When former Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputy Charles “Chase” Dotson’s official oppression pre-trial hearing comes up in August, victim Charles Edwards Collins is hoping the former officer gets jail time for the seemingly police brutality he allegedly suffered.
Waskom-based lawyer Josh Maness, who is representing 62-year-old Collins in his civil case regarding the matter, hopes that a video of the incident that was recently released to news media carries some weight in the criminal case, revealing how allegedly aggressive the officer was as he punched a handcuffed Collins multiple times in the face and upper body as four other deputies pulled him out of the patrol car and into a wheelchair.
“My client was called (Monday) morning by someone from the DA’s office to inform him that Deputy Dotson had agreed to a plea deal to receive deferred probation with no jail time and that the plea was set for 1:30 (Tuesday) in Judge Morin’s Court,” said Maness. “This is the first time anyone from the DA’s office has called Mr. Collins to discuss the case and seek his input.
“Obviously, he does not support the offer and finds it wholly inadequate based upon the actions of Deputy Dotson,” Maness said of his client. “Thankfully, we were able to convince the DA to push the plea date to August so that we can attend the hearing and voice our objections to the judge.
“We trust the judge will not accept the terms of the potential plea,” said Maness.
The video, which Maness said is not subject to any protective order, was taken from the body cam of deputy Cruz Vences, one of four officers named as a bystander officer in another civil suit, filed by Collins, in the case.
Co-defendants in that suit are Ryan Roop, Caleb Oden and Clint Mathers, individually, for allegedly acting as “bystanders,” meaning they had a duty to stop the alleged attack by Dotson.
Harrison County Criminal District Attorney Reid McCain said Saturday that he’s not at liberty to comment on pending matters, but did indicate that it is not appropriate for civil and criminal cases to co-mingle.
“There are different burdens of proof and those cases are presented for different reasons,” McCain told the News Messenger. “Obviously, for civil cases you’re talking about somebody being held accountable and money being the deterrent.”
“In criminal cases you’re dealing with personal liberties,” he added. “And really for all of those reasons, it’s not appropriate to comment on allegations being brought up by the civil team.”
McCain further indicated that this week’s release of the body camera video to the media, presumably by Collins’ civil legal team, was inappropriate.
“The video released represented approximately 30 seconds of a 45-minute contact, arrest and transport of Charles Collins on Nov. 22, 2018. The video released depicts Chase Dotson striking Charles Collins multiple times,” the DA noted.
He said as a result of the events that occurred, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation prior to Collins making a complaint and suspended 28-year-old Dotson, who later resigned. The sheriff’s office also notified the Texas Rangers to investigate the matter.
“At the conclusion of their investigation, Texas Ranger Josh Mason submitted his findings to the Harrison County District Attorney’s Office. Chase Dotson’s case was presented before a Harrison County grand jury who indicted Dotson on one count of official oppression,” McCain said, explaining that official oppression is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail, or a fine not to exceed $4,000 or both fine and confinement.
“That case is pending in the 71st District Court in Harrison County,” said McCain.
“As with any and all pending cases, the Harrison County District Attorney’s Office will not comment on or release evidence to the media or public,” the DA said. “The proper and appropriate venue for criminal, as well as civil cases, to be heard is in the courtroom before a judge or jury.
“Further, it is not appropriate to commingle facts and law between criminal and civil cases because of different interests and burdens in the respective cases,” he added.
With that said, McCain said he’s not sure whether or not he’ll be continuing as prosecutor in the case due to the pending civil suit that’s been filed by Collins against the “bystander” Harrison County deputies.
“The Harrison County District Attorney’s will be seeking an ethical opinion from the Texas District And County Attorney’s Association about whether a conflict exits because of the office’s role as a prosecutor and the office’s role in representing Harrison County,” McCain said.
As far as keeping the victim abreast on the criminal matter, McCain advised that Collins, as with all victims, was notified that Dotson had been indicted.
“That’s part of our policy and procedure,” he said.
Maness, Collins’ counsel in the civil case, said in response to his release of the sally port body cam video, the lawyer representing the “bystander” deputies in the civil matter supplied a video to an area TV news station, showing damage they found in Collins’ home when responding to a domestic dispute there.
“To me, none of that means a hill of beans,” said Maness.
He said that doesn’t justify what took place in the sally port as soon as a restrained Collins was pulled out of the squad car.
“That’s not going to change anything; the beating is still the beating,” said Maness. “He’s riding from the cop car from Waskom to the jail house for at least 15 minutes with cuffs behind his back. Did he say some curse words to the deputy? Probably; but that’s part of being a deputy.”
Maness said they just hope that the plea deal offered in the former deputy’s criminal case is reconsidered.
“In the criminal justice system everybody should be treated the same no matter what,” he said.
Maness said it’s obviously hard for his client to know of the potential probation offer, considering he’s the one that experienced the beating.
“We’ve all seen the video and now this guy potentially sets a deal on the table — no jail time. Then in a year, if he successfully completes probation, he’ll have no conviction,” said Maness. “We just think that’s not justice. That’s inadequate. It makes my job as his (civil case) lawyer hard. He’s asking me how is this going to happen. That’s the DA’s job. He’s got to justify every plea he’s done.”
“We’re just hoping he’d reconsider,” said Maness.
McCain said his office takes such allegations seriously.
“Allegations of police misconduct will not be tolerated by this administration and will be fully investigated,” the DA said. “When and where it is determined that those allegations have merit, those officers will be indicted and held accountable as any other criminal defendant.”
A pretrial hearing in the criminal indictment of Dotson is currently slated for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 13 in the 71st Judicial District Courtroom.