NewsNewsChannel 5 Investigates


District Attorney drops criminal cases after losing confidence in arresting officer

White Co Police Dog.jpg
Posted at 3:05 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 19:45:09-04

SPARTA, Tenn. (WTVF) — Prosecutors asked a White County judge to dismiss more than two dozen criminal cases last month because they lost faith in the deputy who made he arrests.

District Attorney Bryant Dunaway requested that the judge dismiss 25 cases in a court document filed on June 4, 2020.

Dunaway told NewsChannel 5 Investigates he did not feel comfortable putting the White County Sheriff's Deputy who made the arrests on the witness stand.

The cases all involve former deputy Brandon Young.

Young was involved in a controversial arrest first reported by NewsChannel 5 Investigates in which Young's police dog repeatedly bit a woman.

Young resigned from the Sheriff's Department on July 1.

Attorney Richard Brooks represented one of the people who had the charges against him dropped.

Brooks looked at the court document that showed all 25 cases the District Attorney asked the Judge to dismiss.

"When a prosecutor drops a case, much less that many cases, there's a flaw in the evidence he's got to present," Brooks said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "What do all those cases have in common as far as the investigator?"

"Brandon Young," Brooks replied.

Body cam video shows Young's police dog repeatedly bite an unarmed woman.

Tonya Qualls, 40, ran from police and hid in the bathroom closet of a neighboring apartment.

Qualls has a history of non-violent drug arrests.

Deputies were attempting to arrest her on a probation violation.

Young charged Tonya Qualls with resisting arrest and days later she pleaded guilty.

But when District Attorney Bryant Dunaway looked at the body cam video of her arrest, he allowed Qualls to withdraw her guilty plea - saying it would be an "injustice for that conviction to stand."

Attorney Richard Brooks does not represent Tonya Qualls in this case, but he has sued White County in a past case in which Qualls was involved.

Brooks questioned whether deputies knew that Qualls had sued White County a few years before.

"I wonder if anything was in the back of their minds that this Tonya Qualls had previously sued the White County Sheriff Department?" Brooks said.

Qualls was one of several inmates who agreed to get a surgical birth control implant in order to get a reduction in jail time.

A federal judge ruled the program unconstitutional.

Qualls was one of the women who sued in the so called sterilization lawsuit which received national attention.

Brooks represented the men in that lawsuit.

Body cam video of Deputy Brandon Young's police dog repeatedly biting Qualls raised red flags with District Attorney Bryant Dunaway.

He told NewsChannel 5 Investigates he did a "spot check" of other arrests and traffic stops made by Brandon Young.

When he found three he considered "questionable," he felt he could not put Young on the witness stand.

He added that he did not conclude that all the cases were bad cases, just that he could not in good faith move forward with prosecution.

So, he dismissed all 25 cases.

He also asked the FBI to investigate the arrest of Tonya Qualls.

Richard Brooks said this case points to the need to amend or do away with something called qualified immunity for officers.

It makes it much harder to sue officers for wrongdoing.

He hopes this case is included in the national conversation about police reform.