Whitwell police chief charged with theft, official misconduct, illegal drug sales, food stamp fraud

A nine-count indictment returned by a Marion County grand jury accuses Whitwell Police Chief Rodney Easterly of theft, official misconduct, illegal drug sales and fraudulently obtaining food stamps, reports the Times Free Press.

Evidence was presented to the grand jury by Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston’s office after 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor’s office stepped aside. Taylor’s office has worked with the chief before on criminal cases since the Whitwell Police Department is within the 12th Judicial District’s six-county jurisdiction.

“I didn’t think it was something we needed to be involved with,” Taylor said Friday.

Melydia Clewell, spokeswoman for Pinkston’s office, said the case was originated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and case records are sealed for now.

…The indictment for conspiracy to commit theft of property over $1,000 states Easterly and a man named Jerry Jones had an agreement to engage in theft, and between Jan. 1 and April 28, 2016, the two men communicated about Jones obtaining items Easterly wanted.

“Jones would enter retail stores throughout Tennessee and commit the offense of theft of property,” records state. “Jerry Jones then would sell and distribute the stolen property to Easterly.”

In the indictment charging Easterly with official misconduct and theft of property, officials charge that Easterly took more than $1,000 worth of property from Walmart, Kmart, Lowe’s, Kroger and other retailers and, as a police officer, received benefits not authorized by law.

The indictment charging Easterly with conspiracy of possession of phendimetrazine for resale states Easterly had an agreement with a person whose name was redacted from the document that one or more of them would obtain a prescription for the drug that was filled in Alabama. Easterly was the source for the phendimetrazine, according to the indictment. The other person was not charged in the investigation.

Phendimetrazine is a drug used with diet, exercise and behavior modification to lose weight and must be prescribed by a doctor, according to the WebMD website.

Easterly also possessed phendimetrazine with intent to sell or deliver it, and did so while in possession of a firearm, according to the indictment charging him with possession of phendimetrazine for resale and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.

In the charges of coercion of a witness and tampering or fabricating evidence, the indictment states that Easterly tried to coerce a witness to give false testimony or withhold truthful information to elude the legal process. Easterly also altered, destroyed or concealed evidence in the investigation, documents state.

The indictment on the charge of fraudulently obtaining food assistance did not contain any details but stated that Easterly was not eligible for the food assistance he got or attempted to get, documents state.

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