NewsLEX 18 Investigates


'We couldn't defend that': Franklin County sheriff's deputy fired after 2020 incident comes to light

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Posted at 7:00 PM, Apr 07, 2022

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — A Franklin County sheriff's deputy was fired early this year after a 2020 incident came to light nearly two years after it happened.

Nathan Doty was a sergeant with the sheriff's office when he was fired. He has since filed a lawsuit against the sheriff's office denying any wrongdoing. He's accusing the office of wrongfully firing him.

Tony Austin, a Franklin County resident, was arrested on January 1, 2020, after deputies had been called multiple times to a home where he was involved in an ongoing dispute with his family. Austin admits that he was heavily intoxicated that night and being combative, and he said that after the beginning of his arrest, he didn't remember anything that happened that night.

It wasn't until late last year that a friend told Austin that he should ask for the body camera video of his 2020 arrest, saying that a deputy had mistreated him at a Frankfort hospital, Austin said.

The sheriff's office pulled the video, and after seeing it, Franklin County Sheriff Chris Quire immediately suspended Doty and later fired him over what it showed.

"I knew we couldn't defend that, couldn't correct it through mentoring or training, any of those things," Quire said.


Hospital Body Cam

The body camera appears to show Doty pushing Austin to the bed by the throat. The deputy then puts his hand over Austin's mouth. Austin said the deputy's hand was over both his mouth and his nose and that the deputy was choking him.

"There's no reason for that. When you're handcuffed in their custody, they're supposed to take care of you," Austin said.

In Doty's lawsuit, Doty said that he used an approved method of de-escalation. The lawsuit also states that Austin had dug his fingernails into the arm of another deputy at the hospital and called that deputy a racial slur before the body camera started recording. Quire said that there is no footage of Austin grabbing the deputy or calling him a slur, and Austin said he doesn't remember using a slur.

In the body camera footage, Doty can be heard yelling at Austin over something he said and telling him not to say anything else racist to the other deputy. That other deputy can then be seen and heard intervening and calming Doty down.

Austin admits that he was drunk and combative the night of his arrest, and said he has since quit drinking. He pleaded guilty a little more than a month after his 2020 arrest to amended charges of disorderly conduct and alcohol intoxication in a public place and never went back to jail. At the time of his arrest, Austin was also charged with resisting arrest, but that charge was dismissed, according to court records.

Quire said that no matter what Austin said, there was no reason for Doty to use that kind of force on Austin.

"I knew that he could no longer work here and be a part of our team, this was not acceptable," Quire said.

When asked why it took nearly two years for the sheriff's office to learn what happened in the hospital, Quire said that it would be impossible for supervisors to see all of the daily body camera footage from every deputy. There is a department policy that requires any deputy who uses force to report that force to superiors so the situation can be reviewed, but Quire said Doty did not report what happened.

Austin has questioned why the other two deputies who were at the hospital with Doty didn't report the use of force. When LEX 18 asked Quire, he said that the policy at that time only required a deputy who uses force to report that force.

But after our questions, the sheriff's office admitted the policy could leave space for uses of force to go unreported and has since changed their policy to require any deputy who witnesses a use of force to report it within 24 hours – even if they weren't physically involved. If a deputy fails to report a use of force they witness, they could be disciplined, according to the sheriff's office.

Austin has said he hopes Doty faces charges for what the body camera video shows. Doty has not been charged with anything and Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland said he plans to turn over evidence of what happened to a grand jury and let them decide whether or not Doty acted inappropriately.

Doty's attorney, Mary Sharp, said in a text message that she believes her client did nothing wrong.

"I do maintain my client's innocence of any crime or policy violation during this incident," Sharp said in part. "Even my neutral expert agreed 100% that my client did not do anything wrong. We still maintain that position. My expert testifies for officers who acted appropriately and has testified against those that don't. So, he's honest."

The two years it took to learn about what happened at the hospital in 2020 means the statute of limitations for any lawsuit Austin might file passed before he knew what happened. He is still looking for an attorney to represent him.

"I feel bad for this guy and his family; he lost his job," Austin said. "But he doesn't need a job being a deputy."