The brother of a female inmate has filed a formal complaint against Bradley County (Tenn.) Sheriff Eric Watson over what he called "schoolyard bullying" in the jail.
James N. Taylor said in a letter that Watson's behavior on April 15 was "at the very least out of line and at worst possibly a violation of inmate Stephanie Anderson's civil rights."
The Times Free Press reported last month that on the day before Easter, Watson threatened to put Anderson and the entire pod of female inmates on lockdown status for talking about his wife, Tenille Watson. The incident was documented in an email from corrections Sgt. Jason Brock to his lieutenant, Christie Walls.
Brock's email stated that Watson had Anderson brought to the jail's sally port, the secured entrance for people under arrest, and berated her for repeating gossip about Tenille Watson. He then ordered Brock to go to the pod and tell all the women inmates they would be on lock-down status if they didn't keep their mouths shut about his family. During the whole thing, Brock wrote, Tenille Watson was in the sheriff's official vehicle along with another bail bonding agent, Bernnie King, and her husband.
In his complaint, Taylor wrote, "This whole thing started over Stephanie supposedly asking a question during a visit. ... Does an inmate lose their 1st Amendment Rite [sic] while she is in custody?
Tennessee P.O.S.T. Commission
22 August 2017
3025 Lebannon Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
Re: Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson
To Whom it may concern,
This is a formal letter of complaint against Sheriff Eric Watson regarding his actions taken on 15 April 2017. His actions, which are detailed in a report filed by Deputy Jason Brock, were I believe at the very least out of line and at worst possibly a violation of inmate Stephanie Anderson’s civil rights. The details of the report are already public so there is no need to hash that out here, however the reason or reasons for the event itself and her treatment during the event is why I am filing this complaint. This whole thing started over Stephanie supposedly asking a question during a visit. The reason considerable time has passed since the event and this complaint is because my sister was in fear of retribution while she was still there, she has since been moved to Nashville.
I would like full disclosure of the entire event, the audio and video from the Sally Port, if he did nothing wrong why will he not release the video. The Sheriff cited building security for not releasing the video to the Chattanooga Times Free Press but there have been plenty of pictures and video released on other matters from the Sally Port, so why is this incident any different? What is he hiding? Does an inmate lose their 1st Amendment Rite while she is in custody?
There are many other questions I want to ask however my point is made and I would like resolution.
The way he treated this inmate was wrong and equates to schoolyard bullying, there should be no place for that kind of treatment from an elected official.
James N. Taylor
"... The way he treated this inmate was wrong and equates to schoolyard bullying, there should be no place for that kind of treatment from an elected official."
Taylor said he waited to file the complaint until his sister's requested transfer to a Nashville prison came through. He said she was afraid to speak while at the Bradley County Jail for fear of retaliation.
Neither Sheriff Watson nor Lt. James Bradford, director of public relations for the sheriff's office, could be reached Tuesday for comment.
The Times Free Press obtained Brock's email under the state's Open Records Act, but the sheriff refused to turn over video of the incident in the sally port, citing an Open Records Act exemption for surveillance related to building security.
Taylor filed his complaint to the POST Commission, the agency in the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance that oversees law officers' training and certifications. He sent copies to the Tennessee District Attorney Generals Conference, County Mayor D. Gary Davis and others.
"I would like full disclosure of the entire event, the audio and video from the Sally Port, if he did nothing wrong why will he not release the video," he wrote. "The Sheriff cited building security for not releasing the video to the Chattanooga Times Free Press but there have been plenty of pictures and video released on other matters from the Sally Port, so why is this incident any different? What is he hiding?"
Taylor sent copies of his complaint to his 2nd District commissioners, Louie Alford and Thomas Crye.
Asked for comment, Crye said: "I find it hard to understand how security could be threatened with this video since video was readily available from the sally port when the city police department could not get their prisoners booked and had to release them. Possibly there's something I don't understand about security that's happened in the last few weeks since the last issue with the police department."
The Times Free Press also has reported complaints of missing or destroyed video raised in at least two lawsuits related to deaths or injuries at the Bradley jail. And the sheriff's office said no video was available from Feb. 8, when a sheriff's office employee reported seeing Tenille Watson allegedly attempt to run down her husband with a vehicle outside the building. Sheriff Watson said large ruts in the grass were made by his own vehicle as he backed it toward a door with a load of supplies.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.
This story was updated Aug. 22 at 11:45 p.m. with more information.