published Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Give Bebb the boot

Over the past week, Times Free Press reporter Judy Walton has presented readers with one of the most compelling, well-documented pieces of long-form investigative reporting you’ll see from any media outlet anywhere in America this year.

Walton’s series of reports paints a shameful and shocking picture of misconduct taking place by public officials in Tennessee’s 10th Judicial District under the leadership of District Attorney General Steve Bebb. Uncovering, verifying and reporting the shenanigans perpetrated by Bebb and his underlings consumed seven months and required dozens of requests for public records, scores of interviews and hundreds of hours of research.

For her efforts, Walton has justifiably received many pats on the back and should begin clearing off her mantle for the awards of recognition from the journalism community that will likely come. And all of that is great and very well-deserved.

But it won’t mean a thing if Bebb isn’t ousted.

If you’re asking if Bebb actually should lose his job, you haven’t been paying attention.

To recap every allegation of theft, fraud, civil rights abuse, possible perjury, exploiting his power to indict, violating ethics rules and trampling of constitutional rights committed by Bebb and his staff would require more words than this page allows.

Some of the more egregious examples of abuse of power and violating public trust by Bebb himself, or by workers under his supervision, include:

• Bebb refused to charge police officers for conduct that would have landed civilians in the slammer, including “abusing prescription pills and beating up spouses, to shooting up a neighborhood with an assault rifle, to driving drunk and wrecking a vehicle with methamphetamine ingredients inside,” according to Walton’s research.

• Bebb attempted to prosecute defendants despite having a clear conflict of interest.

• Bebb apparently perjured himself when, under oath, he claimed that he didn’t prosecute a detective for apparently attempting to taint a case because “they lost their jobs” as a result of the alleged wrongdoing. It turns out they are both happily employed — one full-time and one part-time — at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office — something Bebb undoubtedly knew.

• After discovering the Cleveland, Tenn., police chief and one of his aides lied in sworn testimony, and that the chief ordered officers to arrest or cite people for little or no cause, Bebb chose not to prosecute the law-breaking police chief.

• When a former Tellico Plains chief couldn’t account for $5,500 in cash from fundraisers and checks written to the police department, Bebb refused to press charges.

• Drug Task Force Lt. Bobby Queen shot a number of rounds from his .223-caliber M16 assault rifle through the roof of his suburban Cleveland home. That led to an overnight standoff between Queen and Bradley sheriff’s and SWAT officials. Bebb chose not to charge Queen.

• “Court records and judges’ opinions contain repeated allegations and findings that 10th District prosecutors withheld evidence, tolerated and even participated in law enforcement misconduct, and violated judicial orders and defendants’ rights in criminal cases,” Walton found.

• Bebb improperly used a 2007 Chevy Impala seized in a drug arrest as his personal vehicle.

• Bebb was improperly receiving mileage reimbursement checks that he was not entitled to because, according to him, an employee was “cheating on [his] behalf” — an eye-roller if there ever was one, since all mileage reimbursement forms ultimately were signed off on by Bebb himself.

• Drug task force agents under Bebb’s authority spent “at least $100,000 between 2008 and 2010 on hotels, meals, mileage and airfare. They took dozens of trips to locations as close as Opryland and Gatlinburg and as far as Washington, D.C., Sandestin, Fla., and Charleston, S.C.,” according to open records research.

• Assistant District Attorney Dallas Scott charged more than $4,000 in gas for his personal vehicle without proper justification, according to state auditors.

Maybe worst of all, Walton noted that “in four high-profile cases, court records alleged that prosecutors’ and investigators’ errors or mishandling had one of two results: Either people’s lives and freedom possibly were imperiled by tainted evidence and poor procedures, or defendants who may have committed vicious and violent crimes could not be held to account.”

This is particularly outrageous since, above all, the primary function of a DA’s office is to facilitate the process of ensuring that justice is served. The incompetence of Bebb and his staff not only failed to assist the justice process, it actually inhibited it. As a direct result of Bebb, people who committed heinous crimes likely are walking free and innocent people may be sitting behind bars.

• • •

There should be no question that Steve Bebb is a corrupt, incompetent and self-serving menace to the people in the 10th District counties of Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk.

The only question now is, what can be done to get Bebb out of office?

Thankfully, there are some options.

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility — the organization tasked with supervising the conduct of attorneys — can act on a “Petition for Discipline” against Bebb. There is little doubt that such a petition will be filed in Bebb’s case — if it hasn’t been already. After the petition is filed, if the board finds wrongdoing (and that seems pretty likely, doesn’t it?), it can select from a number of possible sanctions, including “disbarment, suspension, public censure, private reprimand or private admonition,” according to the board’s website.

If the board chooses to disbar Bebb, or even to suspend him until his term expires in 2014, that will put an end to his repugnant reign over the 10th Judicial District.

Another option is for the state Legislature to convene for a vote to impeach Bebb.

According to the Tennessee Constitution, state attorneys like Bebb can be impeached by a simple majority vote of the General Assembly for crimes or misconduct committed solely in their official capacity. It shouldn’t be hard for a majority of state lawmakers to agree that the dirt Walton has uncovered on Bebb more than constitutes “official misconduct.”

There is a particularly appealing aspect of impeachment for taxpayers — and for the 10th District residents over whom Bebb has run roughshod for years. When he retires, Bebb stands to collect more than $85,000 a year in taxpayer-funded retirement benefits, according to estimates using the state’s Consolidated Retirement System “retirement calculator.” If Bebb is impeached, however, he won’t receive one red cent of his retirement.

