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The Advocate and Democrat.




Judge dismisses accessory charge

Vonore Police Chief Warren Husted (right) waits on
the witness stand while his attorney Herb Moncier
prepares to ask a question during Husted's perjury
trial in Judge Kelly Thomas' courtroom Friday
afternoon at the Blount County Justice Center.


Photo courtesy of Wes Hope/The Maryville Daily
Times
Last updated: 12:10 PM, 04/01/2009
 


Source: The Monroe County Advocate

MARYVILLE - After six days of testimony, Vonore
Police Chief Warren Husted still didn't know his fate
on three different perjury charges.

Both the prosecution and the defense team rested
their cases by Friday afternoon, but the final two
hours were spent arguing over whether or not one of
the charges should be dismissed.

The judge denied the motion to dismiss, but by that
time it was nearly 5 p.m. and the jury wasn't looking
forward to listening to two hours of closing
arguments. Nor were they agreeable to coming in on
Saturday. The judge told them to report back to
court on Monday morning at 9 a.m.

Husted did have one victory during the long days of
testimony. On Thursday, defense attorney Herbert
Moncier convinced Judge Kelly Thomas to dismiss
one of the four charges against Husted.

Husted was charged with accessory after the fact,
two counts of perjury and one count of aggravated
perjury. Moncier had made a motion that all the
counts be dismissed for various reasons, but the
judge only agreed with the reason to remove the
accessory after the fact charge.

Moncier had argued that since the accessory charge
stemmed from allegedly helping Robby Lovingood
cover up the loss of a police radio, and since
Lovingood hadn't been convicted on the charge yet,
how could Husted be charged with helping him do it?
Judge Thomas agreed and tossed the charge out.

Moncier started his defense case Thursday afternoon
and told the jury that, against his better judgement,
he would be calling Vonore Mayor Fred "Fizz" Tallent
to the stand.

But first he called Monroe County lawyer Peter
Alliman to the stand. Alliman is the lawyer for two of
the three juveniles allegedly involved in a June 2002
burglary, a crime which Husted is charged with
attempting to cover up.

Moncier used Alliman's testimony to discredit
Monroe County Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge
Edwin Harris' earlier testimony. Harris had said he
didn't recall if the juveniles had ever been in his
courtroom, and that he couldn't remember if he'd
ever heard about the case.

Moncier asked Alliman if he'd ever brought the case
before the judge. Alliman replied, "District Attorney
Bill Reedy and myself appeared before the judge in
his office last March."

"What happened?" Moncier asked.
"He was concerned over whether or not a witness
would be able to show up," Alliman said. "He was
also wondering whether he should recuse himself
from the case since he might be called as a witness
in this case."

"Did he do anything about the case?" Moncier asked.
"My understanding was that he would make a
decision," Alliman said, "but I haven't heard from
him yet."

Alliman also testified he had filed a motion to
dismiss the case as the juveniles hadn't been read
their rights before being charged. He said he hadn't
heard back on that either.

Brian Millsaps, another Vonore police officer
implicated in the investigation (he's charged with
accessory after the fact), took the stand next, but
cited the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination
when it came to most of the questions the lawyers
wanted to ask him.

Millsaps did testify he had told Lovingood he needed
to tell a supervisor about the radio, but denied ever
having talked to Sam Tackett about the radio.
Tackett himself took the stand next and admitted he
had become very upset when he heard Lovingood
had claimed Tackett was the one to tell him to throw
the radio into the lake and report it stolen.

"You think Lovingood wasn't telling the truth?"
Moncier asked.

"I don't think Lovingood is a truthful person," Tackett
replied.

District Attorney Bill Reedy, on cross examination,
asked Tackett why he had left the Vonore Police
Department. "I was demoted," he answered, "and
moved to the midnight shift. The chief told me the
mayor was the one who demoted me."

Tackett finished his testimony by saying he believed
it was "Lovingood's lies" that got him in trouble with
the mayor.

Moncier, once again telling the jury he would
probably regret this, called Mayor Fred Tallent to the
stand. But while Moncier's brief questioning of the
mayor was almost benign, basically consisting of
who the mayor was and city practices, Reedy seemed
to release nearly five days of frustrating courtroom
work on Tallent.

Reedy asked Tallent what he had done about
Lovingood and the infamous police radio. Tallent
said his decision was to make Lovingood pay for the
radio and planned to suspend him for two days, "but
never got around to doing it."

"Did he tell you he'd filed a false report in
Madisonville?" Reedy asked.

"He told me he'd done something stupid and I
agreed with him," Tallent said.

"You didn't think filing a false report was worthy of
continued investigation?" Reedy asked.

"We didn't have time to investigate," Tallent fired
back. "You sent your hitman (Barry Brakebill) in and
we didn't do anything else."

"So," Reedy said, "as long as the radio was paid for,
the other charges didn't matter?"

"Those charges were in another town," Tallent said.
"Besides, he did the city a favor by getting rid of the
radio. It was burnt up and not of any use and he paid
for it."

