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Vernon Gets Four Year Prison Sentence for Reckless Homicide

January 26, 2011
Dwayne Page
James Vernon (at the time of his arrest)

A Rock Island man, convicted of reckless homicide in the 2009 brutal beating of another man on Center Hill Lake, received a four year prison sentence this morning (Wednesday) in DeKalb County Criminal Court

39 year old James Vernon, under an agreement between his attorney, assistant district public defender Allison Rasbury and assistant district attorney general Greg Strong, accepted the four year sentence rather than go through with a sentencing hearing. The range of punishment for reckless homicide is two to four years.

Vernon, who remained in the DeKalb County Jail from July 9th, 2009 until December 20th, 2010, was given credit for the 529 days he has already served. Vernon has also waived his right to file an appeal or a motion for a new trial. With the jail credit time he has built, Vernon could be released soon, since he is only required to serve 30% of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Vernon has been free on bond since December 20th, pending the sentencing date.

After the court proceedings Wednesday, Vernon was taken into custody. He is currently in the county jail but is expected to eventually be transported to the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Judge Leon Burns, Jr., who sentenced Vernon, told him that the state parole board will determine when he is to be released.

Originally charged with first degree murder in the death of 24 year old David Joseph Clark, Vernon stood trial on Tuesday, November 30th in DeKalb County Criminal Court for second degree murder. Later that evening the jury, made of up six men and six women, returned from it's deliberations with a verdict of reckless homicide.

State prosecutors said Vernon was responsible for the death of Clark, who was severely beaten during an attack on a houseboat at Center Hill Lake July 7th, 2009. Clark died a week later from his injuries at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. The fight was apparently over Vernon's missing wallet, which he accused Clark of stealing. The assault occurred in DeKalb County, only a short distance from Horsehoe Bend Marina, which is in White County.

Vernon, who testified during the trial in his own defense, said that he met Clark on the fourth of July, 2009 during an outing on the lake. Two days later, July 6th Vernon said Clark showed up at his boat, just to hang out. Clark invited him inside but a short time later, Vernon said Clark suddenly left, saying he had to go. Vernon looked around and noticed that his wallet, which he kept on the bar near the dining table, was missing. Thinking that Clark took it, Vernon followed after Clark and confronted him about the wallet, which he said contained $50. Clark denied taking the wallet and Vernon apparently never found it.

The next night, July 7th, Vernon said he showed up at a friend's houseboat and that Clark later arrived. Witnesses testified that Clark was already at the boat when Vernon got there. Vernon apparently confronted Clark again about the wallet. While Clark denied taking the wallet, Vernon said Clark admitted to stealing from others in the area and added that they got what they deserved. Vernon said he took the comment personally, became angry and began punching him after Clark tried to grab him. But witnesses testified that Clark did nothing to provoke Vernon and that Vernon began hitting Clark, after the two men had shook hands. According to the witnesses, Vernon inflicted three or four blows to Clark and then continued beating him after he fell to the floor unconscious, even though witnesses tried to restrain Vernon and called for him to stop.

Vernon testified that he deeply regretted what he had done. When asked by District Attorney General Randy York if he had said "I'm sorry' to anyone. Vernon replied, "Yes, the Lord."

York, in his closing remarks to the jury, said Vernon committed second degree murder, acting intentionally and knowing that Clark could die, especially when he continued the beating even after Clark had lost consciousness.

District Public Defender David Brady and assistant Allison Rasbury, in their closing remarks, said that while Vernon was wrong in the attack, he did not commit second degree murder in that he could not have known with reasonable certainty that the injuries from the fight would lead to Clark's death.

TDOT to Award Contract on Sligo Bridge Replacement Later this Year

January 25, 2011
Dwayne Page
November 2009 photo of TDOT Inspecting Sligo Bridge
TDOT inspecting Sligo Bridge in November 2009

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is expected to accept bids and award a contract on the replacement of Sligo bridge sometime this year, possibly this fall.

The Sligo bridge replacement is among the projects to be funded in the 2011-12 state budget under TDOT's Better Bridge bonding program. The estimated cost is $30 million dollars.

The new Sligo bridge is expected to be erected some sixty feet to the north of the existing bridge and plans are for traffic to continue on the old bridge while the new structure is under construction. Right of way acquisition with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and any other adjoining landowners must also be resolved.

TDOT officials have said that Sligo bridge remains safe to travel as long as motorists adhere to the posted weight limits and that the chunks of concrete falling into nets hung underneath the bridge should not be of great concern.

