Former Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton will spend a year and a half in prison related to his trial on civil rights violations. Eaton was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Bowling Green.
In a courtroom packed with family and friends, Eaton wept as he talked about all the things he could no longer do as a convicted felon, such as coach Little League and volunteer in schools. He told U.S. District Court Judge Joseph McKinley that he felt like a “child predator."
“My life is over as I know it,” sobbed Eaton.
Judge McKinley replied that by all accounts, Eaton was a model citizen, but his punishment must reflect the seriousness of the convictions and the former sheriff's position of authority.
“The buck stops with you”, said McKinley. “You were in charge that day.”
Judge McKinley strayed from the prosecution's recommendation of at least seven years and ordered Eaton to serve 18 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release.
“I think Judge McKinley really did what he felt was right,” defense attorney Guthrie True said following the sentencing. “I still have real serious issues with the verdict.”
A federal jury in May acquitted two co-defendants on all charges, but found Eaton guilty on two counts of witness tampering. The law enforcement officers were tried for allegedly beating suspect Billy Stinnnett on Feb. 24, 2010 and engaging in a cover-up.
True had asked the judge for a non-custodial sentence, given the impact a prison term would have on Eaton's family.
“This is a remarkable couple in taking care of five children, two of which are not their own,” said True.
Eaton and his wife are raising two teenage children of their own, a handicapped daughter from another marriage, and a niece and nephew. True also argued the former sheriff has health complications due to meth lab exposure.
While denying the request to stay out of prison, the judge gave Eaton permission to voluntarily surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which typically has to be done within 60 days of sentencing.
Also sentenced Thursday was former Barren County Sheriff's Deputy Adam Minor who cooperated with the government and testified at trial that Eaton instructed him and another deputy to write a false report to the FBI. Minor received probation.