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 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 different 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.”
Brian Butler, counsel for Guffey, also asked Brown about some of 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.
“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 in trial that he put the glove in a plastic bag when he collected it. A plastic bag is 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 if 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 bulletproof 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.
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 definitely say when or how exactly Bennett broke his hand.