During a November, 2009 public meeting in Smithville, Ed Wasserman, TDOT Director of Structures, addressed the safety issue regarding Sligo bridge. According to Wasserman, there are at least two layers of concrete on the bridge and the layer underneath is breaking up. "Specifically with regard to the Sligo bridge, it is safe as long as you observe the posted loads that are on that bridge. Your concerns about the chunks of concrete coming off ( from under the bridge). That is more of an emotional issue than a structural issue. They way that slab works is that it is the re-enforcing steel in the bottom that carries the load. The concrete on the top carries the compression load, the bottom is the tension steel. That steel is all intact. The primary purpose for the cover on the bottom is to protect the steel. The steel is still in good shape. It would be more desirable if it (concrete) was all there but the point of it is it carries the same load with or without it. The bridge is still safe. We're still monitoring the bridge on a frequency of about every six months. So the bridge is safe as it is. The netting up there (under the bridge) is because we don't want concrete chunks falling on the boaters or whoever else is underneath the bridge."

UCHRA Receives an Increase in Energy Assistance Funding for 2011

January 25, 2011

“The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency has received a budget increase of $3,176,900 for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program allowing the agency to serve more low-income individuals in the Upper Cumberland Area,” announced Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director.

LIHEAP is a Federal program administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services and subcontracted through UCHRA that provides a one-time per year energy assistance benefit to eligible households, based on a priority point system and the availability of funds.

“We are glad to have this increase in funding to assist in providing more services to the residents in our 14-county area, said Bennett. With the allocation of this money we will be able to provide energy assistance to more than 13,000 eligible households.”

“The increase will more than double the original allocation of $3,112,603 making the total fiscal year 2011 LIHEAP budget $6,289,503,” added Lee Webb, Community Services Director. “ By comparison, the fiscal year 2010 LIHEAP budget was $5,081,257 and the FY 2009 budget was $3,772,800.”

The Federal government requires that applicants meet an income guideline to be eligible for the program. The required level of poverty is 200% for a household to be eligible to receive LIHEAP assistance. Under these guidelines, for example, a household of 4 people may have an annual income up to $44,100 and qualify. Payments in increments of $300, $450, or $600, are paid directly to the provider of the eligible household’s primary energy source (i.e. electric, natural gas, propane, coal, wood, or kerosene). The amount of the payment depends upon “Priority Points” associated with an eligible household.

Priority Points are based upon information provided on the applications as determined by a computer program that calculates points on the basis of: (1) the household’s % of the federal poverty guidelines (35 point maximum), (2) the household’s energy burden (20 point maximum), which is the household’s % of income used for home energy costs, and (3) the household’s having one or more “vulnerable” members (50 point maximum), which includes the following: an elderly member aged 70 years or older, an elderly member aged 60-69 years, a disabled member, a child under 6 years of age, an Adult Protective Service (APS) referral, six or more persons in the household.

The household’s points for each category are totaled, and that number determines the payment amount. Households are awarded payment amounts as follows: 0-50 points receive $300, 55-75 points receive $450, and 80-105 points receive $600. Payment amounts are lowered for clients who live in public housing and pay only a utility “overage.” Priority Points also determine the order from high to low in which eligible applications are processed.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program also has an Energy Crisis component, the purpose of which is to prevent termination of service or depletion of the primary energy source. The Crisis Assistance is based on a household’s uncontrollable circumstances which must include either a shut off notice, or a lack of home delivered fuel notice, in combination with at least one of ten (10) conditions, such as a household wage earner with at least a year of of stable work has lost his/her job within the last twelve (12) months, that may render the household at risk of being cut-off or not having a source of energy. Applicants for Crisis assistance must meet the same income guidelines as for Regular Energy assistance. Crisis payment amounts are based upon the same priority point system as Regular assistance.

All UCHRA county offices are accepting LIHEAP applications between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. DeKalb County residents can apply at the local office, 527 West Main Street, Smithville, TN 37166. For more information on LIHEAP or any of the other UCHRA programs in DeKalb County please call 615-597-4504 or visit

CDBG Grant Sought to Help Fund Extension of Water Lines to Certain Areas of the County

January 25, 2011
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night voted to make application to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant, which if approved would assist the DeKalb Utility District in extending water lines into certain areas of the county not already served.

The DUD would be responsible for paying the grant's local matching requirement.

County Mayor Mike Foster said roads surveyed and the numbers of homes on them which might benefit from this project include the following:

Lower Dismal (Pumpkin Hollow to the intersection of Oakley Hollow) six houses
Old Givans Hollow- nine houses
Dismal to Alexandria- (Henley Hollow to Tramel Branch) 12 houses
Long Branch Road- 15 houses
A portion of Oakley Hollow- up to 26 houses
Tramel Branch- 13 houses

Officials of the Upper Cumberland Development District, who are preparing all necessary documents for completion of the grant application on behalf of the county, are asking all those who received a survey concerning this project to please fill it out and send it into the county mayor's office as soon as possible. The grant application is due by the end of February.

County commissioners have asked County Mayor Foster to check and see if some fire hydrants can be included in the project.

