Two Chattanooga police officers are under internal and federal investigations for potential violations of the U.S. Constitution after the officers' supervisors brought potential offenses to the attention of Chief David Roddy in late April.
After being made aware, Roddy "contacted a federal agency requesting an investigation," police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said.
Attorneys for both officers said they stand by the difficult work they do for the department and are fully cooperating.
In two letters, dated June 1, the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee notified the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office that it and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are actively investigating officers Jacob Lee and Jonathan Bradley. Both officers, who are gang unit investigators and have been with the department for six and seven years, respectively, are being investigated "for criminal violations of federal law."
Federal prosecutors are "in the process of reviewing evidence related to enforcement actions" in which investigators Lee and Bradley participated, according to the letter.
"The USAO has determined that some of those enforcement actions involved unconstitutional searches and seizures, and that some of those unconstitutional searches and seizures were of such a nature that [Lee and Bradley] must have intended to violate the Constitution," Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Neff wrote. "Further, there is evidence to suggest that, relative to some of those unconstitutional searches, [the officers] falsified official reports in order to conceal constitutional deficiencies and deliberate failures to seize contraband, including narcotics."
Neff said the officers' "problematic conduct represents a pattern of behavior," but that U.S. attorneys had not found an instance in which the alleged misconduct was involved in a case that was prosecuted in federal court or that evidence of the misconduct was ever presented to the United States for prosecutorial review.
However, federal prosecutors did not have any information about whether the same could be said for any case reviews or prosecutions by the state of Tennessee, which would be prosecuted by the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office.
DA spokesman Bruce Garner said the office is reviewing each case on its own merits.
A third letter, sent on May 22, states that Lee allegedly lied to Special Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Brown during a May 5 phone call concerning a criminal case pending in federal court.
During the call, Lee "made unsolicited comments" to Brown regarding the Chattanooga Police Department's internal affairs investigation Lee was facing, which had been opened on April 29.
Days after the call, Brown "reviewed evidence related to the events about which Inv. Lee commented," Neff wrote. "Based on that review, SAUSA Brown formed the opinion that Inv. Lee had lied to him during the May 5, 2020, phone call."
The evidence Brown reviewed is not believed to be connnected to any federal or state criminal prosecution, past or present.
"Nevertheless, the evidence was connected to a police enforcement action in which Inv. Lee was directly involved," Neff wrote.
Attorneys for the two officers issued similar statements when asked to respond.
"Penetrating gang activity and prosecuting violent individuals is difficult work," attorney Lee Davis, who is one of the attorneys representing Lee, said in a statement. "We recognize that law enforcement has a duty to investigate accusations but feel confident that Inv. Lee's work will speak for itself."
Lee "stands by his work on behalf of the city of Chattanooga and we welcome a transparent investigation of any of his actions that have recently been criticized," attorney Janie Parks Varnell added.
As for Bradley, his attorney Lance Pope said his client "recently learned that some of his actions while in that role have become the subject of a federal investigation and he anticipates fully cooperating with that investigation."
"Inv. Bradley is proud of the difficult work he and other officers have done while in the Street Crimes Unit and remains confident that this investigation will demonstrate the quality of his work," Pope added.
Currently, the internal investigation involves "fact-finding investigations on possible violations of policy and procedures," Myzal said.
"As the internal and criminal investigations are both ongoing investigations, neither the Chattanooga Police Department nor its representatives are able to comment any further due to the possibility of jeopardizing the investigations and/or dispositions," she added.
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