By AMANDA LOVIZA VICKERY
Glasgow Daily Times
BOWLING GREEN —
As lead investigator FBI agent Mike Brown was cross examined Tuesday morning in the federal deprivation of rights trial against Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, deputy Aaron Bennett and Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force detective Eric Guffey, he faced a litany of questions from defense attorneys regarding how he collected evidence in the three-year investigation, and whether the evidence was sufficient.
J. Guthrie True, defense counsel for Eaton, began Tuesday’s court session, picking up where he left off Monday afternoon. The charge against Eaton of making false statements is based solely on Eaton’s statement that no one hit Billy Randall Stinnett on Feb. 24, 2010, after he was in handcuffs, True said, and Brown agreed. The witnesses who contradict that statement are teenagers who were watching from Calvary Baptist Church, and government cooperating witness Adam Minor, who changed his initial story after he was indicted. All the defendants have stated that Stinnett was not assaulted in any way after he was handcuffed, and their written statements generally agree with their verbal statements.
True continued along his Monday line of questioning, asking Brown about situations throughout the investigation in which Brown chose not to take certain steps. When he inspected Stinnett’s van on March 12, 2010, Brown said he did not choose to use any testing technique other than visual inspection to look for blood. He also declined to take Eaton’s baton to test for blood when Eaton offered it. In his report of his April 20, 2010, interview of Eaton, Brown chose not to include that Eaton told him he had used his baton only twice in 16 years.
Further, True called into question the allegation that the defendants conspired in a cover-up. The defendants could have taken steps to clean up blood at the scene of the arrest, justified by Stinnett’s Hepatitis C, True said, but they did not go to those lengths to hide anything they did. Brown’s response was that “maybe they didn’t think about it.”
Buddy Alexander, Bennett’s defense attorney, had only a few questions for Brown.
Bennett’s charge of lying also rests solely on his statement that he never hit Stinnett or saw anyone else do so, Alexander said, and Brown agreed. Minor has testified, and other evidence has suggested, that Bennett broke his hand that day punching Stinnett in the head. However, when asked, Brown told Alexander that he could not definitively say when or how exactly Bennett broke his hand.
Brian Butler, counsel for Guffey, asked Brown more questions about his evidence-collecting techniques. When a private citizen, church deacon Kelly Billingsley, reported a bloody glove at the scene of Stinnett’s arrest to Brown, the FBI agent chose to give Billingsley telephonic instructions about how to collect the glove for evidence. Brown could have asked any Louisville or Bowling Green FBI agent or a Kentucky State Trooper to go to Glasgow to collect the glove, Butler said, but he chose not to do that.
“It was securing the evidence the quickest way possible,” Brown told Butler.
Brown testified that he instructed Billingsley to put the glove in a paper bag, but Billingsley testified last week that he put the glove in a plastic bag when he collected it. A plastic bag was not the proper way to collect bloody fabric, Brown confirmed.
When it came time to present the evidence to a federal grand jury in February 2012 and seek an indictment, Brown was the one to summarize the evidence for the grand jury.
He was summarizing information they had already heard in previous testimonies, Brown said. However, despite seeking an indictment that day, Butler said that Brown was the one to decide which evidence to present and he neglected to include some facts. All the church eye witnesses described officers in brown uniforms, Butler said, and the government has used a photo from Feb. 24, 2010, several times during trial to show Guffey in a brown coat, asking witnesses whether his brown coat could have blended in with the brown uniforms. However, Brown’s notes from his first interview with Guffey state that Guffey said he took his black bullet-resistant vest off after the arrest, Butler said, and another photograph from the scene shows Guffey’s shoulders clad in black, not brown. Brown confirmed that he did not tell the grand jury that Guffey described himself as wearing a black vest at the time of Stinnett’s arrest, or that some of the eye witnesses said some people left the scene after Stinnett was handcuffed and no one said Guffey himself ever hit Stinnett.
Guffey was charged with an additional count of making false statements because of an interview he gave on March 7, 2011. FBI agent Michael Shafer, who also testified Tuesday, conducted the main portion of the interview, and Brown watched from another room and later asked Guffey some extra questions.
Shafer’s interview of Guffey, conducted at the Bowling Green Police Department, was split into two parts, Shafer said, and some details of Guffey’s account changed in between the two parts of the interview. Brown also testified that some things Guffey told Shafer differed from what he told Brown in his April 20, 2010, interview.
At first, Shafer testified that Guffey said Stinnett was in an altercation with another officer when Guffey first saw him, lying face-down on the ground with his hands underneath him. Later, Shafer said Guffey changed his statement to say he, Stinnett and the first officer on scene were still standing when he saw them, and that officer hit Stinnett with a baton and pushed him to the ground. On cross examination, Butler said Shafer’s report from the March 2011 interview actually says that Guffey said by the time he arrived, Stinnett was on the ground. The report does not say whether Guffey said the physical altercation he initially saw was taking place standing up or on the ground, Butler said.
Guffey’s description of two other officers’ involvement also changed, Shafer testified. At first, Guffey said two officers who arrived shortly after him helped get control of Stinnett’s arms and subdue him. Guffey’s second account said he was getting Stinnett handcuffed as the other officers arrived, so they didn’t participate in the apprehension. However, upon cross examination Butler said there was a difference between Shafer’s interview notes and his report. In the notes, Butler said, Shafer wrote that Guffey didn’t know what the other officers did to assist, and the report summarizes that portion to say Guffey said the other two officers didn’t do anything.
Brown testified that in April 2010, Guffey said he never saw any officer hit Stinnett, but in March 2011 Guffey told Shafer he saw the first officer on scene use a baton against Stinnett. However, consulting FBI agent David McClelland’s April 2010 notes in cross examination, Butler said that the sequential order of McClelland’s notes quote Guffey saying he handcuffed Stinnett, and next saying he did not see Eaton hit Stinnett with a baton. If read sequentially, Butler said it would be reasonable to conclude that Guffey was specifically saying he did not see Eaton hit Stinnett after he was handcuffed. Brown said they asked Guffey whether anyone hit Stinnett at all, but he conceded Butler’s interpretation was reasonable.
Guffey also said in April 2010 that he saw blood on the ground, air conditioning unit and wall of the arrest scene, Brown testified, but in March 2011 said he never told the FBI he saw blood at the scene. Brown said he thought it was strange Guffey changed that part of his story, but he said he was confident of what Guffey said in April 2010. However, Butler pointed out in cross examination, Brown interviewed six people on April 20, 2010. During McClelland’s testimony, Butler said, he was mistaken in a detail about Guffey’s statement. Brown confirmed that McClelland had made a mistake. Further, Butler said, Brown himself originally made mistakes in his report about one of the church witness interviews, but Brown had the witness read the report and correct inaccuracies. Brown did not do that with Guffey or the other defendants, but the agent told Butler the church witness was an exception, because the youth was crying and hard to understand in her interview.
Butler asked Brown whether he could have recorded his April 20, 2010, interviews, and Brown confirmed that the capability was there.
“It would be against Bureau policy,” Brown told Butler.
However, Butler said, Brown is involved in another Barren County civil rights investigation, and he has recorded interviews, accompanied another individual who recorded interviews and at least once interviewed someone and later recorded the witness’ statement. Brown agreed those all occurred. Brown’s other civil rights investigation involves an allegation of inmate abuse at the Barren County Detention Center.