More Meth Labs, More Arrests

January 24, 2011
Dwayne Page
Christopher Justin Garrett
Brandon J. Gurley
Jamie Lee Hodges
Wesley J. Hayes
Scott B. Carroll, Jr.
Francisco Bustamonte
David Dewaine Anderson
Aubrey Glenn Rigsby

Three people are facing drug charges after a county deputy allegedly found meth lab components in their vehicle during a traffic stop Saturday on Antioch Road.

20 year old Christopher Justin Garrett of Clear Creek Road, Liberty; 28 year old Brandon J. Gurley of Bell Street, Smithville; and Jamie Lee Hodges of Old Bildad Road, Smithville are each charged with initiation of a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Bond for each is $50,000 and their court date is February 10th. Garrett was further issued a citation for violation of the seat belt law and for failure to carry his drivers license while Gurley was also written a citation for violation of the seat belt law and littering.

Sheriff Patrick Ray reports that on January 22nd, a deputy saw a vehicle on Antioch Road and noticed that the driver and passenger were not wearing seatbelts. As the officer was pulling over the automobile, one of the passengers, Gurley, threw some items out of the window. The deputy approached the vehicle, spoke to the driver, Garrett, and learned that he was on state probation. The officer received consent to search and found in Garrett's jacket pocket, nine lithium batteries. Inside the vehicle between Gurley's feet was a backpack which contained a plastic bottle with layered liquid and glass cookware. The deputy also found another backpack in the trunk, containing a plastic bottle with more layered liquid, a mason jar with layered liquid, acid, coffee filters, cold packs, and black insulated electrical tape. These items are consistent with the manufacture of methamphetamine. Garrett, Gurley and Hodges allegedly admitted to knowing what was in the bag between Gurley's feet and the bag in the trunk.

Meanwhile in a separate case, three people were allegedly caught cooking meth at a residence at the Loop on Sunday.

18 year old Wesley J. Hayes of Roach Hollow Road, Woodbury; 29 year old Scott B. Carroll, Jr. of Banks Pisgah Road; and 19 year old Francisco Bustamonte of West Bryant Street are charged with manufacture of a schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine) and reckless endangerment for allegedly cooking meth in the presence of a sixteen year old female. Each is under a $60,000 bond and they will be in court on February 10th.

According to Sheriff Ray, a deputy went to the Loop on January 23rd to check out a report of a possible meth lab. After receiving consent to search, the officer knocked on a bedroom door. Carroll opened the door and the deputy saw him and two other people standing by the door. All three were wearing black gloves and a strong chemical odor could be smelled coming from inside the room. In the bathroom sink were two Coleman propane tanks with cooking heads and the cookers were activated. Glass cookware was setting on the cookers. Meanwhile, in the bedroom the officer saw a jar, containing a tri layered liquid, a 20 ounce plastic bottle with tubing and an unknown liquid. Also found were backpacks containing bottles with liquid, cooking heads, a zip lock bag of ammonium nitrate, propane cylinders, baggies, and other components used to manufacture methamphetamine. Sheriff Ray said Hayes, Carroll, and Bustamonte were in the room during the cooking of the meth and placed a sixteen year old female in danger of serious bodily injury by cooking the meth which produces a strong chemical odor that is toxic.

In another case, 41 year old David Dewaine Anderson of Floyd Drive Smithville is charged with unlawful possession of a schedule II controlled substance (dilaudid) for resale; unlawful possession of a schedule III controlled substance (suboxone); and resisting, stop, frisk, halt, or search.

According to Sheriff Ray, on January 21st, Anderson was a passenger of a vehicle which was stopped by a deputy. Anderson jumped out of the automobile and fled on foot toward a building on Highway 70 east. The officer yelled for Anderson to stop several times, but he refused. After a foot pursuit, the officer caught up with Anderson and placed him under arrest. A search of his person turned up wrapped cellophane in Anderson's right pocket which contained three and a half pills and a quarter of a pill, orange in color, believed to be suboxone; and five yellow pills believed to be dilaudid. In addition to the drugs, the officer seized $271.

43 year old Jorge Halberto Molina of Short Mountain Highway was issued a citation for allowing animals to run at large. He will be in court on February 24th. According to the citation, on January 21st Molina's cattle got out on two separate occasions and one of the cows was struck by an automobile in the middle of Short Mountain Highway. Molina admitted that the cows belonged to him.

26 year old Raymond Simpson of Church Street, Dowelltown was issued a citation for driving on a suspended license. According to the citation, a deputy pulled over Simpson's vehicle for a traffic violation and saw the driver switch places with the passenger. Simpson admitted to the officer that he had been driving but switched places with the passenger before pulling out of a business parking lot on Highway 70 west. His license was suspended in June 2010.

24 year old Amanda May Judkins of Page Drive was issued a citation on January 17th for no drivers license. Her court date is January 26th. An officer stopped her vehicle for speeding and swerving. A computer check revealed that she did not have a valid drivers license. She only had identification.

