A previous version of this story stated that the victim "invited Fields, and smoked voluntarily." It has been corrected to say that the victim "invited Works."relatedarticlethumb
Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston said Thursday a former Chattanooga police officer accused of concealing exonerating evidence in a rape case told him about it in the summer of 2014.
Karl Fields said video evidence of a woman having sex and taking drugs with James Leon Works Jr. could crumble the state's theory that she was raped, Pinkston told jurors on the third day of the former detective's trial. The conversation happened around July 8, 2014, after Fields received permission from a magistrate judge to download the contents of Works' cellphone.
Authorities had a constitutional responsibility to share that evidence with defense attorneys if it could help Works, said Pinkston, who officially received and watched the footage in September 2014 after Fields was suspended. After Works was indicted in July, Pinkston said he shared the information with Works' public defender, then requested an out-of-town prosecutor to work the case. Before that, a different prosecutor worked the case in a lower court, testimony showed.
But Fields, 44, now faces tampering with evidence and official misconduct charges because he never included those videos in a master case file that was submitted to Pinkston's office Aug. 20, 2014, special prosecutors say. As a major crimes investigator he was responsible for filing each piece of evidence, Alyson Kennedy, a prosecutor from the 9th Judicial District, told Judge Barry Steelman. Using text messages, she has argued Fields wanted to conceal the evidence in order to foster a sexual relationship he'd developed with the alleged rape victim.relatedarticlethumb
"He knew it was not helpful, told the victim it was not helpful, and 40 days thereafter, still had not put something in the master file to indicate what he had seen with his own eyes," Steelman said around lunchtime, denying a defense motion to dismiss both counts. "He didn't bring it forward and, in fact, said that he didn't intend to use it."
Defense attorney Jerry Tidwell argued Thursday Fields couldn't have concealed the evidence because it had been referenced in public records numerous times and should have aroused someone's attention on the Works case. Furthermore, Fields told Pinkston and his superviser about the evidence, he said.
Tidwell pointed to June 1, 2014, when the alleged victim reported to police Works had held her in a hotel room, forced her to smoke drugs, and burned, beat and raped her several times. The attorney said the victim lied to police about a few details, including she rented the room, invited Works, and smoked voluntarily.
Then, another officer, Brian Cottell, seized Works' cellphone and took it to police storage, Tidwell said. About two weeks later, he testified in a June 18, 2014, preliminary hearing that Works' phone may contain evidence of a rape, Tidwell added.
"Preliminary hearings are in open court. Everyone gets to hear it," said Tidwell, who had a transcript. "Do you really think James Works went to jail and didn't tell his lawyer he videotaped him and [the woman] having consensual sex?"
Fields sought that information in a search warrant, which a judge granted July 8, 2014, Tidwell said. From there a police technician downloaded the videos onto a CD for Fields. Fields "literally" never touched that phone, Tidwell argued in his motion to dismiss.
Tidwell called Pinkston and Bill Phillips, of the Chattanooga Police Department, to the witness stand after prosecutors finished presenting their case around lunchtime. Phillips said Fields approached him about the video around the time of the search warrant with concerns. Phillips passed the information along to Pinkston, then second in command at the DA's office in summer of 2014, because the two were planning a case and speaking on the phone about three to four times a day, he said.
"Did you tell Fields he needed to note this?" Kennedy asked him.
"I probably didn't because that's something he would have done," Phillips said. "And Karl was pretty good about that."
When Pinkston was on the stand, Tidwell asked if he would have known about the phone evidence.
"The only way is if you didn't read the file," Pinkston said. "I would have read the file, seen what we have. I would have listened to the preliminary hearing, then requested a copy of the video on the cellphone."
Pinkston requested the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into the incident after the alleged victim turned over the text messages to the DA's office and Fields was suspended that fall. He recused himself from the Works and Fields prosecutions, records show.
Judge Steelman took a recess after Pinkston finished on the witness stand around 5 p.m. When he returned about 40 minutes later, one of the prosecutors requested a private meeting in his chambers with Fields' attorneys. Four minutes later, they returned. Steelman dismissed jurors for the day before heading back to chambers for another lengthy stretch. Attorneys said they could not comment on what he was mulling.
But Tidwell indicated he has another two witnesses to call when jurors return today at 10:15 a.m.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.