Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

June 12, 2014

Man who claims he was attacked at river files lawsuit

TAHLEQUAH — An Oklahoma man who claims he was assaulted last summer on the Illinois River by three men, including two Oklahoma City cops, has filed a civil petition seeking tens of thousands of dollars from his attackers.

Yohawna Lewis claimed he and his girlfriend, Amanda Belty, were arguing last summer while they were at the scenic Illinois River. Lewis said while he and Belty were arguing, three men stopped and became involved in the dispute.

Lewis alleges the men – now identified in court documents as Anthony Franklin, Gregory Franklin, and Andrew French – placed him in a choke hold, kicked him, and punched him repeatedly, then left him for dead.

The Franklins had identified themselves as off-duty Oklahoma City police officers, Lewis said.

Lewis alleges the three men left him after the confrontation, but later crossed paths with him again and “repeatedly held his head under water.”

“After [the three men] viciously beat [Lewis], they left his battered body in the brush along the bank of the Illinois River,” Lewis’ petition against the three alleges.

Lewis was flown by medical helicopter from the river and incurred medical expenses because of the incident. Lewis’ attorneys claim the three men’s actions went “beyond all possible bounds of decency and should be considered atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”

In the weeks after the alleged confrontation, Cherokee County Assistant District Attorney Doug Dry released a written decision not to charge the three men, who at the time had not been publicly identified.

Dry said the District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges after reviewing the report of Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission rangers, other statements, photographs, and audio recordings from the incident.

Dry said it was “clear” that Lewis was injured because he was hit and subdued, but added that statements appeared consistent indicating the three men were on the defense because Lewis was stalking, harassing and threatening them with softball-sized stones.

Prosecutors said Lewis also admitted he had consumed a large amount of alcohol the day of the altercation.

Lewis was not charged by prosecutors.

The plaintiff is asking for a judgment against the three men in excess of $75,000, plus other damages, costs, attorney fees and interest. He is represented by The Rode Law Firm in Tulsa.

jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

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