56 year old Mattie Patricia Parks of Hayes Ridge Road, Lancaster was issued a citation on January 17th for simple possession of a schedule II controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. She will be in court on March 10th. An officer stopped her vehicle on suspicion that the driver was intoxicated. The deputy conducted a search of the automobile and found a crack pipe and a white rock substance believed to be a schedule II drug (crack cocaine).

Matthew Lee Tinsley of Parkway Drive, Smithville was issued a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia. According to the citation, on January 18th a deputy responded to 898 Parkway Drive accompanying the Department of Children's Services on a home visit. The officer received consent to search the home and he found in the bedroom, a bag containing eight needles, several cut straws, two spoons, and a bottle. Tinsley allegedly admitted that these items belonged to him. He will appear in court on January 27th.

35 year old Christopher Eugene Miranda of Stergaze Lane, Baxter was issued a citation for driving on a suspended license and violation of the light law. He will appear in court on February 16th. An officer stopped Miranda on January 19th for violation of the light law. A check of his drivers license revealed that they were suspended for failure to satisfy a citation in Wilson County on June 23rd, 2006.

31 year old Aubrey Glenn Rigsby of Bethel Road, Smithville is charged with a third offense of driving on a suspended license; felony evading arrest; possession of drug paraphernalia; and vandalism under $500. His bond totals $14,500 and he will be in court on January 27th.

Sheriff Ray reported that on Friday, January 14th a deputy saw Rigsby operating a motor vehicle on Bright Hill Road. Having prior knowledge that his license were suspended, the officer tried to stop Rigsby but he evaded. When the officer caught up with the vehicle on College Street, he activated his blue lights and sirens signaling Rigsby to stop, but Rigsby turned onto Hayes Street and then onto Short Mountain Highway, failing to yield to any of the stop signs. Rigsby continued onto Miller Road, then to Robinson Road before the officer terminated the pursuit in the interest of public safety. However when he got to Game Ridge Road, the officer started the pursuit again following Rigsby until he drove through a field on Whorton Springs Road, where the pursuit was terminated due to icy road conditions and Rigsby's reckless driving.

Rigsby was eventually arrested on Thursday, January 20th. On that day, Sheriff Ray said that Rigsby was operating a vehicle on Highway 56 north when an officer spotted him. The deputy had knowledge that Rigsby's license were suspended so he tried to stop him in order to serve a warrant. When Rigsby turned onto Poplar Street, the officer activated his blue lights. Instead of stopping, Rigsby accelerated, traveling about a quarter of a mile farther in his vehicle, before stopping. Rigsby then got out of his automobile and ran about 300 yards on foot before the officers caught him. During his run from the law on Poplar Street, Rigsby had driven his vehicle into the yard of a residence, spinning his tires and leaving deep tire marks in the yard, causing damage.

While conducting an inventory of the automobile for towing, the officer found a pouch between the seats and the console containing five used hypodermic needles and a glass pipe with residue. A computer check confirmed that Rigsby's license were suspended for frequent traffic violations in DeKalb County.

23 year old Jose Rodrigo Soto of Big Wood Road, Smithville is charged with a first offense of driving under the influence. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on February 10th. Soto was also issued a citation for driving on a suspended license; violation of the open container law; failure to maintain his lane of travel; and violation of the implied consent law. Sheriff Ray said that on January 20th while traveling on Highway 70 west, a deputy saw a vehicle cross both lanes of travel about six times. He stopped the automobile and spoke to the driver, Soto. The officer detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on him. Soto submitted to several field sobriety tasks and performed poorly on all. He also refused to submit to a blood alcohol test.

27 year old Brandon Ross Bogle is charged with driving on a suspended license and possession of drug paraphernalia. Bogle is under a $2,000 bond and he will be in court on February 3rd. According to Sheriff Ray, Bogle was operating a motor vehicle on Bright Hill Road on Thursday, January 20th. Having prior knowledge that Bogle's license were suspended, a deputy pulled him over. A computer check confirmed that Bogle's license were suspended for failure to satisfy a citation on January 5th, 2009. Upon a pat down search, the officer found in Bogle's pocket, a cut straw with a yellow powdery residue.

31 year old Christopher David Hall of Anthony Avenue is charged with a second offense of driving on a suspended license. His bond is $1,000 and he will be in court on February 9th. Sheriff Ray said that on January 21st, a deputy saw Hall operating a vehicle on Highway 70 east. Having prior knowledge that his license were suspended, the officer pulled him over. Due to his failure to pay fines in three citations and for assurance he would appear in court, a warrant was issued for his arrest on this charge. A computer check confirmed that Hall's license were suspended for failure to satisfy a citation.

