published Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Trial begins in Niota, Tenn., police officers' oppression case

  • photo
    Keith McCarter, pictured, and Jonathan Scott are Niota, Tenn., police officers suspended after being indicted for beating a motorist they were arresting.

  • photo
    Jonathan Scott, pictured, and Keith McCarter are Niota, Tenn., police officers suspended after being indicted for beating a motorist they were arresting.

The trial in a case against two Niota, Tenn., police officers began Tuesday in McMinn County Circuit Court after months of efforts by the state and defenders to remove the prosecutor and judge and, on Tuesday, media cameras.

Jury selection began late Tuesday morning after a hearing on attorney motions to deny use of cameras in the courtroom during the trial. Circuit Court Judge Amy Reedy eventually decided to allow camera use as jury selection continued into the afternoon, court officials said.

Court action will resume this morning in Athens, Tenn.

The trial involves Niota police officers Sgt. Keith McCarter and Patrolman Jonathan Scott, who were charged in indictments in April 2012 with official oppression and conspiracy to commit official oppression in connection with a case against Niota resident Ray Stewart.

Stewart ended up with staples in his scalp, a broken collarbone and a long list of charges in an incident that happened on July 13, 2011.

Both officers were suspended after their arrests in April 2012, and the charges against Stewart eventually were dismissed in municipal and state court.

Stewart contended that his arrest and injuries were in retaliation for his complaints that Niota officers were patrolling and making arrests outside Niota's city limits.

At the time of the 2011 incident, Scott had been a certified police officer for only three weeks. McCarter -- while working for police departments in Vonore, Etowah and Niota -- had a long disciplinary record, including suspensions for misconduct and use of unnecessary force, giving 911 records to someone without authorization, failure to appear in court, and for arresting someone in another county while off duty and out of uniform.

McCarter's record also contains reprimands or verbal notices for sexually harassing female 911 dispatchers, using profanity in dealing with the public, abusively shocking a dog, and chronic absenteeism, according to previously published reports.

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