Michael "Wally" Wallace and Gary E. Baldock, the two constables fighting federal criminal charges as well as multiple civil suits, got a much-needed win last week with the dismissal of one of five civil complaints.
Last Wednesday, a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice was filed in the U.S. District Court at London -- formally ending Hubert Coots' lawsuit against the embattled constables.
Coots filed suit in January -- pertaining to a search Wallace and Baldock had executed at his home on January 13, 2020, in which Wallace reported for the ensuing arrest warrant finding over five pounds of marijuana, digital scales, cash and multiple firearms.
Coots was charged in Pulaski District Court the following month with Trafficking in Marijuana Over Five Pounds in a case that was ultimately dismissed on October 8, 2020.
According to Coots' complaint, not only did Wallace and Baldock not find five pounds of marijuana during the search, they also "seized various items of the Plaintiff's personal property, including money earned from the Plaintiff's gainful employment and various other items of personal property."
Coots also claimed that during and after the search, Wallace and Baldock repeatedly asked for the location of certain money and property, despite Coots' continuing to say he was not trafficking in drugs and had no stash of money.
The lawsuit against Wallace and Baldock alleged civil rights violations, including intimidation, force and threat; false charges against Coots; physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering; and damage and loss of property.
Coots was seeking an amount "to reasonably compensate him for his injuries and damages."
However, the Bowling Green attorney representing Wallace in this case as well as the other civil litigation, Aaron Smith, noted that Coots and his attorneys, including Somerset's Greg Ousley, agreed to the dismissal based upon video footage telling a different story.
In a nearly 53-minute video provided by Robert Norfleet, Wallace's defense attorney in the criminal case, Coots initially tells the constables that he was helping a friend before leading them to his basement where the marijuana is stored in two five-gallon buckets as well as a cooler. The search later moves to a bedroom where five guns and $3,174 in cash are counted and logged.
Over the course of the video, Coots discusses primarily with Wallace about setting up a meeting with the friend/supplier so that person could be arrested and charged. Coots also appears to admit to at least two sales earlier that day, saying he had been talked into his situation though he knew better.
"I'm the dummy," Coots can be heard saying at one point.
"They voluntarily dismissed the case," Smith said of the plaintiffs. "There was no settlement or anything..…We provided them with body cam footage from the incident which showed that the lawsuit was completely meritless, and they chose to dismiss in light of that. Which we believe was the right thing to do.
"We were obviously pleased to have it dismissed and we'll continue to defend these cases going forward."
Smith demurred when asked how this dismissal might impact the criminal case, with which he has no involvement, or the other civil complaints moving forward.
"Every case is different; it's got its own set of facts," he said. "The truth came out on this one, and it was in Wally's favor. That's about all I can say on that."
A more jubilant Norfleet was more direct in his initial statement: "Surprise! A fraudulent lawsuit was filed against Constables Wallace and Baldock in federal court by the plaintiff and a team of attorneys hoping for a big pay day. Fortunately, video footage of the incident clearly refuted the lies propagated by the lawsuit. Due to the lies and the failure to perform due diligence, the plaintiff's lawsuit was slayed by the truth resulting in a dismissal with prejudice! The remaining civil matters against Constable Wallace will most likely suffer the same fate."
When asked how he felt the dismissal would impact that the criminal case, Norfleet told the Commonwealth Journal that the "false allegations against Constable Wallace, regardless if asserted in the criminal proceeding or the civil lawsuits, will likely fail."
Jason Williams, Baldock's London-based attorney, had not responded to the newspaper's message by press time.
When asked for comment, Ousley simply said, "The agreed order of dismissal in the civil matter involving Mr. Coots does not have any bearing on the criminal charges both Wallace and Baldock face in federal court on June 14, 2021."
Wallace and Baldock were arrested in March 2020 and charged with Conspiracy Against Civil Rights.
While Wallace was taken into custody peacefully by the FBI and released the same day, Baldock reportedly fired a gun at FBI agents when they attempted to take him into custody at his residence. Both Baldock and an agent were wounded in a reported exchange of gunfire, with Baldock being taken to a Lexington hospital for treatment before being lodged in the Grayson County Detention Center.
Because of that incident, Baldock has been charged with Attempted Murder of a Federal Agent and Discharge of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence.
Additionally, both constables are facing drug charges: Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine.
Both Wallace and Baldock have entered not guilty pleas in regard to their respective charges.