24 year old Ashley Dawn Golden of Oak Drive, Smithville and 33 year old Jeremy Austin Scruggs of Highland Drive, Smithville are each charged with filing a false report. Bond for each is $1,500 and they will be in court on February 3rd. On January 22nd, two deputies went to Big Hurricane Road to serve an arrest warrant on Andy Scruggs. After knocking on the door, the officers asked Golden if Scruggs was there. She replied "no". Scruggs' brother Jeremy, also present, was asked and he too replied "no". Both were told that there was a warrant for Scrugg's arrest and that if they were being untruthful, they too could be arrested and charged. The officers then asked for consent to search the residence, but were denied. The deputies left but returned later on foot and saw Scruggs in the kitchen. The officers then made entry to the home and placed Scruggs under arrest.

Pedigo Says His Faith Has Been Restored in Judicial System

January 24, 2011
Dwayne Page
Larry Pedigo, Jr.

Former DeKalb County Sheriff's deputy, Larry Pedigo, Jr. said his faith has been restored in the judicial system after he was found innocent of a drug charge against him last week in Warren County Criminal Court following a trial.

The jury, Thursday afternoon, found Pedigo not guilty of fraudulently obtaining drugs (oxycontin) from the Ameri-Care Urgent Care Clinic in McMinnville. He was originally indicted on two counts of delivery of a schedule II narcotic (oxycontin) and two counts of fraudulently obtaining drugs (oxycontin).

On Saturday morning, Pedigo released the following statement:

"This has been one of the hardest things I've ever went through. It's been the longest 16 months of my life. I can't begin to tell anyone how it was so I won't go into that too much."

"I know I was in the news spotlight before I ever got charged. My name came out with the other officers in August 2009 when the Ameri-Care Urgent Care clinic in McMinnville got raided."

"I chose to resign my position at that time for certain legal reasons and I knew I had lost the respect I had worked so long to gain from the public. I had only been implicated at that time, not charged. I knew the respect and trust was lost by certain events that happened to my family and me after my name and picture came to light. My family and I couldn't go anywhere in the public without hearing comments or seeing gestures made."

"When you are in a position as I was, everyone sees you differently when something like this happens to you. There was a certain store in DeKalb County I had traded with for years and I had a charge account there. I would get items and could pay a week or so later. After the clinic raid and my name came out, I went into the store and was going to charge some items. But the same owner that just a few weeks earlier told me I could charge anything in the store, looked at me and said ‘we can't do that for you anymore. That's how it's been for my family and me ever since this happened."

"In November, 2009 I was indicted in Warren County on two counts of delivery of a schedule II drug (Oxycontin) and two counts of fraudulently obtaining a schedule II drug (Oxycontin). I had to make a $40,000 bond on the charges. I couldn't figure out how they charged me with two counts of each because I had only received one prescription of Oxycontin for a knee injury that I sustained at work. The injury resulted in surgery."

"My attorney filed a motion for discovery which means they have to turn over certain evidence and paperwork to us. We discovered that counts 1 & 2 were on a date that I had a rock solid alibi for. I had several credible witnesses who were more than willing to say where I was from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. My attorney, Hilton Conger, submitted that to the state prosecutors and counts 1&2 were dropped. That left me facing two charges."

"I was offered plea bargains by the state prosecutors but I refused to take any of the offers. I maintained my innocence and insisted on a trial. In fact, my attorney requested a speedy trial date in September, 2009 on my behalf. I was ready to move forward. It had been long enough! I was offered plea bargains so good that any guilty party would have jumped on them. But not me! I wanted my day or days, as it went, in court."

"My trial started Wednesday, January 19th. That is 14 months after I was indicted. At the end of the state's so called proof, my attorney made a motion for the judge to give me a direct verdict himself. The judge granted the motion and dropped the delivery charge before it ever went to the jury. That meant there was three (charges) down and one to go. One count of fraudulently obtaining a prescription."

"We returned to court Thursday morning, January 20th. The state prosecutor made his closing statement and then it was my attorney's turn. He really did a good job. Then it was left up to the jury. After a few hours of deliberations, the jury had reached a verdict. The jury came in and when the jury foreman read the verdict "not guilty", I let out a sigh of relief. It was finally over! I walked out of the Warren County Courthouse with a clean slate again."

" I had been in law enforcement for several years and when this happened to me, I lost some faith in the judicial system. I mean, I was in law enforcement so I had all the faith in the world in the system, but I lost it. But when the verdict was read and I walked out of that courtroom it's like I gained all my faith back at once. I remembered right then why I had always wanted to be a cop ever since I was a kid."

"I'm not sure If I ever will be back in law enforcement or not, but at least I can if I want to. I want to thank everyone who stood by me and those who never doubted me through this life changing experience, especially my wife, kids, and family. It wasn't only me who suffered through all of this. They did too! Also I want to commend my attorney, Hilton Conger. He worked very hard for me and I couldn't have asked for a better attorney. He did an excellent job."

Dick Kinsey Named 2010 County Firefighter of the Year

January 22, 2011
Dwayne Page
Dick Kinsey Named County Firefighter of Year
Lieutenant Anthony Boyd Named Officer of the Year
Kevin Adcock Receives Rookie Firefighter of Year Award
Assistant Chief Roy Merriman and Lt. James Pennington Receive Special Award
Billy Fuson to Receive the Git-R-Done Award

Dick Kinsey, Commander of the Short Mountain Highway Station was named "2010 County Firefighter of the Year" Saturday night during the department's annual awards banquet held at the Smithville Church of God annex.

