Winchester Herald Chronicle

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Fentress County sheriff facing federal corruption and civil rights charges

Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 10:56 am

 

Charges Allege Sex with Inmates and Civil Rights Violations

             NASHVILLE, Tenn. – April 20, 2017 – Charles Cravens, 47, the Sheriff of Fentress County, Tennessee, was charged today in a criminal Information with 3 counts of honest services fraud and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, announced Jack Smith, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.  Joining Smith in the announcement were Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Michael Gavin, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Division of the FBI; and Jared Effler, District Attorney General of the Eight Judicial District in Tennessee.

“Our citizens deserve public officials who serve their constituents, not their own personal interests,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith.  “I promise you that elected officials in our district who abuse their authority and take advantage of the trust placed in them by the folks who put them in office will be brought to justice.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners serve the people of the entire district, including, not just Nashville, but also rural areas like Fentress County.  We will enforce our nation’s laws equally to protect all our citizens of against abuses of power wherever they occur.”

According to the allegations contained in the charging document, Charles Cravens was the Sheriff of Fentress County and therefore was the chief law enforcement officer of the county. In addition to other law enforcement duties, Sheriff Cravens was responsible for the operation of the Fentress County Jail in Jamestown, Tenn.

The information alleges that in July 2016 Inmate 1 was summoned into Craven’s office where she had unprotected sex with the sheriff.

The Information also alleges that in August 2016, Cravens discussed having sex together with Inmate 1 and Inmate 2 and they formulated a plan to leave the jail together.  Cravens subsequently drove these inmates to a vacant trailer where they all engaged in unprotected sex.  Cravens maintained a sexual relationship with these inmates for several months, until they were released from jail, the last being in February 2017.

The Information also alleges that in February 2017, Craven’s drove Inmate 3 outside of Fentress County to visit a relative.  On the way back to the jail, Craven’s raised the subject of sex and the inmate agreed and had unprotected sex with the Sheriff in his vehicle.  The Information alleges that Cravens had sex with this inmate on at least one other occasion.

The Information alleges that in exchange for the sexual relationships with these inmates, Cravens used his position as sheriff to provide additional benefits to these inmates.  These extra benefits included the inmates being transported personally by the sheriff from the jail to visit relatives; the inmates being allowed to go outside of the jail to smoke cigarettes; and the sheriff providing money to relatives of the inmates for deposit into their jail commissary accounts.

To request the special privileges, the inmates called Sheriff Cravens personal cell phone and left recorded messages through the jail’s telephone system, operated by Securus Technologies, Inc. Through the use of this system, payment is required when inmates make outgoing calls, however, the system allowed for an approximate 20-second message to be left without incurring charges.  The Information alleges that between August 24, 2016, and March 1, 2017, Inmate 1 called Cravens 332 times; Inmate 2 called Cravens 51 times; and Inmate 3 placed 349 calls to Cravens’ phone.

Finally, the Information alleges that on November 13, 2016, Cravens and Inmate 4 were in an open area within the jail and Cravens kicked Inmate 4 twice in the backside and placed him in a headlock while another correctional officer handcuffed him.  After the inmate was handcuffed, Cravens struck him twice in the back of the head with his fist.

“The citizens of Fentress County, and all of Tennessee, deserve elected officials who work in the public’s best interest, especially from those officials who are sworn to uphold the law,” says TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “We are grateful to have the cooperation and support of our federal and state partners in investigating officials who abuse that public trust.”

“I am grateful to our law enforcement partners for their swift response and assistance to the citizens of Fentress County,” said District Attorney General Jared Effler.  “The District Attorney’s Office always stands ready to provide any assistance necessary to investigate and prosecute matters involving public corruption.”

If convicted, Cravens faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each count of honest services fraud and up to one year in prison on the civil rights charge.

Charges brought by an Information are merely accusations.  The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the FBI; the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the District Attorney’s Office for the Eighth Judicial District.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Katy Risinger and DOJ Trial Attorneys Lauren Bell and Andrew Laing of the Department’s Public Integrity Section.