MILWAUKEE (WITI) — A Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Deputy rolls through a stop sign and causes a violent crash. So why was the victim placed under arrest?
A FOX6 Investigation finds that a deputy’s changing story may have changed one woman’s life forever. Tanya Weyker was hurt so badly, she couldn’t blow into a breath-testing device or perform field sobriety tests. But a Sheriff’s deputy arrested her for drunk driving anyway. And the County hung those charges over her head for nearly a year, even long after blood tests proved she was perfectly sober. Tanya Weyker remembers it clearly. Not just the crash that broke her neck in four places, but the false accusations that followed.
“My reputation is everything to me,” she said.
At the age of 25, Weyker’s criminal history is as flawless as her posture. She was diagnosed with cancer at age three, and the prolonged radiation treatments literally curved her spine. So doctors inserted metal rods to keep her back straight. The lifelong medical complications have not stopped her from pursuing a college degree. Or from driving a car. In fact, Weyker had never gotten so much as a speeding ticket until the night she crossed paths with Milwaukee County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Quiles.
It was February 20th, 2013, and Deputy Quiles was working the night shift on patrol at General Mitchell International Airport. As he pulled out onto Howell Avenue to make his rounds, he T-boned a passing car and sent it spinning into a tree. “Very scary,” Weyker recalls. Her spine was already fused with steel. Now, she had a fractured neck to go with it.
“It was a miracle I wasn’t paralyzed,” she said. As rescue workers tended to Weyker, police and Sheriff’s deputies started asking questions. “One asked if I had anything to drink that night,” she said. “And I told them a few sips from a friend’s drink.” A deputy noted a light odor of alcohol on her breath. He said he speech was slurred. And her eyes looked red and glassy. “I explained to him my eyes were red and glassy because I was crying,” she said.
Tanya Weyker suffered a broken neck in the crash, but was arrested for drunk driving.
When asked about her use of prescription drugs, Weyker says she told the truth. “I just got my wisdom teeth pulled out, so they gave me Vicodin for that. I told them it was little over a week since I took the Vicodin,” Weyker said. Her injuries were too severe to allow for any field sobriety tests. She couldn’t even give a breath sample. But another deputy, who also worked in the airport bureau, arrested Weyker anyway, on five separate charges including drunk driving causing injury. “They made me into this criminal,” she said.
Weyker’s mom raced to the hospital to find deputies standing guard. “She was in traction and just sitting there. She was crying and said they accused her, they arrested her and accused her of something she didn’t do,” Grace Weyker said. Her lawyer, Todd Korb, says the arrest is surprising, since there was virtually no evidence that she was drunk.
“I can’t say it is necessarily a cover up, but it is suspicious,” Korb said. Drunk driving defense expert Andrew Mishlove says it’s questionable if deputies had cause to arrest her at all.
“She was the suspect right from the start,” he said. If deputies had cause to arrest her, he says, it’s only because of the statements made by the deputy involved in the crash.
“If Deputy Quiles hadn’t essentially blamed the accident on her,” Mishlove argues,” they never would’ve drawn her blood. They never would’ve arrested her.” In his official report, Deputy Quiles wrote that he stopped at the stop sign and looked both ways before pulling out. He told a Milwaukee police officer that he never saw any headlights, even though Weyker’s Camry had lights that come on automatically. “I knew I was innocent this whole time,” Weyker declared. The truth might never have surfaced were it not for video from a nearby airport surveillance camera. It shows what investigators say is Deputy Quiles’ squad car traveling west on Hutsteiner Avenue, then continuing onto Howell without making a complete stop, as Quiles claimed in his report. The Sheriff’s Office knew about the video just two days after the crash. But no one told Weyker. Instead, the County sent letters blaming her for the crash and threatening legal action if she didn’t pay for the damage. Of course, if Weyker was drunk, it would have been easy to pin the blame on her. But less than a month after the crash, test results showed she had no alcohol in her system. And by July, her drug test came back negative too. Five months after the crash, it was clear Weyker had been stone cold sober.
But still the case didn’t go away. “I don’t think it is fair at all,” Weyker said. Five more months passed before a prosecutor finally looked at the case and declined to file charges. But even then, Weyker says, she was left in the dark. “No one called me.”
“She had to live with this hanging over her head for way too long,” Mishlove said.
It wasn’t until ten months after the crash that internal investigators at the Sheriff’s Office interviewed Deputy Quiles. In an audio recording provided to FOX 6 News by Weyker’s attorney, an investigator asks Quiles what happened.
“I’ve been told I rolled the stop sign at Howell and Hutsteiner,” Quiles said.
Quiles said he hadn’t seen the video himself, but was told that a video existed. He then acknowledged that his earlier statement was wrong.
Internal Investigator “You believe that you probably did roll?”
Voice of Deputy Quiles “Yes. Yes, I do.”
Internal Investigator “And because of that, you believe you were at fault for this accident.”
Voice of Deputy Quiles “That’s correct.”
In March, Deputy Quiles was still listed as active in the airport division of the Sheriff’s department.
Deputy Quiles did not return calls for comment and only answered a couple of questions at his home before driving away. But he told the judge in his child support case that he’s been on medical leave ever since the crash. He was officially suspended for nine days for violating traffic laws and damaging County equipment. He was never disciplined for the inaccurate report that caused Weyker so much trouble, despite a previous history of discipline for filing reports written by someone else.
“I think he was trying to protect himself and his department, to be honest,” Weyker said.At 95 pounds, Tanya Weyker may look like a pushover, but don’t be fooled. After all, her spine is made of steel. “A lot of people are too afraid to stick up for themselves against someone in such high power,” Weyker said. The DA declined to file charges against Weyker, and Deputy Quiles has admitted he was at fault, but Weyker is still waiting for the County to pay her medical bills. Korb says those bills could top a million dollars, but state law puts a cap of $250,000 on claims against government agencies. Meanwhile, Weyker has filed a separate complaint against the deputy who arrested her. It could be the precursor to a civil rights lawsuit against the County, for which there is not cap on damages.
Deputy Quiles has not worked in more than a year since the crash. He has exhausted his injury pay and has now filed for permanent duty disability for injuries he suffered in the crash he caused. His application is still pending before the County’s Employee Retirement System. All of this is happening, despite the fact that reports written at the time of the crash indicate Deputy Quiles suffered only minor injuries and was “treated and released” at Froedtert Hospital.
The FOX6 Investigators have provided you access to the following documents associated with this story:
Hygiene lab results showing no alcohol or drugs
Arresting officer’s report (Deputy Scott Griffin)
Report of deputy involved in crash (Deputy Joseph Quiles)
Statement of Probable Cause
Weyker Complaint against arresting officer
Internal Affairs records