Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Local News

February 16, 2012

Sheriff, deputies, indicted by federal grand jury

GLASGOW — Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton and deputies at the BCSO, already facing a civil suit against a man they arrested, have been federally indicted for alleged deprivation of rights and tampering with witnesses.

The grand jury indictment was filed Wednesday in the United States District Court of the Western District of Kentucky at Bowling Green.

Eaton and deputies Aaron Bennett, Danny Robert “Bobby” McCown, Joseph Adam Minor and Barren-Edmonson County Drug Task Force detective Eric Guffey are all charged in the 10-count criminal indictment.

“I’m disappointed the Department of Justice in Washington has elected to charge them when we had numerous discussions to try to avoid this,” said J. Guthrie True, of Johnson, True & Guarnieri in Frankfort. True is representing Eaton in the case. “There seems to be a gainful effort to indict the sheriff and that’s unfortunate.”

All five are charged with deprivation of rights under the color of law for allegedly assaulting an individual identified in the indictment as “B.R.S.” on Feb. 24, 2010.

The assault of B.R.S. resulted in bodily injury, “thereby willfully depriving B.R.S. of a right secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, specifically, the right to be free from … the use of unreasonable force, by one acting under the color of law,” the indictment stated.

Eaton is individually charged with deprivation of rights for allegedly failing to prevent officers under his command from assaulting the person.

Eaton is also charged with witness tampering and the indictment alleges he “knowingly intimidated, threatened and corruptly persuaded, and attempted to intimidate, threaten and corruptly persuade” an individual identified as “S.R.” in an attempt to “hinder, delay, and prevent the communication to a federal law enforcement officer of information relating to the commission and possible commission of a federal offense,” according to the indictment.

“Defendant Christopher Eaton directed and suggested that S.R. write a report stating that he (S.R.) had witnessed or observed a knife on the ground in the area where defendant Eaton and his deputies had physically confronted B.R.S. When, in truth and in fact, defendant Eaton knew full well that S.R. had made no such observation regarding the location and recovery of a knife,” the indictment stated.

In an undated Barren County Sheriff’s Office report, the indictment alleges, Eaton made false entries to the report reflecting his actions and the actions of his deputies “in relation to a use of physical force,” attempting to impede the investigation. Eaton said in the report that he did not see the deputies mentioned in the case use excessive or unlawful force when he had actually “observed said officers use such force against B.R.S., while B.R.S.’s hands were cuffed behind his back, and took no action to prevent it.”

The charge of false statements was leveled against the defendants in the case for allegedly lying to the FBI about the use of force when B.R.S. was arrested. Guffey and McCown were named in separate charges: Guffey claimed not to have seen blood at the scene of the arrest and not to have told FBI agents previously that blood was present and McCown claimed not to be at the scene when the force took place.

The indictment could cause a delay in a civil suit Eaton and the BCSO are facing against Billy Randall Stinnett, who is suing in federal court on allegations of excessive force stemming from an arrest on Feb. 24, 2010. A hearing was scheduled on the civil suit for Thursday morning.

True, who is not representing Eaton in the civil suit, said generally civil suits are stayed pending the resolution of the criminal case.

Though the charges come with heavy sentences including a maximum of 35 years in prison if Eaton is convicted of all charges, True said they are confident the court will decide on a not-guilty verdict.

“We are ready to meet these allegations head on and we are fully anticipating a verdict of not guilty,” True said.

The deputies and Guffey could each face a maximum 15 years plus fines if indicted.

Eaton deferred comment to his attorney and Bennett had no comment. Guffey, McCown and Minor could not be reached for comment by press time.

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