County Fire Chief Donny Green, who presided over the ceremony, said Kinsey met all the department's criteria in earning this award. "Dick was awarded the firefighter of the year based on his community service, training attendance, and his fire call participation. He was scored on those three factors and he had the highest score. As a result he was awarded the 2010 firefighter of the year."

Lieutenant Anthony Boyd, for the second year in a row, received the "Officer of the Year" award. Chief Green said the same three elements used to select the "Firefighter of the Year" are also used by the department in honoring the Officer of the Year, training attendance, incident response attendance, and community service. " Anthony is one of our county wide lieutenants. He is a very active person in the department.. He does a lot of work behind the scenes, washing our turnout gear, etc. He participates in a lot of community service projects, such as seniors citizens events. He was involved at the Jamboree and he participates in other community service things that we do outside the department. As a result of his community service, his training attendance, and his fire call participation, Anthony was awarded the 2010 Officer of the Year."

The "Rookie" award went to Kevin Adcock of the Short Mountain Station. Chief Green said this award is totally based on hours of training and goes to a firefighter in his first year of service to the department."We base that award on training hours that they complete during their first year of membership in the department. We feel like that is a very vital part of their membership during their first year and we want to make sure they get good training. We try to recognize those firefighters who put forth the extra effort in making that first year on the department a good training experience. This year Kevin had the most training hours in the department and that's how he was awarded the 2010 Rookie of the Year. He is from the Short Mountain Station and he has been in the department for about a year now."

The Git-R-Done award goes to Billy Fuson of the Belk Station, who was unable to attend the banquet. According to Chief Green, Fuson has not only served the fire department but his country as well, having just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. "He was deployed to Afghanistan a little over a year ago and returned in December. We award this to someone who has done something outstanding, not necessarily just in the department but outstanding in the sense that it reflected well on the community. This year we decided that no one was any more deserving than Billy Fuson. He has certainly served his country well and represented DeKalb County well. He has always been a very strong and active member of the department and as a result of his commitment and dedication to our country we felt that no one was any more worthy to be awarded the 2010 Git-R-Done Award than Billy Fuson."

Two other firefighters, Assistant Chief Roy Merriman, and Lieutenant and Training Officer James Pennington each received a special award for their leadership in helping make the department's training program one of the best in the state. In fact, for 2010, Chief Green said the county volunteer fire department was tops in the state for training hours. "There's about 749 departments in Tennessee and we were awarded the number one volunteer fire department out of the whole state. We felt like these men were due recognition for heading up and coordinating our training program. It speaks well of our department and as a result we made a special presentation to Assistant Chief Roy Merriman and Lieutenant James Pennington for their efforts in making our training program such a huge success."

Meanwhile Jerry Wayne Johnson, Commander of the Liberty Station received a thirty five year service pin. Captain Jeff Williams was presented a pin for twenty years of service. Lieutenant Jay Cantrell and Anthony Johnson and Darrell Johnson both of the Liberty Station were recognized for ten years,each receiving a pin for their length of service, and Lieutenant Bradley Mullinax and Jeff Rankhorn of the Belk Station each received a five year service pin. C.J. Tramel of the Short Mountain Highway Station, who was absent, will also receive a pin for five years of service.

Several members of the department were also presented cash awards, funded through a federal safer grant, which Chief Green said is to help retain and recruit firefighters."In 2008, we were awarded a Safer Grant from the federal government that is a non-matching local grant and does not require any local funding, it's 100% federal, to help us recruit and retain firefighters. Some of the things we've done is provide these training award incentives for firefighters such as length of service awards, firefighter of the year, rookie of the year, and for firefighters who made 100% of their monthly training or at least 75% of their monthly training. We've made those awards and we hope that's a tool we can use to help encourage our firefighters to stay on board and continue being involved with training in our department." Firefighters who made 100% of their monthly training each received $400 and those who made 75% of their monthly training took home $200 each.

100% Training Attendance Awards:

Kevin Adcock—Short Mtn. Station

Lt. Anthony Boyd

Lt. Jay Cantrell

Kelly Cantrell—Belk Station

Billy Crymes—Main Station

Larry Dalton—Austin Bottoms Station

Nelson Davis—Cookeville Hwy. Station

Chief Donny Green

Anthony Johnson—Liberty Station

Bradley Johnson—Main Station

Darrell Johnson—Liberty Station

Donnie Johnson—Liberty Station

Jerry Wayne Johnson—Liberty Station

Richard “Dick” Kinsey—Short Mtn. Station

Lt. Michael Lawrence

Jimmy Martin—Main Station

Kenny Maynard—Cookeville Hwy. Station

Ronald Merriman—Keltonburg Station

Asst. Chief Roy Merriman

Lt. Brad Mullinax

Jason Neal—Short Mtn. Station

Andy Pack—Belk Station

Robert Patrick—Keltonburg Station

Lt. James Pennington

Shawn Puckett—Midway Station

Jeff Rankhorn—Belk Station

Steve Repasy—Midway Station

Jason Rice—Keltonburg Station

Eric Snow—Main Station

Luke Tucker—Temperance Hall Station

Calvin Tramel—Midway Station

C.J. Tramel—Short Mtn. Station

75% Training Attendance Awards:

