$325,000 to Detainee Assaulted at East Texas Jail, 90 Days to Former Deputy Who Beat Him While Restrained in Wheelchair
by Jo Ellen Nott
On February 24, 2022, a former sheriff’s deputy in Harrison County, Texas, was sentenced for savagely beating a restrained detainee at the county jail, an assault which had already cost the County a $325,000 settlement the year before. For pleading guilty to “official oppression” in the incident, the former deputy will now spend 90 days in the county lockup.
The underlying incident began late on Thanksgiving 2018 at the home of Charles Collins, 64, in Waskom. The former oilfield consultant was at home alone after a night of drinking at his girlfriend’s bar when he says he “was mad at myself” and damaged a sliding glass door and some of the home’s belongings. He was asleep on the sofa when his girlfriend’s daughter arrived at the residence and, alarmed by the damage, called the sheriff’s office for help.
The call went out as a domestic argument, though Collins’ girlfriend quickly instructed her daughter to tell deputies they were not needed. Nevertheless, a chain of events ensued, ending with Collins handcuffed in a wheelchair at the county lockup, when one of the responding deputies, Charles “Chase” Dotson, beat him.
What happened in between was laid out in a complaint Collins filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on January 22, 2019, accusing Dotson and two other responding deputies of violating his civil rights.
The deputy allegedly said that he was going to arrest Mr. Collins so that he could “sleep it off,” and that his girlfriend could bond him out the next day and pay a fine. But then Dotson allegedly drove more than 100 miles per hour to the jail annex, exchanging words with Collins during the transport.
Arriving at the jail, Dotson placed the handcuffed suspect—though for what crime had still not been stated—in a wheelchair. Then he allegedly punched Collins eight times in the face and neck, bloodying him and sending him to the hospital for treatment for his injuries.
All charges against Collins were subsequently dropped, though the attorney representing the Sheriff’s Office insisted at the civil trial that Collins was “aggressive, belligerent, and in my opinion extremely intoxicated, and subsequently it was determined there was probable cause for arrest.”
But Magistrate Judge Roy S. Payne was unconvinced, calling it “the most unjustifiable case of excessive force that [I have] seen in forty years of involvement in these cases.” He also refused to stay the case for Dotson’s criminal trial, noting the former deputy had not “shown that he has taken a single step toward even requesting a trial date in the criminal case.” See: Collins v. Dotson, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62452 (E.D. Tex.).
That was March 28, 2021. Dotson filed an appeal the next day with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, but the court decline to hear the case. See: Collins v. Dotson, USCA (5th Cir.), Case No. 21-40225.
Collins and the other two deputies, Ryan Roop and Caleb Oden, then signed an Agreed Take Nothing Judgment and Dismissal with Prejudice on April 1, 2021, leaving the case to proceed to trial against Dotson. The parties reached a settlement agreement shortly after the trial began on April 14, 2021, with the county’s liability insurer, the Texas Association of Counties, paying Collins $325,000. See: Collins v. Dotson, USDC (E.D. Tex.), Case No. 2:19-cv-00013-RSP.
Collins was represented in his suit by the Law Office of Brendan C. Roth in Marshall and Josh B. Maness, Attorney at Law, in Waskom.
Meanwhile the criminal case proceeded against the former deputy on a misdemeanor charge of official oppression filed in May 2019, upgraded during a December 2019 re-indictment to felony of aggravated assault by a public servant and a third-degree felony of tampering with physical evidence with intent to impair.
In Dotson’s criminal trail ending in February 2022, a jury acquitted him on the latter two counts and found him guilty on the original, lesser charge. That is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $4,000. But he was not fined, and he was sentenced to 90 days in jail with credit for time served.
“To protect and serve, that is the oath every officer takes,” noted John Moore, special prosecutor for the state. “That is not what happened on November 22, 2018.”
Sources: KLTV, Marshall News Messenger
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Related legal case
Collins v. Dotson
|Cite||USDC (E.D. Tex.), Case No. 2:19-cv-00013-RSP|