D.A. Says No TBI Investigation Needed In Stufano/Ray Case

July 31, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The District Attorney General's Office will not be requesting a TBI investigation into allegations of wrongdoing against Smithville Police Chief Thomas J. Stufano by Roy Ray.

The Smithville Aldermen voted 3 to 1 on Monday, July 16th to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of an independent investigation into the Stufano/Ray case. Lieutenant Richard Jennings, the senior ranking officer within the department at the time, was named acting police chief.

Two days after that meeting on Wednesday, July 18th, Mayor Taft Hendrixson sent a written notice to city attorney John Pryor that he was casting a veto of the council's action. The aldermen were also notified. As a reault of the mayor's veto, Stufano was reinstated as Police Chief.

The city board is scheduled to meet in regular session again on Monday night, August 6th, at which time the aldermen may consider trying to override the mayor's veto, which would require a two thirds majority vote, or at least four members of the five member board.

Ray has filed a federal court lawsuit against Stufano and the city claiming his constitutional rights were violated and that he was injured as the result of excessive police force during a misdemeanor traffic stop in February. He is represented by Lebanon attorney Adam Parrish.

In a letter to city attorney Pryor, District Attorney General Pro Tempore Anthony (Tony) Craighead wrote this week that "The District Attorney's Office will not be requesting a TBI investigation. There are several reasons for this decision."

Craighead's letter states that " First, the TBI's mission is to investigate criminal activities. That is those cases where a crime has been committed with an eye toward prosecution. I do not see what crime they are being called on to investigate. The incident between Chief Stufano and Mr. Ray has been fully investigated by the City of Smithville Police, and I fail to see what additional information is needed or what crime needs to be investigated. The purpose of the TBI is not to make an investigation into whether a law enforcement officer used proper procedures in making an arrest. That is not it's job. It appears that is what the City Council needs done, but that does not fall, as I understand, under the parameters of that agency."

"Second, the City Council or the Police Department did not request or believe there was a need for an investigation until a civil lawsuit was filed some five months after the incident. It appears from our discussion it was only requested when a private attorney, who has filed the lawsuit, appeared before the City Council to suggest some form of investigation. If all these facts were known at the time of the incident and no new facts have emerged, except for the lawsuit, then I am not going to have this office or the TBI drawn into a lawsuit that we have no standing in which to be involved."

"Finally, after a review of Chief Stufano's meticulous, detailed report (which I might add, I would enjoy seeing on all law enforcement cases across the district), I do not see what additional information could be gained from a formal TBI inquiry. All the facts are there, all the statements from officers are there, and I am of the opinion there are no new facts that would emerge."

"If all the facts are as Chief Stufano and his officers state, I do not see any charges that the TBI would need to substantiate."

"This is a very unfortunate situation; however because someone chooses to sue a police officer does not automatically require a TBI investigation. As in the criminal court, making allegations against someone does not make those allegations true. If the TBI was not requested or needed when the event occurred, I fail to see why they are needed now."

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