7/26/2005Tennessee Deputies Escape Extortion Charges
Extortion charges against sheriff's deputies in Loudon County, Tennessee dropped on technicality.
An Anderson County, Tennessee Criminal Court judge threw out extortion charges brought against two Loudon County sheriff's deputies who had coerced a motorist to "contribute" $9,649.25 to a police drug fund. Judge James B. "Buddy" Scott ruled that the victim's lawyer had improperly influenced the grand jury that indicted Chief Deputy Tony Aikens and Corporal Paul Curtis.
The case began on June 20, 2002 when the officers pulled over Eddie Witt and arrested him for driving on a license that had been suspended from a child support payment dispute. Police searched his car for drugs, but found none. Instead, Witt was carrying $19,649.25 in cash and a .25 caliber pistol. Witt says that he was returning from a visit to his dying father who had given him the money in cash to avoid estate tax hassles.
State law allows police to seize any property that the police suspect may be connected with drug dealing -- before the individual is convicted or even charged with any crime whatsoever. So the officers offered to "settle" on the spot for half of his cash, a deal which Witt accepted, fearing if he did not that the officers would seize all of his money along with his car.
After the incident, Witt successfully sued for the return of his money, which Loudon County quickly returned along with legal fees. Because Witt did not want to see this happen to other motorists, he succeeded in getting a grand jury to indict the officers on felony extortion charges. The officers will go free unless Witt decides to try to bring another grand jury indictment. Aikens is running for Loudon County Mayor.