BOWLING GREEN — Glasgow Police Officer Jessie Barton came under fire on the witness stand under cross examination during federal court Thursday morning in the trial against Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, Deputy Aaron Bennett and Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force Detective Eric Guffey.
Barton arrived on the scene of Billy Randall Stinnett’s arrest on Feb. 24, 2010, about 30 seconds to a minute after a radio dispatch said Stinnett had crashed into the side of a Calvary Baptist Church building near the corner of East Cherry Street and Columbia Avenue. Barton ran out of his car, came upon Eaton next to a house in the area, and continued past Eaton until he saw Bennett and then-deputy Adam Minor picking Stinnett off the ground in handcuffs.
While Barton testified to various details about what he saw on the scene, the alleged crime he witnessed came as he and Minor were escorting Stinnett to Minor’s vehicle. Eaton walked up to Stinnett, Barton testified, and said, “You didn’t expect to see me here, did you” and some curse words, and then Barton alleged that Eaton punched Stinnett in the groin or abdominal area. Stinnett grunted and doubled over, Barton said.
Until 2012, Barton repeatedly testified that he never saw anyone strike Stinnett. As Eaton’s defense attorney, J. Guthrie True, reminded Barton during cross examination, Barton was interviewed by the FBI four times and testified to a federal grand jury once during a two-year time period in which he never said he saw Eaton hit Stinnett. Stinnett’s own civil deposition does not claim that Eaton punched him in the groin, True said, and later Stinnett reiterated that in his own testimony.
Things changed in May 2012 because Barton saw a photo, taken by Trevor Phillips for the BCSO and published in the Glasgow Daily Times in Feb. 25, 2010, that showed Barton escorting Stinnett away from the arrest scene with Minor. Barton said in early interviews that he was five to 10 feet away from Stinnett and thus didn’t see Eaton approach. His location was an unintentional falsehood, Barton said, but he knew from the beginning that he had seen Eaton hit Stinnett and he lied about it because he was scared.
As True continued to question Barton, the attorney had him indicate on an aerial image where they were when Eaton hit Stinnett in the groin. True then showed Barton a photograph, which Barton identified to be just after Eaton hit Stinnett. However, the location of the photograph, as well as Minor’s testimony about the photograph, did not match Barton’s description of Eaton’s assault on Stinnett.
Stinnett began his testimony about an hour before the court recessed for lunch Thursday. When he found himself stuck in that dead end on Feb. 24, 2010, with Eaton coming up behind him, Stinnett said he put his hands on his head and started to go down to the ground.
“There was nowhere else to run,” Stinnett said.
Eaton said to Stinnett, “You didn’t think it’d be me, did you” and some curse words, and hit him on the head with a baton, allegedly causing Stinnett’s primary injury, a head laceration that required nine staples. Eaton started to hit him again, Stinnett said, and Stinnett raised his elbow to protect himself. The blow landed on Stinnett’s elbow. Eaton’s third baton strike hit Stinnett on the back, he testified.
“Somewhere in there, other officers had arrived,” Stinnett said. “They were striking me, punching me. At some point, one of them put cuffs on me.”
The beating seemed to last three or four minutes, Stinnett said. His only form of resistance was a kick to Eaton’s leg with his steel-toed boot, he said.
Stinnett does not remember getting kicked during the assault, he said. Minor testified Tuesday and Wednesday that he came upon Stinnett already handcuffed and not currently being assaulted, and Minor began the beating by kicking Stinnett before Bennett and Eaton followed suit with punches and batons.
As he was escorted to a police cruiser by Minor after the beating, Stinnett said he does not remember ever being punched in the head, or punched in the groin or stomach by Eaton, two incidents that have been described in other witness testimonies.