Sheriff's office: Best to settle civil suit based on evidence

RAW: Dash cam footage of alleged police brutality
Devante Pittman and Deputy Christopher Davis. (Source: CCDC)
Devante Pittman and Deputy Christopher Davis. (Source: CCDC)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The trial for a Charleston County Sheriff's Office deputy accused of using excessive force during a November 11 traffic stop has been rescheduled, and a civil suit filed against the sheriff's office is in the process of being settled.

Deputy Christopher Davis has been charged by the State Law Enforcement Division with third-degree assault and battery. Officials say Davis, along with two other deputies, assaulted 20-year-old Devante Antwan Pittman after pulling the victim over on Orleans Road around 11 p.m. on Nov. 11, 2012.

Pittman's lawyer, Lionel Lofton, was not in attendance at Friday's trial. Lofton said he assumed Davis was entering a pre-trial intervention program (PTI) and had not heard otherwise.

"However, if Davis doesn't want PTI, then I guess Mr. Pittman will need to be at court when it is rescheduled and Pittman will bring with him more than $84,000 in projected dental bills," Lofton said.

The trial has not yet been rescheduled.

Andy Savage, Davis' lawyer, announced Friday that a settlement had been reached in Pittman's civil lawsuit against the department, but the sheriff's office says it is still a work in progress.

"Courtesy notice was given to Mr. Savage last week about a pending civil settlement which still has not been consummated," said Sandra Senn, attorney for the sheriff's department.

While the settlement has not yet been finalized, Senn says it is the right thing to do based on evidence.

"It is in the department's best interest to settle the suit and that's a direct result of what is seen on the videotape," said Senn.

Caroline Cleveland, employment lawyer for the sheriff's department, said the department chose to end Davis' employment after an investigation by the Internal Affairs Division and the decision was made "independent of and without regard to the civil case or its settlement."

Documents state on the night of Nov. 11, Davis pulled Pittman over and told him he was being stopped and ticketed for failure to use his turn signal.

The lawsuit states Pittman told Davis he thought he had used his turn signal, which prompted Davis to reach his right hand through the open window on the driver's side and strike Pittman in the face, repeatedly, with a flashlight.

Pittman's attorney said two other deputies, James Howard and Gilbert Baldwin, then walked over and helped Davis force Pittman from the vehicle.

The lawsuit alleges as Howard and Baldwin restrained Pittman, Davis pulled the back of Pittman's head and repeatedly struck him in the face with his right fist.

The lawsuit states "the force of Davis's blows was so severe that one of [Pittman's] teeth, along with some of the bone attached to the tooth, was knocked out."

Davis was later placed on administrative leave without pay.

Pittman was arrested on April 1 by Charleston police and charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, receiving stolen goods, and second-degree assault and battery.

Records state Pittman was spotted driving a car that was reported stolen. The man who saw Pittman, was the owner of the car.

The victim also alleged Pittman pointed a gun at him after he followed the stolen car down a road.

Investigators say they did not find any contraband or firearms in the stolen vehicle. Police are continuing the investigation.

Copyright 2013 WCSC. All rights reserved.