JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – The three deputies facing charges for allegedly assaulting an inmate in June appeared in court Tuesday. They plead not guilty to the charges.
While the deputies’ alleged misconduct took center stage, another development also played out in the case. The Campbell County Grand Jury, on its own volition, offered a report and then moved to indict two other deputies the district attorney’s office wasn’t seeking to charge. When a grand jury takes this type of action it is called a presentment.
Grand juries are autonomous bodies who can investigate alleged criminal acts. Their deliberations aren’t part of a public record and the issuing of a report by a grand jury is rare. This particular report was read at the trio’s criminal court arraignment on Tuesday.
Last month, the Campbell County Grand Jury indicted 24-year-old Justin Crabtree for aggravated assault and official oppression. Crabtree, a deputy with the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, was accused of assaulting Nathan Patrick Thomas Ling in June 2019. He is also accused of using excessive force on Ling, a Michigan resident, according to court records. Crabtree was the only person the Eighth Judicial District Attorney’s Office was seeking to indict.
However, after reviewing the evidence, the grand jury returned a presentment on two other deputies. A presentment holds the same weight as an indictment but is acted on by the grand jury itself.
Deputies Dakota Williams, 23, and Sean Brown, 20, were indicted for official misconduct, official oppression and assault, according to court records.
“We recommended the indictment on Justin Crabtree,” said Jared Effler, eighth judicial district attorney general. “We didn’t recommend an indictment on the other two.” Grand juries have the purview to indict people not presented by the district attorney’s office as one of its functions under state law.
Effler declined comment on why his office didn’t recommend an indictment on Williams and Brown citing ethical reasons for not commenting.
“I can’t comment on things not in the public record,” he said.
Regarding the significance of a report filed by a grand jury, Effler said it was “an independent report (generated by the grand jury) after considering the facts and circumstances of the case.” A report of this type becomes part of the public record.
In this case, the Campbell County Grand Jury commented on the alleged conduct of Crabtree, Brown and Williams calling it a “serious concern.” The report recommended the policies in place at the sheriff’s office regarding this type of event be reviewed. Along with this, the grand jury advised corrections officers be given “proper trainings” for their jobs.
“My staff has been given use of force trainings and we put a great deal of effort into learning how to use force,” said Campbell County Sherriff Robbie Goins. When the CCSO was notified of the allegations levied by Ling against the officers, it opened its own investigation. After Goins and his staff were notified, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was involved, they turned everything over to them.
“The department is very transparent. We cooperated and will continue to do so,” Goins said. “In no way do we condone the abuse of inmates.”
Crabtree was fired during the course of the investigation while Brown’s association with the department had ended prior to the allegations surfacing, Goins said. Williams is currently on unpaid leave.
Crabtree, Williams and Brown will appear in court again March 2.
The night Ling was arrested, he was charged with assault on an officer, resisting arrest and evading arrest, according to jail records.
Related stories are found HERE and HERE. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 01/23/2020-6AM)