Lee Ansel—Blue Springs Station

Duncan Block—Austin Bottoms Station

Jacob Bond—Main Station

Gelasio “Marco” Chacon—Johnson’s Chapel Station

Kevin Cripps—Temperance Hall Station

Tyler Cripps—Temperance Hall Station

Bill Fowler—Temperance Hall Station

Gary King—Austin Bottoms Station

Logan Maynard—Cookeville Hwy. Station

Bob Myracle—Austin Bottoms Station

Dale Pack—Short Mtn. Station

Danny Parker—Johnson’s Chapel Station

Tim Pedigo—Blue Springs Station

Brandi Summers—Belk Station

Hugh Washer—Cookeville Hwy. Station

Captain Jeff Williams

Captain Mark Young

Election Commissioners Found to be Immune from Liability for Monetary Damages in Federal Lawsuit

January 22, 2011
Dwayne Page
Members of the DeKalb County Election Commission

Claims for monetary damages in a federal lawsuit filed against Republican members of the DeKalb, Hawkins, Weakley, and Putnam County Election Commissions have been dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Wisemen, Jr. last month issued a ruling in the case and a 21-page memorandum opinion stating that the election commissioners, in their official capacities as state actors, are not subject to liability for the monetary damages sought. Other issues of the lawsuit have yet to be decided.

However, County Attorney Hilton Conger told WJLE Friday the federal court's ruling raises another question. If county election commissioners are considered "state actors", or "state employees" as he put it, then does the county's insurance pool still have to provide a legal defense for these election commissioners"?

In the order, Judge Wiseman wrote that " Specifically, the court finds that the claims for monetary damages asserted against the defendants in their official capacity are subject to dismissal because the defendants, in their official capacity as state actors, are not subject to liability for monetary damages. Second, the claims against the defendants in their individual capacity for monetary damages are subject to dismissal because the defendants, in their individual capacity are shielded by qualified immunity from liability for monetary damages. Even assuming the allegations in the complaint to be true, the defendants' conduct did not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known, in light of the fact that the question of whether county administrators of elections are protected from patronage dismissal remains an unsettled question of law. The motion to dismiss the claims for monetary damages against the defendants in both their representative and individual capacities will therefore be granted."

Judge Wiseman's ruling is being appealed to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court, although a challenge has been filed as to whether the appellate court has jurisdiction.

If the ruling stands, County attorney Conger said he wants to know if the county's insurance pool is still required to provide a legal defense for the election commissioners, or if the state will take over the representation. Conger said he may write a letter to the state attorney general asking for an opinion. "The county, in light of this ruling, feels that since they (election commissioners) are state employees, the state attorney general's office ought to be the one to defend them (election commissioners). So I'm going to draft a letter to the state attorney general requesting that he do that. We're going to make a demand on the attorney general to defend this. Also, since there's been an appeal filed, the question arises does the attorney general's office represent them on the appeal or does the commission have to have their own attorney to defend the appeal?"

The Republican members of the DeKalb County election commission have been represented by Mary Ferrara, an attorney for the local government insurance pool. But, again Conger said that could change with this ruling by the federal court. "They (insurance pool) have provided the defense up to this point. Now that there's been a ruling that they (election commissioners) are state employees, the local government pool could say they are no longer county employees so our representation is done. So right now the election commission (defendants) is in the posture of having to either hire it's own attorney, and they don't have the money to do that, or the state attorney general's office will pick it up."

Meanwhile, in the latest development court documents were filed Friday demanding that the plaintiffs show cause within twenty one days whether the issue has appellate jurisdiction.

According to the documents, "The denial of a motion to dismiss based on a claim of qualified or absolute immunity is an appealable final decision.But orders granting a motion to dismiss on this basis are not similarly appealable."

"It is therefore ordered that the plaintiffs show cause within twenty-one (21) days of the file date of this order why their appeal should not be dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction.

Following the receipt of a response or the expiration of the 21-day response period, whichever occurs first, the remaining parties, if they so choose, have ten (10) days in which to file a reply. Thereafter, the issue of appellate jurisdiction will be referred to the court for review."

Locally, the federal court lawsuit was filed by former election administrator Lisa Peterson who was not re-appointed in 2009 by the Republican majority of the local election commission. Another case involving the election commission, also filed by Peterson, in DeKalb County Chancery Court is still pending.

