Kiersten Quick (right) with her daughter, Danielle Gaha (contributed photo).
The Georgia State Patrol’s internal investigation into a trooper’s videotaped manhandling and subsequent arrest and jailing of a female accountant concluded that the lawman was “well within his rights” because the woman had “knowingly and willfully obstructed” him in “the lawful discharge of his official duties.”
But the investigation exonerated the trooper based on observations that may raise some eyebrows, including one that the length of time the woman spent on the ground with the lawman on top of her proved she was resisting arrest, that a grunt he emitted proved she was fighting back, and that a finger-pointing gesture of the woman had caused him to fear she was lunging for his gun, justifying the officer’s tackling of the 50-year-old mother in the first place.
The investigation report further maintains that GSP officers were baffled by the local district attorney’s refusal to prosecute charges against the woman, but adds that the DA had explained he felt the trooper’s use of force on her was excessive and would look bad to a judge and jury.
The Planet reported on Aug. 18 that Kiersten Quick, a Dade County accountant, had filed a civil lawsuit that day in federal court in Rome, Ga., against GSP Trooper Joseph A. Geddie and Dade County Sheriff’s Deputy Denny Reyes, individually, for events that occurred on the evening of Nov. 23, 2016, the day before last Thanksgiving. Ms. Quick spent that night and part of Thanksgiving Day in the Dade County jail after Geddie arrested her for disorderly conduct and felony obstruction of an officer, first having thrown her into a ditch and handcuffed her.
Ms. Quick charges in her lawsuit that she was committing no crime and obstructing nobody, that she had arrived at an accident scene off New England Road where her daughter had just totaled her car to find Trooper Geddie arresting and handcuffing the young woman for driving on a suspended license, spurring her incredulous comment, “Are you f—king kidding me?” It was no crime but her mouthiness, she alleges, that caused Geddie to take umbrage and to tackle her without warning, wrenching her arm and breaking her glasses, then dragging her to jail. Her lawsuit accuses him of excessive force, false arrest and malicious prosecution.
Deputy Reyes she accuses only of standing by and doing nothing while she was mistreated.
The encounter was recorded on a police camera and the ensuing footage has been viewed by the Dade County District Attorney’s office, GSP officers for purposes of the investigation, journalists and any number of interested members of the general public. Readers may follow a link to it at the bottom of this article.
On Aug. 18, a local GSP spokesman commented only so far as to admit there had been an internal investigation into the Quick/Geddie incident, but referred The Planet to the agency’s Atlanta Freedom of Information office for particulars. That office in due course produced a redacted copy of the investigation report, which The Planet duly synopsizes in this article.
The report, submitted by investigating officer Lt. Shawn Prather on June 23, was signed off on by superior officers Capt. J. Don Stultz and Maj. Tommy Waldrop, and approved by Capt. H. Les Wilburn III of the Office of Professional Standards. The investigation was officially closed on July 27, with all accusations against Trooper Geddie declared unfounded.
Prather’s report goes over the prelims again: That Geddie and Reyes were dispatched just after 9 p.m. on Nov. 23 to the New England Road area accident scene where Jessica Gaha had wrecked her 2006 Honda Civic into a ditch; that Geddie had found her Indiana-issued driver’s license to be suspended; and that while he was therefore arresting her, her mother, Ms. Quick, had arrived and dropped her F-bomb. “Ms. Quick continued to curse, and TFC3 Geddie instructed her to leave the scene 4 or 5 times and Ms. Quick physically refused,” writes Lt. Prather.
Finally, says the report: “Ms. Quick took an offensive stance and reached towards TFC3 Geddie. Not knowing if she was reaching for his weapon, TFC3 Geddie grabbed her by the right arm and physically took her to the ground.”
Lt. Prather writes that Geddie was well within his rights to ask Ms. Quick to leave and that she had caused her own arrest by her refusal. He notes: “With the physical size difference and the fact that TFC3 Geddie has to physically arrest Ms. Quick, this would appear disturbing in the view of some, but as a Peace Officer, the physical arrest of a suspect is an inherit [sic] part of the job no matter their sex or physical size.”
