Statement from City
Marissa Bell, Communications Coordinator for the City of Chattanooga, released this statement: "No information we received today changes the previous statements we have made. The Mayor's Office does not get involved in any police investigations. Stacy Richardson did not influence this investigation and only went to pick up Lacie Stone from the Fletcher's home. Mayor Berke has absolute confidence that the Chattanooga Police Department conducted the investigation on their own and without influence from the Mayor's Office, the Chief of Police's Office, or anyone else. In addition, Mayor Berke has already stated that all allegations made by Mr. Stone are absolutely false."
Lacie Stone statement
Lacie Stone's lawyer, John Cavett, released the below statement on behalf of his client: "The last six months of my life have been extremely difficult. Anytime you have difficulties in your marriage you want to keep it private. In the unfortunate event that those problems escalate to physical violence, as it did to me on May 20, the last thing you want to do is talk to members of the media about. My husband continues to make untrue allegations about me, my colleagues, and what happened that night. Those allegations are completely false. I just want to bring this unfortunate event to close, move on with my life, and ask everyone to respect my privacy going forward."
Bobby Stone no longer faces criminal charges of domestic assault and vandalism, nearly five months after he accused Mayor Andy Berke of having an inappropriate relationship with his wife.
Hamilton County Sessions Judge Lila Statom dismissed the case Friday after District Attorney General Neal Pinkston said the facts prevented his office from prosecuting any further. And then, before 9 a.m., Bobby Stone, 54, walked out of General Sessions Court a free man.
Later that afternoon, Bobby Stone filed for divorce from his wife, Lacie Stone, on the grounds of adultery.
Outside the courtroom, Bobby Stone had a message: "The fact is, Mayor Andy Berke had an inappropriate relationship with my wife. And he and his staff conspired with [Chattanooga Police] Chief Fred Fletcher to have me falsely arrested so they could cover that back up."
Various city officials denied any coverup in numerous statements Friday, all of them addressing the investigation into the events of May 20, when Lacie Stone called Chattanooga Police Department Chief Fred Fletcher around 11:30 p.m. and said her husband was trying to kill her and had just thrown something through her car window. Bobby Stone said he confronted her after he caught her texting Berke outside on the porch of their North Chattanooga home.
The Times Free Press on Friday obtained 11 photographs of Lacie Stone with bruises on her arms, wrist, back, chest, upper leg, face, and thigh. In one picture of her elbow, Lacie Stone appears to have four fingerprint-sized discolorations on her skin just days after the alleged domestic abuse.
At the time of the incident, Pinkston asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to independently look into how police handled the investigation, saying that some of Berke and Fletcher's public comments were raising "unusual concerns" for prosecutors.
Pinkston's spokeswoman, Melydia Clewell, said the TBI report would not be released unless there was a court order unsealing it.
"TBI investigatory files are considered confidential under the Tennessee Open Records Act," she wrote in an email. "This is not a discretionary decision our office is allowed to make."
A TBI spokeswoman also said the agency could not release the report, or a summary of the report. In this case, the report could include details about potential wrongdoing by the police.
Instead, Pinkston's five-page motion supporting his decision to dismiss the case sheds more light into the circumstances of the evening.
After his wife called Fletcher, then a neighbor, the motion says Bobby Stone sent him a text message: "I am sure she's telling you how I beat her up. That's not true; we did wrestle over the phone, but I never hit her."
Fletcher reported the incident to his officers, who went to his home and began to interview Lacie Stone.
But two times, the motion says, Lacie Stone said no assault ever happened. She gave a written statement to that effect and said she was concerned about "her job, the publicity this event may garner and allegations of extramarital affairs."
Verna Wyatt, a co-founder of the nonprofit Tennessee Voices for Victims, said it's normal for people who have experienced domestic violence to make inconsistent statements and slowly piece things together because of the trauma.
"When you're talking about domestic violence, sometimes their story's different because they'll immediately say what was happening," Wyatt said. "And then later, when they've had time to think about it, they'll consider what could happen to the person they love and maybe even recant the attack."
The motion also says Lacie Stone "wanted all this to go away," according to Stacy Richardson, the mayor's chief of staff. She also went to Fletcher's house that night.
Though it did not name the person, Pinkston's motion reads, "that individuals from the City Mayor's office and Chattanooga Police Department decided the Special Victims Unit should handle the investigation."
The detective, a member of the SVU for one year, went out to the scene. But Richardson had already left with Lacie Stone, who declined to talk to police any more that night, the motion says.
"Stacy Richardson did not influence this investigation and only went to pick up Lacie Stone from the Fletchers' home," Marissa Bell, communications director for Berke's office, wrote in a statement. "Mayor Berke has absolute confidence that the Chattanooga Police Department conducted the investigation on their own and without influence from the Mayor's Office, the Chief of Police's Office, or anyone else. In addition, Mayor Berke has already stated that all allegations made by Mr. Stone are absolutely false.
Fletcher, too, denied there was any contact between police and the mayor's office and said he contacted the on-duty police commander and placed them in charge as soon as he learned of this incident.
"No one from the mayor's office had any contact with any police officers, other than me, and had no influence on the decisions that were made on how to address this case," Fletcher said in a statement.
In the meantime, police officers went to Bobby Stone's house that evening to gather evidence. Before they transported him to the police department, he again denied hitting his wife, according to Pinkston's motion.
Then, the Special Victims Unit detective began to interview Bobby Stone - "but failed to notify [him] of his constitutional rights," the motion says.
On Bobby Stone's statement alone, the detective took out warrants for domestic assault and vandalism, even though Lacie Stone's inconsistent statements did not provide enough cause for arrest, the motion says.
After the charges were dismissed Friday, Lacie Stone released a statement through her lawyer, John Cavett, saying her husband was making untrue allegations about her, her colleagues, and what happened that night.
"The last six months of my life have been extremely difficult," she wrote. "Anytime you have difficulties in your marriage you want to keep it private. In the unfortunate event that those problems escalate to physical violence, as it did to me on May 20, the last thing you want to do is talk to members of the media about [it]."
Pinkston's motion said two separate interviews Lacie Stone gave to the SVU detective and the TBI contained "minor and major inconsistencies."
When he was contacted about the 11 photographs after Friday's court proceedings, Pinkston's office said Lacie Stone was not photographed by the police on scene because she left before the detective arrived.
"Lacie did provide photos to CPD three days later," spokeswoman Clewell wrote. "Obviously, there is no way to prove the bruises seen in the photos were caused by Bobby Stone. CPD did take photos of Bobby Stone's injuries."
Bobby Stone's attorney, Lee Davis, who also was contacted about the images, said no digital stamp confirmed when and where the photos were taken, creating a dangerous inference that they're somehow linked to the case.
They have always been part of the investigative file, Davis said, and if somebody really had an issue with them, they should have come to Friday's court hearing and said something.
"Let's assume the bruising did happen," Davis added. "Well it's consistent with somebody rolling on the ground. And it's consistent with her statement to police saying she was never hit."
The Times Free Press made a public records request for the images around the time the incident happened. Berke's office said the images were released Friday because Bobby Stone's criminal case is now closed.
In one photo, Lacie Stone is standing in a bathroom, documenting a bruise on her elbow. In another, there is a reddish-purple bruise on her upper leg. A third shows a yellow and grey bruise on her chest.
Another shows her wearing her wedding ring.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow on Twitter @zackpeterson918.