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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

As I Reported On This Blog Earlier, Barren County Judge Executive, Davie Greer, To Appoint Replacement For Resigning Sheriff, Chris Eaton, Effective July 31.

Eaton to step down

Sheriff was convicted of witness tampering in May

Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton will resign from office effective July 31, one day before being sentenced in federal court on two counts of witness tampering, Eaton’s attorney disclosed in a sentencing memorandum filed Monday.
Eaton was convicted by a jury in U.S. District Court in May on the two counts and acquitted on six additional counts after a trial in which he and two deputies were accused of using excessive force against Billy Stinnett during a 2010 arrest and lying about the incident to federal investigators.

Deputy Aaron Bennett and Detective Eric Guffey of the Barren-Edmonson-Allen County Drug Task Force were found not guilty of all counts in the same trial.

Guthrie True, the Frankfort attorney representing Eaton, said in the sentencing memorandum that he advised the sheriff to withhold his resignation until a judge ruled on a motion True had filed to either have Eaton’s conviction overturned or hold a new trial.
Chief Judge Joseph McKinley of U.S. District Court of Western Kentucky denied the motion last week.

Barren County Judge-Executive Davie Greer was shocked this morning to learn that Eaton would be resigning.
“I really didn’t think that he would ever resign,” Greer said. “He has not talked to me about it.”
Greer said it is her job to appoint a replacement for Eaton, who would serve until someone was elected in the 2014 general election.

Greer said she has not yet investigated how long she has to make an appointment.
“I really hadn’t thought about it, since I didn’t think he would resign,” she said. “But I guess I have to now.”
True’s 20-page memorandum raises objections to a pre-sentence investigation report prepared in the case and argues for a sentence for Eaton below federal sentencing guidelines.

The investigation report concludes that the total offense level in Eaton’s case calls for him to serve a sentence of 46 to 57 months, while True argues that the total offense level should recommend a sentence in the 10- to 16-month range.

Federal prosecutors have recommended a sentence of 87 to 108 months for Eaton, which True contends is “unreasonable, and a complete affront to any notion of justice.”
In his memorandum, True argues that Eaton made an effort to accept responsibility in this case, expressing a willingness to plea to a misdemeanor and resign from office in exchange for a dismissal of the remaining charges against him, Bennett and Guffey.

The federal government insisted that Eaton plead guilty to a felony and testify against Guffey and Bennett, resulting in a breakdown of negotiations, True said.

The pre-sentence investigation, in formulating its sentencing guideline, asserted that Eaton substantially interfered with the administration of justice, fabricated a substantial number of documents and abused a position of trust.
True disagrees with those conclusions, arguing that there was no evidence to show that any tampering with incident reports written for the FBI by former deputies Steve Runyon and Adam Minor caused an unnecessary expenditure of substantial government resources and positing that the government was intent on prosecuting the case based on the testimony of youth members at the Calvary Baptist Church who witnessed Stinnett’s Feb. 24, 2010, arrest.

“The government made up its institutional mind right from the start. It was going to believe what the kids at the church said and it was going to indict,” True argued, leading to an indictment returned against Eaton without cooperation from Minor, who would go on to plead guilty to providing false statements to federal investigators.

Minor will be sentenced Aug. 1 and is anticipated to receive no more than six months of prison time, with federal prosecutors recommending no time behind bars for Minor, according to court records.
True also takes issue with the FBI reports written by Minor and Runyon and Minor’s false testimony before state and federal grand juries being considered by the government to be a substantial number of fabricated documents for which Eaton should receive a longer sentence.

The attorney also argued, in an effort to prove that Eaton did not abuse his position, that many members of the sheriff’s office gave statements to the FBI and that Eaton did not attempt to influence the contents of their reports to the FBI.
The second half of True’s memorandum argues for a reduction of Eaton’s sentence based on his public service, his health and his family situation, among other factors.

Eaton was recently diagnosed as diabetic and has recurring respiratory problems after being exposed to fumes from a methamphetamine lab during a 2010 investigation. He and his wife raise two teenage children, an adult daughter who is physically and mentally handicapped and his wife’s niece and nephew, and his wife’s job does not provide enough income to raise all five children.
“This is not a circumstance where one can say that Chris chose drugs, or greed, or pleasure over his family,” True wrote. “This is a highly unusual circumstance where the conviction resulted from Chris Eaton, and others, attempting to do their jobs and protect the public.”

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