Several state lawmakers already have expressed interest in beginning the impeachment process sooner, rather than later.

Of course, all of this supposes that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations doesn’t get to Bebb first, which they very well may.

We turn to you, Steve Bebb. Your transgressions are numerous, egregious and well-documented. You have options. You can go through the embarrassment of facing sanctions from the Board of Professional Responsibility, which will likely cost you any chance at ever practicing law again. Or you can face an impeachment trial in the Tennessee General Assembly, which will etch your dubious deeds in history books forever and, likely, strip you of your ability to retire comfortably.

You have a final choice, Mr. Bebb. You can save everyone a lot of time and trouble and simply resign.

The choice is yours, but we’re sure of one thing: No matter what happens, your days of abusing your power for personal gain, skirting the law, wasting tax dollars and making a mockery of the justice system are quickly coming to an end.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.

I salute you Judy Walton and TFP for your diligent and insightful investigative reporting. Thank you for having the courage and persistence it took to compile the news articles, on behalf of the citizens of this community, who coincidentally, deserve to know the REAL truth about alot of things and deserve much better....No way to learn about it in Cleveland. Very well done Judy Walton!

August 17, 2012 at 9:52 p.m.

I'm sure this is all just a big misunderstanding.

I'm sure!

August 19, 2012 at 1:45 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

For years I would smell a fetid aroma while on I-75 in Bradley and McMinn Counties. I thought it was Bowater.

I was wrong. That acrid, rotten smell is "Ali Baba" Bebb and His Forty Thieves, laying in wait under the banner of justice and Cross of Jesus, plundering and destroying, with legal blackmail and larceny as their drugs of choice.

No need to visit Somilia to see pirates; go up 1-75.

August 19, 2012 at 8:42 a.m.
jesse said...

Maybe Bebb is just the most blatant case and they decided to do him first! WHO'S NEXT???

August 19, 2012 at 10:34 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Lesliesmart, You are so correct.

Please enjoy a summary of the TFP's coverage of local goverment for the past decade.

The TFP has been on Dinner and Date with the Hamilton County local governments for so long. During the dark days of journalism at the TFP, called Griscomsek, the newspapers began a protective love affair with local government that continues to this day.

Judy Walton did an amazing job, and TFP has other rock star investigative reporters. Why are Hamilton County government(s) so protected?

BTW I have found the most awesome watch group in LaFayette

August 19, 2012 at 11:01 a.m.
eyesWIDEopen said...

lesliesmart, the rules change when the investigation into the courts and police allege corruption and abuse is in their own backyard.

August 19, 2012 at 12:53 p.m.
jesse said...

Back in the 1960's i had a friend(alex coreless!) who was a reporter at the then Chattanooga,Times! Alex was straight arrow!PERIOT! While on the Chatta.P.d. i was involved in a coupla gunfights that Alex thought might be kinda iffy!And he wernt bashful about taking me to task! The days of reporters like that are LONG GONE! Alex was fearless and NOBODY intimidated him!

August 19, 2012 at 1:01 p.m.

Are people 'picking on' McMinn County because we almost had someone calling the shots for Hamilton County from there? There are not that many articles of negative behavior from McMinn County. Why do You think they call it 'The Friendly City'? McMinn County probably has less negative behavior articles than anyone.

August 19, 2012 at 2:24 p.m.
jesse said...

Hey Orr means light!! Maybe it's because you all see the light better than all us realists! Like when you live in the "twi light zone ,reality ain't really revelant!(get some help dude,while it might still do some good!)

August 19, 2012 at 2:37 p.m.
sandstorm66 said...

Between the criminals on the road and the criminals working in the 10th district, who can we trust or believe. I know who I'll be cheering for, the criminals, at least you know what you have more with the criminals than the cops chasing and trying to catch'em!!!!! Can't wait till I turn the TV on and either the 10th has a raid go wrong because they messed up and try to pin it all on the crooks. I just wonder how many of the "taskers" are sober and not under the influence of a drug whether its illegal or someone else's prescription!!!!!

August 19, 2012 at 6:32 p.m.
sandstorm66 said...

Shut the Task Force down and revoke the POST certification of every officer on the task force. Impeach Bebb and his other croney attorneys!!!!!

August 19, 2012 at 6:36 p.m.
sandstorm66 said...

I have one more thing for the 10th. FBI investigation and federal jail time for the taskers of the "Cocky 10th".

August 19, 2012 at 6:40 p.m.


I asked two questions, and, made two statements. I'm open to learning more! Peace ^X^

August 19, 2012 at 9:12 p.m.
fairmon said...

An $85,000 per year pension paid by tax payers is as much a crime as all the other shenanigans that justify impeachment. He is only one of many that taxpayers are paying or will in the future pay an excessive pension. Future unfunded liabilities are the cause of many cities and eventually states to default or put tax payers at risk of extremely high taxes to retain minimum essential services.

I would like to see a similar thorough job on spending and future commitments that will have to be funded by tax payers. Pensions, health care etc. that public employees are provided plus bonds and other future obligations such as assuming cost resulting from grants that are not known by tax payers.

August 21, 2012 at 5:16 a.m.
patriot1 said...

Harp: I agree, remember Judge Hagler, the one with the tape? Bebb and Hagler are buds who go way back to earlier times together as Asst district attorneys. Hagler resigned in disgrace with he and Bebb in an embrace in the DA's office.

August 23, 2012 at 7:39 a.m.
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