He points out that at no time did Geddie actually strike Ms. Quick, and that he and six of Geddie’s brother officers had all reviewed the videotape and seen nothing they considered excessive force.
Furthermore, he said, Ms. Quick was resisting arrest. “It is apparent by the length of the time on the ground that Ms. Quick is willfully resisting to be handcuffed.” She had placed her hands under her body to avoid this, he writes.
The report said that though the intent of Ms. Quick’s hand gesture toward Trooper Geddie—the one immediately preceding his tackle—was unclear, the lawman alleges that during her time on the ground Ms. Quick pinched the inside of his thigh. There was no evidence of this, wrote Lt. Prather, Trooper Geddie not having wished to take a photograph of any resultant wound because of its “location on his body.”
Prather believed him nonetheless because he thought watching the videotape he could tell when it happened: “Also during this time, I hear TFC3 Geddie make a spontaneous utterance or ‘grunt’ as if in pain.”
Lt. Prather’s report also goes through his interview with Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin and Assistant DA Len Gregor, who told him they “felt they couldn’t conduct a favorable prosecution.”
“DA Franklin felt that TFC3 Geddie used excessive force in making the arrest and this would not look favorable to a judge and/or jury,” wrote Prather. But, added Prather, the DA didn’t think the force had been excessive enough that charges should be brought against Geddie himself.
As for ADA Gregor, wrote Prather, he said he’d watched the video 30 times and still didn’t think they could prosecute. “He further added, in his opinion, Ms. Quick wasn’t reaching at TFC3 Geddie, but pointing her finger,” Prather wrote.
In any case, Lt. Prather closes his report, “After reviewing all the facts, I found no evidence that supported the allegations of Ms. Quick.”
If the report sounds sometimes as if the GSP investigator is working a little hard to see no evil, the Dade County Sheriff’s Department says it made no inquiry at all into the behavior of its own officer, Denny Reyes.
“There was no internal investigation done on Deputy Reyes, due to the fact that there was never a formal complaint filed against him,” wrote Sgt. Chad Payne, information officer for the Dade County Sheriff’s Office. “We believe that the lawsuit against him is frivolous, and that he did nothing wrong. We support Deputy Reyes 100 percent.”
Sgt. Payne also pointed out that the Sheriff’s Department itself is not named in Ms. Quick’s lawsuit, that Reyes and Joe Geddie are being sued as individuals.
Attorney Zack Greenamyre of Mitchell and Shapiro LLP, the Atlanta law firm pressing Ms. Quick’s civil suit, explained that the officers are named as individuals because the law does not allow state agencies such as GSP to be sued, and that in order to sue the Dade Sheriff’s Department, “You would need to show that there was a pattern or practice of bad behavior.”
[This, incidentally, was in fact done in another excessive force lawsuit that named Joe Geddie among other officers for beating up an apartment building owner--and later his son--who had questioned them as they arrested another young female during a domestic call. That case, which named the Dade County Sheriff's Department under then Sheriff Philip Street,was settled in the plaintiff's favor in 2009.]
But as a practical matter, said Greenamyre, the lawmen will be defended by attorneys paid by their employers or their employers’ insurers, which will also be ultimately responsible for any settlement awarded Ms. Quick.
Greenamyre said his firm was prepared for the legal process to drag on for a year or more. Typically, he said, government agencies are not as “financially rational” as private corporations but are inclined to fight lawsuits longer and harder because they aren’t risking their own money.
Greenamyre’s initial demand letter was included as part of the GSP report. In it, he sets out Ms. Quick’s complaints and offers “to forgo litigation of such claims upon prompt remuneration.” The terms requested: An apology from Geddie, disciplinary action against him, and $300,000, which would include legal fees.
The letter, dated April, gave GSP 30 days to pay up before the suit was filed. The deadline elapsed, the suit was filed Aug. 18, and the next step is for Geddie’s and Reyes’ attorneys to file their responses with the court.
With the lawsuit filed, said Greenamyre, monetary damages are now open-ended. In a trial situation, his firm will not ask for a certain amount but simply set forth its case. “We just ask the jury to process all the information,” he said.
The Planet will continue to follow this action.
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