The trial for a former Faulkner County sheriff’s deputy is delayed as prosecutors look to question the victim.
Tom Tatum of Yell County, who was appointed as special prosecutor in the case, filed for a continuance Wednesday.
Tatum asked for a new trial "because [prosecutors] have been unable to locate the victim" and therefore have been unable to prepare for trial.
The trial, which was scheduled for Friday in Faulkner County District Court had not been rescheduled by press time Saturday.
Eugene Watlington, 43, of Vilonia was charged with third-degree battery, a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year in prison with a $2,500, after video footage that was released following a high-speed chase showed him using excessive force on a suspect.
Defense Attorney Lee D. Short filed a motion for continuance July 14 and Special Judge Mark Derrick agreed to move the trial to Aug. 26.
Watlington was fired from the sheriff’s office following the May 4 arrests of Harvey Martin III and Christopher James "Lil Man" Cummings. Internal and federal investigations of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office were triggered after footage captured by a Mayflower police officer’s body camera showed several deputies hitting and kicking Martin following the chase from Mayflower to Conway.
"Toward the end of the struggle it looks like [Watlington] kicked the arrestee [Martin] numerous times that I consider to be clearly not needed as a part of the effort to subdue the arrestee," then-sheriff Andy Shock stated in Watlington’s July 10, 2015, termination letter. "Because I think you violated the county’s use of force policy, I have to impose discipline."
The internal investigation ended with Watlington’s termination and the federal color of law investigation remains open.
Tatum charged Watlington with third-degree battery following Watlington’s termination.
Watlington was arrested March 21 and released from the county jail on a $1,090 bond.
Charges filed against Martin following the incident were dropped after prosecutors learned Cummings held him at gunpoint to flee police. Martin was also working with the Conway Police Department’s Drug Taskforce as an unofficial confidential informant to locate Cummings, a parole absconder.
Cummings has since been convicted of two counts of capital murder for shooting at police during the chase. He was sentenced to 175 years in prison.
(Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)