four of his deputies are named as co-defendants in a federal civil rights lawsuit -- and it all started with a FOX6 investigation that garnered national attention. A sober driver was arrested for drunk driving in February of 2013 -- and she's still fighting back.

When a Sheriff's deputy T-boned her car last year, Tanya Weyker suffered more than a broken neck. She suffered the indignity of a false arrest for driving while intoxicated.

Now, she has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.

"Ms. Weyker's constitutional rights were violated very severely," Chicago lawyer, Jon Erickson said.

With Weyker standing silently at his side, Erickson on Tuesday, July 8th announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and four of his deputies.

"The Sheriff is responsible," Erickson said.

The lawsuit comes two months after a FOX6 investigation showed Sheriff's Deputy Joseph Quiles T-boned Weyker's Toyota Camry and then lied about who caused the crash.

Weyker admitted to having a few sips of a friend's drink that night -- and nothing more.

Her injuries were too severe to perform field sobriety tests.

Sheriff's Deputy Scott Griffin arrested Weyker anyway -- and cited her for driving drunk, even though blood tests would later prove Weyker had no alcohol or drugs in her system.

"I explained to him my eyes were red and glassy because I was crying," Weyker told FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn.

Erickson says his client was treated like a criminal as she laid in a hospital bed in pain.

"Had to ask for permission to use the wash room in front of a deputy who was keeping watch on her," Erickson said.

Video from an airport surveillance camera eventually proved that Deputy Quiles never stopped before turning onto Howell Avenue -- as he claimed in his report.

The Sheriff's Office knew about the video two days after the crash, but the drunk driving case continued for 10 months before a prosecutor finally decided to file formal charges.

"A video that exonerated Ms. Weyker was sat on for months and months until the good work of FOX 6," Erickson said.

The lawsuit filed in federal court accuses Sheriff Clarke, Deputy Quiles and three other deputies of engaging in a cover-up of Deputy Quiles' role in causing the crash by falsely arresting Weyker for driving while intoxicated.

It accuses Sheriff Clarke of having a "de facto policy" of concealing and suppressing officer misconduct through what the lawsuit terms a "code of silence."

It seeks unspecified damages for Weyker.

"She, all her life, thought that law enforcement was here to serve and protect and to tell the truth and be on the side of good and go after the bad guys. She never expected that the bad guy would, in fact, be law enforcement," Erickson said.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has never been shy about speaking his mind in front of a television camera until now.

After giving Sheriff Clarke months to sit down for an interview, FOX6 News finally had no choice but to approach him at a campaign stop -- when he came to Serb Hall in June for Seniorfest.

Bryan Polcyn: "Bryan Polcyn, FOX6, can I have just a minute to talk to you?"

Sheriff Clarke: "Not really."

Bryan Polcyn: "I'd like to talk to you about Deputy Joseph Quiles. Would you give me just a minute Sheriff? There are a lot of people that have questions."

Sheriff Clarke: "You know, I'm here to help seniors celebrate their day. There's an appropriate process for that -- is to go through my public information officer."

FOX6's Bryan Polcyn tried that -- five times, in fact, since February 28th.

The first four times, the Sheriff's spokesperson ignored the request.

The fifth time, she wrote: "The Sheriff will not be doing an interview," without explaining why.

Sheriff Clarke: "She has responded. She may not have responded in the way that you liked it -- but she did respond, okay?"

Bryan Polcyn: "Is there a reason that you don't want to talk about that incident?"

Sheriff Clarke: "Look, there's a courtesy that goes along with being a reporter. There is a professionalism. Apparently you don't get it -- okay? This is an event to honor seniors and that's why I am here today -- to give them their respect. And you ought to do the same thing."

Once again, FOX6's Bryan Polcyn asked multiple times for a sit down interview.

Bryan Polcyn: "I will walk away now if we can sit down and do an interview...as we always have."

Once again, Sheriff Clarke declined.

Bryan Polcyn: "I just want to know if you believe the arrest of Tanya Weyker was appropriate under the circumstances?"

As for Deputy Quiles, at the time of the crash, he was treated and released for minor injuries. He has yet to return to work.

The attorney representing his workers compensation case told FOX6 News that according to his doctors, he is disabled and cannot perform his duties -- at least for awhile.

The County Executive's office says Quiles has a claim for permanent duty disability that is still pending.

CLICK HERE to read the press release issued by the Chicago law firm representing Weyker

On Sunday, July 13th, FOX6 News sits down exclusively with the victim in this story. We'll get the latest from her perspective, Sunday on FOX6 News.

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19 comments

  • brian

    I think there are two stories here. The one that is probably driving the attorney to run the lawsuit, and the one of possible wrong on the part of one (or more) officers. It may be the part of this about Sheriff Clarke talking about things that make some politicians very uncomfortable is probably the reason the politician’s friends the attorneys decided to find something against Clarke’s department. IF there actually was something wrong here it will be one of the first times someone looking for dirt to throw actually helps someone.

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