After more than three years of investigation, court appearances and document filing, the criminal prosecution of the Barren County sheriff and two other law enforcement officers for civil rights violations is nearing an end.
Trial will begin Monday in U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky in Bowling Green for Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, BCSO Deputy Aaron Bennett and Barren-Edmonson County Drug Task Force Detective Eric Guffey.
On Feb. 24, 2010, Billy Randall Stinnett led local law enforcement on a two-county motor vehicle chase. Stinnett was driving recklessly and under the influence, and his van contained a mobile methamphetamine lab. The chase ended when Stinnett crashed his vehicle into a Calvary Baptist Church building and tried to flee the scene on foot.
Eaton arrived on the scene first and allegedly began to strike Stinnett with an asp baton, according to prosecution attorneys Roy Conn III and Sanjay Patel. Guffey handcuffed Stinnett, and he, Eaton, Bennett and Joseph Adam Minor allegedly continued to strike Stinnett with batons and kick him, resulting in injuries serious enough to take Stinnett to T.J. Samson Community Hospital. According to the prosecution, there were people inside the church that witnessed the defendants assaulting Stinnett with unnecessary force.
Eaton, Bennett, Guffey and their defense counsel maintain that Stinnett was combative, and any force used was only what was appropriate in the situation. They did not use any force on Stinnett once he was in handcuffs, defense documents state.
Eaton is represented by J. Guthrie True, of Frankfort, Bennett is represented by Buddy Alexander, of Glasgow, and Guffey is represented by Brian Butler, of Louisville.
Immediately following the incident, the details of Stinnett’s arrest were only documented by the drug task force, and that report only encompassed the drug-related aspects of the case, prosecutors state. BCSO did not write a report on the incident until the Federal Bureau of Investigation requested one approximately 10 days afterward.
In the weeks that followed, prosecutors allege that Eaton began a cover-up, asking BCSO deputy Steve Runyon to write a false report fabricating details of Stinnett’s arrest, including that Stinnett had a knife on him during the arrest altercation. Runyon has been a witness for the prosecution since the beginning of the case, and he has since left the employment of the BCSO. Eaton maintains that he never asked Runyon to falsify a report.
Minor, who was indicted with the other defendants but entered a guilty plea on May 1, 2012, to one count of making a false statement, said that Eaton also asked him to help fabricate evidence, the prosecution alleged.
FBI agents interviewed Eaton, Bennett, Guffey and Minor on April 20, 2010, and it was from those interviews that the charges of making false statements stemmed, because each defendant denied the deprivation of rights allegations. Guffey allegedly gave conflicting statements to FBI agents regarding seeing blood at the scene of Stinnett’s arrest, which led to extra charges against him. Guffey maintains that he never lied to investigators.
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