By AMANDA LOVIZA VICKERY
Glasgow Daily Times
BOWLING GREEN —
Joseph Adam Minor had been on the stand in a federal courtroom in Bowling Green for about five hours over the course of two days, and only two out of four attorneys had questioned him so far.
Minor was a deputy for the Barren County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 24, 2010, when he, Sheriff Chris Eaton, deputy Aaron Bennett and Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force detective Eric Guffey participated in the pursuit and arrest of Billy Randall Stinnett. Minor was indicted along with Eaton, Bennett and Guffey on Feb. 15, 2012, for deprivation of rights and making false statement charges stemming from the Feb. 24, 2010, arrest incident.
Like the three defendants now on trial, Minor entered an initial plea of not guilty, but on May 1, 2012, entered a guilty plea to one count of making a false statement to federal investigators. Minor is a cooperating witness for the government team prosecuting the case, and for most of the first two days of witness testimony in the U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky trial, Minor has been the center of attention.
When the former deputy arrived at the scene of Stinnett’s arrest alongside Bennett, Stinnett was already in handcuffs and non-combative with Eaton and Guffey, Minor testified under oath Tuesday and Wednesday. Minor approached Stinnett and kicked him at least twice, he said, because he was angry. Bennett began punching Stinnett in the head, and later Eaton and Bennett both struck Stinnett with their asp batons. The assault lasted less than a minute, but it was unnecessary and unreasonable force, Minor testified.
Minor’s federal court testimony and statements he has given to the U.S. government and FBI since becoming a cooperating witness differ greatly from the statements he made before being indicted, including under oath in Barren District Court and in front of a Barren County Grand Jury, J. Guthrie True said in his cross examination of Minor on Wednesday morning. True walked through Minor’s previous testimonies, finding five specific facts in his grand jury testimony that Minor said were lies.
“But you’re telling us what you said in this courtroom, under the same oath, is true,” Eaton’s attorney said.
True asked Minor if it was fair for the courtroom and the jury to conclude that if Minor would lie to a grand jury of his community members that he swore to protect and serve, then he would be “willing to lie to a jury of strangers?”
Minor told True that no, that would not be a fair conclusion. Minor lied during the previous testimonies, he said, but he is now telling the truth.
When True asked Minor if he changed his story because he was scared of going to jail or wanted to be sure he got a good deal, Minor said a deal was part of his motivation, but he also wanted to clear Deputy Bobby McCown’s name, who was indicted in the Feb. 15, 2012, indictment, but was not present at Stinnett’s arrest. However, True told Minor, FBI Agent Mike Brown’s notes of his first interview with Minor do not mention McCown or his innocence.
“I repeatedly told them,” Minor said.
Brown’s notes also said that Minor said he put his own lies in his BCSO report, but Minor told True that he does not remember saying that to Brown.
True further questioned Minor about the possibility the government needed him to cooperate in order to fill holes in its case, but Minor insisted he told the government the truth, and the prosecutors did not ask him to say certain things.
“They didn’t explain to me what I needed to say, I just explained to them the truth,” Minor said.
With his plea agreement, Minor is facing a prison sentence of up to 6 months, instead of the anticipated nine years if he were convicted on his original counts. Minor’s plea agreement disappears, however, if he lies in his court testimony.
The undated BCSO report Minor wrote about Stinnett’s arrest was supervised and influenced by Eaton, Minor alleged, although he said it was BCSO detective Rusty Anderson who actually called him about a week after the arrest and asked him to write a report because the FBI was investigating.
The report contained a number of lies that Eaton told him to write, Minor said. However, Minor did not think the lies told were good enough to withstand an FBI investigation.
“If we were going to cover it up, we should have done better than that,” Minor said.