Hamblen Deputies Accused of Sexual Misconduct

By: Kim Bedford
By: Kim Bedford

Morristown, Hamblen County (WVLT) - Two local sheriff's deputies are out of a job as an investigation into on-the-job sexual misconduct allegations continues.

Both complaints are under investigation by the FBI.

One involved sexual misconduct on the road, the other in the Hamblen County Jail.

No charges have been filed against either officer, but many community members are concerned.

"If it is the case, it's despicable, and just because someone has a badge on their chest does not put them above the law," says Beth Walters.

Many Hamblen County residents say the sheriff's deputies sexual misconduct allegations could tear their community apart.

"It'll totally put it in fear. Fearful that they can't even trust the police department to be someone that they can talk to, and put their faith in," Walters says.

Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnigan declined to talk to us, citing an ongoing investigation, but Hamblen County Chief Deputy Wayne Mize told the Citizen Tribune the FBI is investigating a complaint of coerced sex lodged by a female motorist against a road officer who stopped her vehicle about two years ago.

Mize also told the Citizen Tribune the second allegation involves a corrections officer having consensual sexual contact with female inmates inside the Hamblen County Jail.

"Knowing some of the kind of people that work there and the problems with the correctional facility, I can kind of see that happening," says Dan Maynard.

"I can't say it would totally surprise me that it is going on, and it does happen because a lot of times in rural counties, rural communities, people in those places do think they're above the law," Walters adds.

But others say they can't imagine something like that happening within the sheriff's department.

"I think they do a good job," says Grant Gibson. "I think they're all right."

Mize told the Citizen-Tribune the FBI is looking into a surveillance tape showing the corrections officer in an area of jail where he was not supposed to be, but other than that, no indication anything else was done wrong.

"I'm sure it needs to be investigated, but if it proves to be factual, something needs to be done, not be swept under the rug," says Maynard.

Sheriff Jarnigan did tell the Citizen Tribune that if there is any violation occurring on his watch, it will be addressed.

The TBI tells WVLT they're familiar with the allegations, but have not officially been handed the case.

The TBI says they should know more next week, and we'll update you on this as soon as we receive more information.


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