published Friday, August 16th, 2013

Whether misconduct or mistake, Bebb needs ousting

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    Bradley County District Attorney General Steve Bebb

Our hats are off to a Tennessee House investigative panel that on Wednesday said there is enough evidence against 10th Judicial District Attorney Steve Bebb to continue a process to remove him from office.

The group has been looking at allegations that Bebb, who oversees prosecutors and investigations in Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties, violated the public trust in the way he and people he supervised behaved in recent years. That behavior includes allegations of Bebb accepting taxpayer reimbursement for driving a state-owned car and former 10th District Drug Task Force Chief Mike Hall spending thousands of dollars of public money on dining, travel and motels for himself and a female agent that could not be documented as legitimate task force expenses. Bebb is board chairman of the task force.

Other allegations of misconduct outlined in 2012 Chattanooga Times Free Press stories by reporter Judy Walton include civil rights violations in arrests and court cases -- from racial profiling in drug seizure cases to prosecutorial misconduct. In one case, the prosecutor allowed a detective to pretend to be an attorney in hopes of getting a jail inmate to implicate himself in a killing. The eventual murder charge was thrown out when a key witness said a detective had told him to lie in court about buying the victim's gun from the suspect. Other stories looked at allegations of grand jury tampering, retaliation and protection of officers for illegal acts that would have landed a civilian in jail.

This week, the bipartisan House panel became the first official body that has reviewed the allegations and evidence without simply sweeping them under a rug. The panel recommended that House Speaker Beth Harwell appoint another panel to come up with specific charges warranting Bebb's removal when the Tennessee General Assembly convenes in January, said Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport.

A separate Senate committee also is considering evidence developed from Walton's series, as well as from a subsequent investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the state Comptroller's Office ordered by Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr.

In March, Cooper released a report saying Bebb exhibited poor judgment and was a bad record-keeper, but Cooper, a fellow Democrat, did not find any prosecutable violations.

Shipley said the House panel, which he described as a "pseudo grand jury situation," agreed there were no currently prosecutable violations, but he said the issue is public trust in elected officials.

"This was never about guilt or innocence," Shipley said. "Our whole object is to make sure the people of the state of Tennessee get a fair shake in their legal system ..."

Shipley said one member each of the House and Senate committees have told him they filed complaints against Bebb with the Board of Professional Responsibility based on evidence from the investigation. The board is the disciplinary agency for Tennessee attorneys and has power to strip a lawyer's license. If the board decides to open an investigation of Bebb, that could play into any potential House or Senate action, he said.

Shipley said the House action was handled very deliberately because it is "unique in the history of Tennessee" to be trying to remove a district attorney who has not been charged with a crime or lost his law license.

"There has been an overwhelming desire to restore the trust of the people of Tennessee, particularly the people of the 10th Judicial District," Shipley said.

It also is unusual -- and heartening -- to see authorities and elected officials working to hold accountable fellow authorities and officials.

All too often authorities -- including the TBI and the attorney general -- turned a blind eye to clearly reasonable concerns with Bebb's office and the 10th District Drug Task Force, long before Walton's research shined a light on the $5 million brought in between 2007 and 2010 from police operations along Interstate 75.

Cash, drugs and many vehicles were impounded in cases where there were no arrests, or where the defendants were freed while their vehicles and money were kept. All the while, taxpayers were still tagged at least $150,000 for travel, expensive dining and partying by the task force.

Whether that was a result of poor accounting and lack of due process, or because of corruption, authorities knew about it for years and took no action.

The public deserves better.

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daytonsdarwin said...

Steve Bebb and his Drug Task Farce are corrupt. Under the color of law, this group of official thugs have violated rights of individuals under the pretense of law enforcement.

Enriching themselves with stolen property, these miscreants continue to bring shame to honest cops. Lives have been ruined by their despicable actions.

Bebb, as a DA, has been grossly ineffective in criminal prosecutions, while allowing his fellow thugs to act with impunity.

A through investigation by the Department of Justice is warranted with quick criminal prosecutions. .

I hope those who have been victims of Bebb and his Bandits with Badges will seek legal representation (do not use Bradley, McMinn, or Polk County attorneys as many have co-operated with Bebb for years) and sue.

The TFP is to be commended for its investigation into the criminal activity of Bebb.

Little wonder that citizens have no faith in law enforcment with crooks like Bebb and his henchmen on the government payroll.

August 16, 2013 at 8:06 a.m.
TheCommander said...

Dayton, you are a wealth of knowledge of the history of corruption in the sewer known as Cleveland, TN. The incest-fest in local government is appalling. Did you know Bradley co. hired 60 new firemen at their new FEMA built firehouses? I would love to find out how many of these firemen are connected to families of Bradley county political leaders? BTW, I saw your comment on the channel 3 story about the robber who stole the unlocked police car who finally shot himself in GA. I laughed at your Benny Hill comment so hard I swear I thought I got a hernia.

August 19, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.
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