Twice in the past 18 months, agents from the 4th Judicial District Drug Task Force have moved to prosecute an innocent man or woman.Here's a recurring theme in some of the other stories you've seen on this blog on this topic...
In both cases, agents mistakenly identified the accused as having sold drugs. In addition to what the wrongly accused have endured, the mistakes - along with the recent guilty plea of a task force agent who developed a drug habit and stole cash from suspects - have forced prosecutors to drop numerous charges against drug defendants in the district, which includes Sevier, Jefferson, Cocke and Grainger counties.
Attempts to interview the drug task force's director, Mack Smith, have been unsuccessful.
Both of the accused citizens, Patty Diane Yates, 38, of Morristown and James Russell Kitts, 44, of Seymour, are mulling legal action against the Drug Task Force, although the law generally doesn't provide much of a chance for citizens to collect damages when they are the victims of false arrests.
Kitts has received an apology. He had friends in law enforcement who came to his defense, and the charges against him were quickly dropped, allowing him to resume his career.
Kitts, a UPS worker and youth athletics coach, was arrested June 25 on multiple charges of trafficking in prescription painkillers. Smith later issued a public apology to Kitts and said a Drug Task Force agent had identified him as a drug dealer based on information that included 911 records and Tennessee motor vehicle registration records. The agent, who wasn't publicly identified, was booted from the task force.
Yates wasn't so fortunate. It took authorities nine months to drop the charges against her, during which she was suspended without pay from her $10.86-an-hour factory job. She and her husband ended up losing their house and have been forced into bankruptcy, she said.
"We lost everything," Yates said. "We're having to start all over. ... I lost so much money it's unreal. It should not have taken them that long to figure out they had the wrong person."
Yates, who says she has no criminal record to speak of other than traffic tickets, has received no apology or explanation of why she was handcuffed and taken to jail twice on bogus drug charges.
Seals adamantly maintained that Yates was the woman who'd sold drugs, but Smith determined there might have been a different woman at the White Pine house named "Patty" who had children with the last name of "Yates," Murphy said.A criminal informant that is basically accountable to no one. They get whatever rewards they would receive by informing even with false information. Via Instapundit!
"The only person who could have resolved the issue was the confidential informant, and that person disappeared and we couldn't locate that person," Murphy said. "It's amazing. ... I've been here for 10 years and no one has reported (a misidentification) happening in Jefferson County before this."
Guilty Before Proven Innocent