A federal judge is allowing former Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton to remain free while he appeals his conviction on two counts of witness tampering.
U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley concluded that Eaton has raised two reasonable issues that could result in his winning a new trial. Eaton had been scheduled to report to a federal prison in Oakdale, La., by Sept. 30 to begin serving an 18-month prison sentence.
He was convicted this year in federal court of directing two deputies to write false incident reports for the FBI. Federal investigators were probing accusations of civil rights violations during a 2010 arrest. Prosecutors had sought to force his immediate surrender, but McKinley noted that Eaton has complied with all pre-trial release conditions and is not a flight risk.
When Barren County Judge-Executive Davie Greer began looking for a new sheriff, she didn't have to go far. She choose Kent Keen, who retired from the Glasgow Police Department and joined the sheriff's office a year ago as a school resource officer.
Monday's announcement attracted a standing room- only crowd inside a Barren County circuit courtroom. A full contingent of uniformed officers stood behind him as Keen pledged to run the department by the book.
"I have three guidelines that I operate off of, and that's the KRS (Kentucky Revised Statues), the Barren County Sheriff's Department policy manual, and the Bible, just to be honest with you," explained Keen. "Some God-given common sense may go a long way, folks."
Noticeably present at Monday's announcement was Deputy Aaron Bennett, who stood trial in May alongside former Sheriff Chris Eaton. Bennett was also accused of using excessive force on a suspect in 2010 and lying about it to federal investigators. Bennett was acquitted on all charges. He told WKU Public Radio that seeing Keen sworn in felt like the beginning of a new era at the sheriff's office.
There's going to be a new sheriff in town Monday in Barren County.
Judge-Executive Davie Greer told the Glasgow Daily Times that's when she plans to announce her appointment for the position.
Former Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton resigned Wednesday, and was sentenced the next day to 18 months in prison for persuading two deputies to write false incident reports in an FBI investigation of an alleged beating during an arrest.
The 42-year-old Eaton, of Glasgow, was acquitted during his trial in May of using excessive force but convicted of witness tampering.
Greer told the newspaper that she had narrowed her selection "to four or five" people.
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.