WKU Public Radio News Staff
Wed May 1, 2013
Key Prosecution Witness Takes Stand in Trial of Barren County Sheriff
Testimony resumes Wednesday in the trial of Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, former deputy Aaron Bennett, and Barren County Drug Task Force Detective Eric Guffey. The three law enforcement officers are accused of beating a suspect in custody and trying to cover up the assault to federal investigators.
The prosecution's star witness, Adam Minor, was on the witness stand for most of the day Tuesday. Minor said he was a willing participant in the alleged attack on suspect Billy Stinnett. Originally facing the same federal charges as the officers on trial, he pleaded guilty to one of the charges and agreed to testify for the prosecution in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Minor told jurors when he and other officers arrived on the scene on February 24, 2010, Sheriff Eaton was beating Stinnett with a baton and allegedly said “It’s your all’s turn.” Minor admitted hitting Stinnett because he was mad after the hour-long pursuit through two counties before Stinnett crashed his van into a Glasgow church.
Minor testified that Detective Guffey handcuffed Stinnett while Deputy Aaron Bennett joined in the attack, punching Stinnett several times in the head and causing it to bleed. Federal prosecutor Sanjay Patel asked Minor if anyone tried to stop the abuse, and he replied "no".
According to Minor, the assault continued after Stinnett was handcuffed.
Each officer involved had to write a report for the FBI, and Minor said in court that Sheriff Eaton told them to write that Stinnett pulled a knife on him. Days later, Minor claimed said the sheriff laughed about the run-in and said he never thought the suspect was armed. Eaton allegedly told the officers who arrived at the scene later that Stinnett actually put up his hands and said he was done, yet Eaton kept screaming into his police radio and hitting Stinnett with the baton.
Minor’s testimony went late into the day and the defense did not have time to cross-exam. However, the defense has said all along the use of force was appropriate given the suspect’s criminal history and threat to public safety. Eaton's defense attorney, Guthrie True, has said that Stinnett's injuries were not consistent with excessive force.
The trial resumes Wednesday morning with further testimony from Adam Minor.