published Monday, August 13th, 2012

Most officers in trouble weren’t charged despite evidence

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    Bradley County District Attorney General Steve Bebb

Steve Bebb campaigned for 10th Judicial District attorney general in 2006 as a friend to the police, and many returned the regard.

In the six years since his election, Bebb has proved extremely reluctant to prosecute officers accused of misbehavior, records show.

His office did charge two Cleveland, Tenn., police officers after an investigation showed they were having sex with teenage girls and abusing prescription drugs. Both pleaded guilty to statutory rape and other charges in 2010, newspaper archives show.

However, the Times Free Press looked at 10 other cases in which officers were investigated for misconduct and found only two in which Bebb brought charges. One other officer was charged in a case handled by a special prosecutor after Bebb recused himself.


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    The former home of 10th Drug Task Force Lt. Bobby Queen in Cleveland, Tenn.

Queen Investigation
Queen Investigation

Drunk and threatening suicide, 10th District Drug Task Force Lt. Bobby Queen fired several three-round bursts from his .223-caliber M16 assault rifle through the roof of his suburban Cleveland home. The overnight standoff between Queen and Bradley sheriff’s officials and SWAT took place on June 5-6, 2008.

Then followed another standoff between law officers, who wanted to charge Queen, a 22-year law enforcement veteran, and Bebb and his staff, who were reluctant to prosecute.

The event is detailed in a “summary of assistance report” written by Bradley County Detective Sgt. Dewayne Scoggins on June 6, 2008, that was obtained by the Times Free Press. (See Scoggins’ complete report online.)

Scoggins wrote that he was called at 6:20 a.m. on June 6, after Queen had surrendered. He reported that Queen’s wife was in the house during part of the standoff and called 911. A police report said Queen held a gun on her, but she said in the 911 call that he had not hurt her.

He took Queen to a hospital for a blood-alcohol test and officers began arranging a mental health and suicide evaluation. The results of the blood test weren’t reported.

Scoggins wrote that officers gathered in Bradley Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Lawson’s office to talk about “possible criminal charges on Queen for his actions.”

“Bebb had an opinion at that time that he didn’t believe any crime had been committed based on what he knew then,” Scoggins wrote.

“Points of interest were suggested that Mr. Queen firing a High Powered M16 rifle through the roof of his home ... endangered many people in the immediate area including responding police officers and deputies,” Scoggins wrote.

Later that day, the officers and district attorney’s staff assembled in Bebb’s office at 1 p.m. to review the 911 recordings, Scoggins wrote.

The assistant DAs shot down every charge mentioned against Queen, from aggravated domestic assault, to reckless endangerment for firing rounds that landed among his neighbor’s houses and his fellow officers, to public intoxication, Scoggins wrote.

“I suggested that the case facts be presented to a Grand Jury for their consideration. Gen. Bebb stated that he did not want the possibility of a Grand Jury indicting a case that had no Merritt [sic] or Probable Cause and that this was unnecessary,” Scoggins’ report states.

Queen was never charged.

“We opened the case in June of 2008 and it was turned over to DA Bebb who declined prosecution and requested we close our case in August of 2008,” TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.


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    Investigators found a partial bottle of whiskey and packets of pseudoephedrine, which is the key ingredient in methamphetamine, in 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force agent Angie Gibson's truck after she wrecked it Aug. 7, 2011, in Madisonville, Tenn.

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    Investigators found a partial bottle of whiskey and packets of pseudoephedrine, which is the key ingredient in methamphetamine, in 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force agent Angie Gibson's truck after she wrecked it Aug. 7, 2011, in Madisonville, Tenn.

Gibson Report
Gibson Report

Other articles in this series:

Sunday:

Records show history of impropriety in 10th Judicial District

A litany of cases

Truth, rights suffer in 10th District, defense attorneys

Monday

Some are held to account, but many go free, case files show

Tuesday

Some former officers cry foul.

Wednesday

Parties, perks and pricey dining.

Thursday

Questions swirled around drug chief.

Friday

How drug agents brought in millions.

Driving after drinking alcohol, 10th District drug task force agent Angie Gibson wrecked her pickup truck in the yard of a home and left the scene, leaving an open bottle, methamphetamine ingredients and state-owned police equipment inside, according to a task force internal affairs report.

Gibson crashed her red Dodge pickup truck sometime after 1 a.m. on Aug. 7, 2011, on state Highway 68 in Madisonville, Tenn., according to the report. The truck struck a brick mailbox, tore through a yard and hit a culvert in a neighboring yard.

Investigators found an open bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, packets of pseudoephedrine and lithium batteries — materials commonly used in the manufacture of methamphetamine — and a single hydrocodone pill hidden in a CD jewel case in the truck, according to the internal affairs report. (See the IA report online.)

A Tennessee Highway Patrol officer found Gibson at her Englewood home, roughly 10 miles away, and took her to the crash scene. She refused a field sobriety test but passed a drug test, the report stated.

Witnesses said they had seen Gibson apparently intoxicated at the Vonore Marina before midnight. Others said they saw her leaving the marina in the truck and driving south on U.S. Highway 411 moments before the crash.

Gibson already was on probation from a March drug task force internal affairs investigation, the report stated. Court records in an unrelated lawsuit allege that she and another task force agent were found to have had an inappropriate relationship and to have violated policy regarding use of task force cellphones. Both agents were suspended without pay for three days and put on probation for one year, according to files in the lawsuit.

Gibson resigned on Aug. 10, 2011, and the internal affairs investigation ended without charges.

Law enforcement sources say a civilian in similar circumstances could have been charged with DUI, violating the open container law, leaving the scene of an accident, possession of Schedule II narcotics and possession of drug paraphernalia.


The district attorney did file charges after investigators said two Monroe County jailers in January fastened an inmate into a restraint chair in a cell, then used pepper spray on his face.

Sheriff Bill Bivens said jailers John Wilburn and Thomas Goodman were charged with assault after the Jan. 17 incident and resigned Jan. 20 after an internal investigation.

At first, Bebb told the Knoxville News Sentinel that Wilburn and Goodman would not be charged. The newspaper quoted Bebb as saying that inmate Randy Carter had been arrested more than 70 times, mostly on alcohol charges, and had a history of fighting with police. Both jailers said Carter was spitting at them and wouldn’t stop.

“They made a bad decision, did the wrong thing, and resigned. I am not charging them with a crime,” Bebb told the News Sentinel.

However, by Feb. 1, Bebb had charged both with assault. The News Sentinel reported that Bebb changed his mind after seeing video of the incident.

“It was just too deliberate to let it go,” Bebb said. “They ought to have been smarter than that.”

The men were indicted in June on charges of assault and official oppression, according to court records.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Subscribe to Judy on Facebook at Facebook.com/JudyCTFP.

about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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