The man who helped bring down former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long never followed through on a promise to give $100,000 to the “needy” children of Chattanooga, instead telling City Council members a year later he didn’t think the children needed his money anymore.
“It is beyond my ability to comprehend what the Rev. Eugene Overstreet was talking about at all these council meetings,” Mr. Long’s defense attorney Jerry Summers said Friday.
As part of Mr. Long’s defense, Mr. Summers filed minutes from 11 City Council meetings in federal court Friday, saying they prove that Mr. Overstreet — the government’s confidential informant who helped get Mr. Long charged with 27 counts, including extortion, money laundering and possession with intent to sell cocaine — is manipulative and erratic.
“All I can say is he was trying to manipulate the City Council as well as Billy Long,” Mr. Summers said.
The documents were filed in the defense’s continuing efforts to convince a federal judge to compel the psychological evaluation of Mr. Overstreet.
Mr. Summers already has made Mr. Long’s psychological report public, a document in which the former sheriff is deemed to be easily manipulated. Mr. Summers said a similar report on Mr. Overstreet will prove the government’s helper coerced Mr. Long into committing crimes such as drug trafficking that otherwise never would have happened.
Mr. Long faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in October as the result of a yearlong investigation into his illegal activities such as extortion of local convenience store owners and his plans with Mr. Overstreet that involved smuggling supposed drug money from Mexico. Mr. Long could receive less time if a federal judge is convinced by the defense’s assessment of Mr. Overstreet’s character.
Contained in the City Council minutes is evidence of Mr. Overstreet beginning to regularly attend council meetings in early 2002, a year after he said he moved to Chattanooga from New York to run a funeral business and become a leader in the local black religious community.
The documents indicate that Mr. Overstreet variously threatened to sue the city for “interfering in his business,” opined about the financial plight of children and the racial tensions in the city’s leadership and praised council members for being his “best neighbors.”
Yet when Councilman Leamon Pierce asked him about the promised $100,000 in July 2002, Mr. Overstreet told the council he would only hand it over if Mr. Pierce resigned, the minutes show.
“The money would be in good hands” then, Mr. Overstreet told the council, according to the minutes.
Later that September, when Mr. Pierce pressed him about the money again, Mr. Overstreet said he didn’t think the school system needed his money anymore, the minutes show, and suggested that Mr. Pierce should know the difference between a “pledge” and a “suggestion.”
At another meeting in September 2005, Mr. Overstreet boasted that former President Clinton had personally invited him to help rebuild the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
And in an apparent jab to faith-based-initiatives, Mr. Overstreet informed the council that “if the first three letters of the words are taken out it would be F-B-I.”
“He said we should be careful how we take faith-based money as nothing from Washington comes free!” the recording secretary wrote in the minutes.
Mr. Summers and Mr. Long both claim the FBI would end up paying Rev. Overstreet at least $18,000 to help the agency set up the former sheriff in fake drug transactions.
In an interview Mr. Overstreet gave to the Times Free Press in May, he stated, “If the FBI needed me, I felt that as a citizen I should work with them in any way I could.”
The government has never acknowledged that Mr. Overstreet helped them in their investigation, despite videos and audio recordings made public that show him working with Mr. Long.