BOWLING GREEN — The progress of a federal deprivation of rights trial against Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, deputy Aaron Bennett and Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force detective Eric Guffey hit a snag Monday morning as the judge and attorneys tried to figure out how to deal with testimony from FBI agents.
Before court went into session Monday morning, U.S. Department of Justice civil rights prosecutor Sanjay Patel talked to Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr., and the defense team about how to allow three FBI agents to testify about their interviews of the defendants following the Feb. 24, 2010, arrest of Billy Randall Stinnett, without specifically testifying to what one defendant said about another defendant. Both sides agreed that FBI agents could discuss what each defendant said about "another officer," without naming other defendants.
However, FBI agent David McClelland was not on the stand long before the judge halted his testimony. McClelland participated in interviews of all three defendants on April 20, 2010, with lead investigator FBI agent Mike Brown. He and Brown had been assigned to investigate allegations that the three defendants and another deputy had participated in or observed the others beating Stinnett after he was in handcuffs.
When asking McClelland what Eaton told the agents in his interview and what Eaton had previously written in a Barren County Sheriff's Office report, Patel put Eaton's report on a projector for the witness, jury and courtroom to see. McKinley requested both teams of lawyers to approach his bench for a conference, and after about 15 minutes of discussion at the front of the courtroom, McKinley declared the court in recess to determine how to handle the situation.
Court returned to session about an hour later, and the next time Patel put Eaton's report on the projector, names were blacked out.
McClelland and Brown began each interview by reminding the officers that if they lied, they could be charged with a crime, and then asked each officer to review the reports they wrote following Stinnett's arrest. Each defendant attested to the accuracy of their reports.