Republican members of the DeKalb County Election Commission are Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, and Jim Dean. Democratic members are Nolan Turner and Kenneth Moore.

McCrary Arrested for Domestic Assault

January 22, 2011
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police have made an arrest in a recent domestic assault case

34 year old Royce Duane McCrary of Halls Hollow Road was arrested on Friday, January 14th for domestic assault. Officer David Phillips spoke with the victim who stated that McCrary assaulted her by hitting her in the face. She had a broken tooth on the left side of the mouth and a busted lip, lacerated chin and nose. Bond for McCrary is $2500 and his court date is February 10th.

39 year old David Eugene Driver of Aerohead Drive was cited by Detective Matt Holmes on Thursday, January 20th for theft of property and forgery. On December 28th, Lieutenant Steven Leffew took a report from the victim who stated that she bought a part from Advanced Auto in November and she gave the part to Eugene Driver to put on her vehicle. She was later told that the part had been taken back for a refund. Upon investigation, it was discovered that Driver had taken the part back to Advanced Auto and signed her name to the receipt without her permission. His court date is February 10th.

Meanwhile, anyone with information on any offense is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

Any information received that will help the Smithville Police solve any criminal offense will be greatly appreciated. All information is confidential

Warren County Jury Finds Former Deputy Not Guilty in Alleged Drug Trafficking Scheme

January 20, 2011
Dwayne Page
Larry Pedigo, Jr.

A former DeKalb County Sheriff's deputy, charged in connection with a drug trafficking scheme at a McMinnville clinic in 2009, has been found innocent of the charge against him following a two day jury trial in Warren County Criminal Court this week.

The jury, Thursday afternoon, found Larry Pedigo, Jr. not guilty of fraudulently obtaining drugs (oxycontin) from the Ameri-Care Urgent Care Clinic in McMinnville. He was originally indicted on two counts of delivery of a schedule II narcotic (oxycontin) and two counts of fraudulently obtaining drugs (oxycontin)

Prosecutors alleged that Pedigo had participated in a scheme to obtain oxycontin from Justin Turner, a physician's assistant at the clinic, only to return some of the drugs to Turner, who was believed to have been addicted to the medications and needed them to feed his habit.

Three other officers, who worked for either the McMinnville Police Department or Warren County Sheriff's Department, were also charged in the case along with Turner, clinic employee Marcus Northcutt, among others. Some of the defendants in the case have already been sentenced while others still await trial.

Pedigo, who steadfastly maintained his innocence since being arrested, refused to settle the case, preferring to stand trial. By the time his case went to trial, two of the charges against Pedigo had already been dropped by state prosecutors and another charge was dismissed during the trial at the close of the state's proof after Special Judge Tim Easter granted a motion by Pedigo's attorney, Hilton Conger for a directed verdict. That, said Conger, left only one charge for the jury to consider against Pedigo, one count of obtaining prescription medication by fraud. "The state (previously) dismissed two of the counts against Pedigo because he had an air tight alibi for where he was on the date that they alleged these (crimes) occurred. The judge dismissed the other one, the charge of delivery, upon my motion for a directed verdict at the close of the state's proof. The state had not proven that Junior Pedigo had ever delivered any drugs to Justin Turner, the physician's assistant who worked at Ameri-Care. The charge that went to the jury was one count of obtaining prescription medication (Oxycontin) by fraud, which is a class C felony."

Conger told WJLE Thursday afternoon that Pedigo always maintained that the prescription he was given was for a medical necessity. "He had injured his knee on May, 20th 2009 while working as a detective in DeKalb County. He was making an arrest and tore a cartilage in his knee. It ultimately resulted in surgery to that knee. He was going to this physician's assistant at Ameri-Care for his work comp injury. It was always his insistence that the prescription for oxycontin was written to him for a legitimate medical purpose."

According to Conger the charges against Pedigo and the others was the result of an undercover investigation which began in March, 2009. "An employee of Ameri-Care had contacted the district attorney and reported that Justin Turner was writing prescriptions to patients he was not seeing and for people who did not need them (drugs). There was also an employee, Marcus Northcutt, who was posing as a nurse and dispensing prescriptions. That led to an investigation. During the investigation the names of four police officers surfaced alleging that they were involved in obtaining drugs. The scheme was that the physician's assistant, who was allegedly addicted to oxycontin, was writing prescriptions to various people, including some police officers in exchange for a return of oxycontin to him. Junior Pedigo just happened to be a patient there for his workers comp case. He was not involved in this scheme but because he was a patient there and because he had been given a prescription for oxycontin, he was implicated. Pedigo always maintained his innocence and that the only time he got oxycontin was for a legitimate medical purpose."

Pedigo resigned from the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department after the case came to light in August, 2009.

In a brief statement to WJLE Thursday night, Pedigo said "I'd like to say a special thanks to all my friends and family and my attorney who stood by me through this ordeal."


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