Reedy then asked a series of questions, most of
which Tallent gave short answers to.

"Did you call Chief Husted on the carpet for
continuing the investigation when you had said it
was over?" Reedy asked.

"That's not true," Tallent replied.
"Did you say this whole thing had gotten out of
hand?"

"No."

"You told the chief it was probably Ron Lane's fault
this got out of hand."

"No. That never happened."
"You put Ron Lane on third shift and told the chief it
might make him quit."

"That's not true," Tallent said. "We don't do things
that way in Vonore."

"Why did you fire Ron Lane?" Reedy asked.
"I didn't fire him," Tallent said. "He was dismissed."
"Is there a difference?" Reedy asked, then continued,
"Why did you dismiss him?"

"I don't remember."
"You don't remember the reason?"
"I did it for no reason. The city charter gives me that
power."

Reedy asked if Tallent had a reason, but Judge
Thomas told him to back off then, that Ron Lane's
dismissal wasn't relevant to the case.

"Did you ever tell the chief," Reedy asked, "it must
have been Ron Lane who leaked Lovingood's trouble
to the newspaper?"

"No," Tallent answered. "The chief and I talked about
firing Lovingood one time and I told him what to do.
We didn't discuss it again until your hitman showed
up."

"Did you send Husted to Madisonville?" Reedy asked.
"No."

Reedy backed off the Lovingood questions and
asked, "When did you hear your grandson was one of
the juveniles who'd been accused of burglary?"

"They weren't accused of burglary," Tallent said.
"They were accused of being unruly. I'll tell you what
happened. They tried to look into a building and
then went on down the road. Somebody called the
cops on them and they came and got the boys and
took them downtown in a squad car without a lawyer
or even their parents around. The boys were scared
to death. They would have confessed to flying an
airplane if you'd asked them."

"Who'd you get this information from?" Reedy asked.
"My grandson," Tallent replied.

"Of course," Reedy said. "What did you do to your
grandson?"

"I whipped him and grounded him for two weeks,"
Tallent said. "The chief told me he'd called the
Juvenile Court and they told him not to bring the
boys down. That was the last I heard of it until the
paper got ahold of it."

Reedy was on his way back to the prosecutor's table,
but turned around and said, "One other thing. Are
you planning to build a resort area in Vonore?"

"Yes, we are," Tallent said. "We're going to spend
$54 million and are looking at putting in an Indian
Casino."

Tallent appeared to want to say more, but Judge
Thomas cut him off, saying this had absolutely
nothing to do with the case.

After Tallent was excused from the witness stand,
Judge Thomas called an end to Thursday's
testimony.

The case picked up on Friday morning and Vonore
Deputy Police Chief Butch McConkey took the stand,
testifying he had attempted to find a copy of a
burglary report from June 10, 2002, but was
unsuccessful.

"On this offense report," Moncier said, "There's a box
at the top for an identification number. When did you
start using reports with this box on top?"

"Sometime in early 2003," McConkey replied.
"So, whoever did this report, must have written in
2003?" Moncier asked.

"Yes," McConkey said. "We hadn't used those reports
before then."

Vonore Police Sgt. Charlie Hill had earlier testified to
writing the report in either June 2002 or September
2002, but Moncier didn't mention this to the jury.

After a couple of character witnesses testified to
Husted's standing in the community, Husted took
the stand. As with Mayor Tallent before him,
Moncier's questioning of Husted was smooth and
calm. Then Husted and Reedy began to tangle.

Husted began by telling Moncier he'd been in law
enforcement for 34 years and had joined the Vonore
Police Department in February 1997. He made chief
10 months later.

"Did you know how the city was set up?" Moncier
asked, referring to the mayor's complete control
over everything related to the city.

"I wasn't aware of it when I hired on," Husted said,
"but I learned about it fast."

"You didn't want to hire Robby Lovingood, did you?"
Moncier asked.

"No," Husted replied. "I did some background on him
and discovered he'd had multiple problems at other
agencies."

"But the mayor hired him anyway."
"Yes."

"How have things been going with him?"
"We've had disciplinary problems with him," Husted
said. "He's been caught sleeping on duty, not
appearing in court when he's supposed to and losing
evidence."

"Did you do anything to him?" Moncier asked.
"I'd talk to him," Husted said, "but he'd go straight to
the mayor afterwards and then the mayor would call
me in on the carpet."

"Do you consider Robby Lovingood a truthful
person?" Moncier asked.

"No," Husted answered. "Not at all."
Moncier brought up the radio incident, asking what
Husted had told Lovingood to do. "I told him to tell
the truth," Husted said. "For at least this one time, to
tell the truth."

When asked about the alleged false statements given
to TBI Agent David Guy, Husted said everything he
had told him was true.

"Did Guy write down everything you said?" Moncier
asked.

"We talked more than two hours," Husted said. "He
didn't write down everything I said."

Husted said he was interviewed by TBI Agent Barry
Brakebill three times, and it was the second interview
that led to Husted taping the third one.

"What did Brakebill ask in that interview?" Moncier
asked.
"He wanted to know all the information I had about
Mayor Tallent," Husted said. "He told me Vonore was
a sinking ship and I'd go down with the mayor."
"How's your relationship with the Monroe County
Sheriff's Office?" Moncier asked.

"Our relationship is strained," Husted said. "They
won't fingerprint our prisoners, for example, which
they're supposed to do by state law. And when I
mention this to the sheriff, he tells me to sue him."

"Did the Madisonville Police Department call you and
tell you about the rumors that Lovingood had gotten
drunk and thrown his radio in the lake?" Moncier
asked.

"No," Husted said. "If they had, I would have
investigated the rumors."

"What did you do about the radio incident?" Moncier
asked.

"I was waiting to see what the TBI was going to do,"
Husted answered. "Then they came and arrested
me."

Reedy took over Husted's questioning, asking about
Lovingood, "Was he the mayor's fair-haired boy from
the beginning?"

"I can't answer that," Husted said. "I don't know what
the mayor thinks."

"Lovingood went running to the mayor every time
you tried to discipline him?" Reedy asked.
"Pretty much."

"And the mayor always overruled you?"

"The mayor overruled me on Lovingood many times."
"The mayor has all the power," Reedy said. "If he
asked you to do something illegal, would you do it?"
"I would not," Husted answered.

"You're retired from the Richmond, Va., police force,"
Reedy said. "You get a pension from that job. Do you
really need the money from the Vonore Police Chief
job to get by?"

"I didn't used to," Husted said. "But you changed
that."

"There has been all kinds of talk about this case,"
Reedy said. "What's some of the things you've
heard?"

"It's just talk that's made its way back to me," Husted
said. "I heard about Sam Tackett going to the Monroe
County Sheriff's Office and making a big scene.
I heard the sheriff called the paper and let them
know

what was going on. I got a call from Madisonville
Police Chief Gregg Breeden saying he had been
contacted by the newspaper. That's all I know."
"When did you know Lovingood had filed a false
report?" Reedy asked.

"Lovingood never admitted to me the report was
false," Husted said. "I had an assumption the report
was false, and I still think he's lying, but I don't have
any proof."

"Lovingood has signed a confession," Reedy said.
"I wasn't present when Robby confessed," Husted
said. "I asked the mayor to fire him because he
destroyed the radio and lied about it. I don't know
the exact date of that because I talk to the mayor
everyday, but I know I recommended it."

"When did you close the investigation?" Reedy asked.
"I closed the investigation on Sept. 26, 2002,"
Husted said. "I talked to Chief Breeden three times
and saw he wasn't going to do anything about the
false report, so I closed it."

"Now, when you learned about the radio," Reedy
said, "did you ask Lovingood for more information?"
"No."

"You're his chief and you didn't sit him down and
talk about it?"

"I wasn't the investigator," Husted said, referring to
Ron Lane being assigned to investigate the radio
incident. "But I had learned about the false report by
the time I talked to Brakebill."

"Did you go talk to the Madisonville Police about the
report?" Reedy asked.

"Yes, I did," Husted said. "But Madisonville has never
told me, to this day, that the report was false.
They've never gotten back to me. Nothing was done
until the TBI stepped in."

"Did the mayor ever ask you who might have leaked
the story to the paper?" Reedy asked.

"Probably," Husted said. "I don't really remember."
"After you were arrested in 2002," Reedy said, "did
you go back to your office and tell Ron Lane you'd
get him and Charlie Hill?"

"I was mad and probably said that," Husted admitted.
"I also said I was innocent and didn't know how I'd
gotten involved in this."

"Let's talk about the burglary involving the mayor's
grandson," Reedy said. "What happened with that?"
"They were picked up and taken to City Hall," Husted
said. "They'd already admitted doing it under
questioning, which was improper because we're not
supposed to talk to them without a lawyer or parent
present."

"What did you tell the mayor about it?" Reedy asked.
"I told the mayor I'd rather have him and the other
parents handle it," Husted said. "I told Charlie Hill
not to charge them, but he still wanted to."

"Did Hill tell you he'd caught them before?" Reedy
asked.

"Yes," Husted said, "but not until after we'd already
let them go. He was so upset about not charging
them that I decided to call Judge Harris and see what
he said. Unfortunately, I didn't get the judge but one
of the juvenile clerks who told me the judge didn't
like to see 10-year-old boys in his courtroom."
"Did it change your mind about charging the boys
when you heard they had done it before?" Reedy
asked.

"No," Husted said. "Besides, what we'd gotten from
them, we'd gotten illegally. If we had pursued the
charges, there would have been lawsuits filed."

Moncier took the stage again, asking if Husted had
performed his job to the best of his abilities.
"Yes," Husted answered. "I never did anything
improper."

After Husted testified, Moncier and Reedy spent the
afternoon arguing over Moncier's motions to dismiss
the three remaining charges. After turning down the
requests, Judge Thomas sent everybody home for the
weekend.

Michael Thomason can be reached at 442-4575 or
by e-mail at democrat@xtn.net.


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