Chris Eaton

Update at 10:30 p.m.: Jury finds Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton guilty on two counts of witness tampering.  Deputy Aaron Bennett and Drug Task Force Detective Eric Guffey were acquitted on all counts.

Original Post:

The federal case against Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton and two other southern Kentucky law enforcement officers is now in the hands of a jury.

Eaton, Barren County Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Bennett, and Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force Detective Eric Guffey face charges of beating a suspect who was already in custody, and then lying about it to federal investigators.

Lawyers for Bennett and Guffey finished their closing statements Thursday morning, telling jurors they would have to believe the testimony of Adam Minor in order to find their clients guilty. Minor is a former Barren County Sheriff's Deputy who was on the scene of the incident in 2010 when suspect Billy Stinnett was taken into custody.

Minor initially pleaded guilty to the same charges facing the three defendants, but later changed his plea and agreed to testify for the prosecution.

Minor told jurors he took part in the alleged beating of Stinnett, along with the other three. Minor said the beating continued even after Stinnett was placed in handcuffs and unable to defend himself.

Attorneys for the three defendants attacked Minor's credibility throughout the trial, pointing out he has admitted to previously lying under oath to a state court and grand jury.

Lead Prosecutor Sanjay Patel tried to refute those defense arguments Thursday, telling jurors Minor realized he was on a sinking ship and decided to come forward and tell what really happened. Patel also pointed out that what Minor told jurors in this trial is supported by multiple eye-witnesses.

The case against Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton and two other officers is expected to go to the jury Thursday. Eaton, Deputy Aaron Bennett, and Barren-Edmonson County Drug Task Force Detective Eric Guffey are accused of beating a suspect and engaging in a cover-up. 

Testimony ended in the week-and-a-half long trial with none of the officers testifying in their own defense. 

In closing statements to the jury, Federal Prosecutor Roy Conn said three men sworn to uphold the law broke the law. He recanted eyewitness statements that suspect Billy Stinnett was on the ground in handcuffs, but the alleged assault continued. 

The prosecution relied heavily on former deputy Adam Minor, who pleaded guilty to one charge and agreed to testify against the other officers. 

Update at 4:45 p.m. :  Sheriff Eaton's defense attorney Guthrie True concluded his closing arguments this afternoon and court was adjourned until Thursday morning when the attorneys for Aaron Bennett and Eric Guffey will give closing statements. 

Update at 12:53 p.m.:

WKU Public Radio's Lisa Autry says closing statements are set for Wednesday afternoon in the federal trial against Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, Barren County Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Bennett, and Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force Agent Eric Guffey.

Following those closing statements, the case will go to the jury at the U.S. District Court in Bowling Green.

The jury will be tasked with deciding whether the force used by law enforcement agents against drug suspect Billy Stinnett was reasonable or excessive. The three men are also charged with lying to federal investigators about the incident.

Original post:

The defense for one of the three men accused of using excessive force on a suspect already in custody has rested Wednesday morning. On trial at the federal courthouse in Bowling Green are Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, Deputy Aaron Bennett, and Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force Detective Eric Guffey.

Each of the accused is being represented by their own attorney. Sheriff Eaton's attorney, Guthrie True, rested his case, with attorneys for the other two men still engaging with witnesses this morning and afternoon.

The three defendants face charges of beating drug suspect Billy Stinnett while he was in custody, after Stinnett led officers on a high-speed, two-county chase in 2010. Stinnett crashed his vehicle into a Glasgow church and was placed under arrest.

The defendants say Stinnett resisted arrest, and that the force used against him was reasonable under the circumstances. Prosecutors say Stinnett was beated even after he was subdued and placed in handcuffs.

Prosecutors in the trial of Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton and two other southern Kentucky law enforcement agents have been calling FBI agents to the stand Tuesday.

Eaton, Barren County Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Bennett, and Barren-Edmonson County Drug Task Force Detective Eric Guffey are accused of beating drug suspect Billy Stinnett after he was taken into custody, and then lying about it to federal investigators.

The three law enforcement agents took Stinnett into custody after he led officers on a high-speed, two-county chase on Feb. 24, 2010. Stinnett has admitted he was high on meth at the time of the incident, and a mobile meth lab was found in the back of the vehicle he crashed into a Glasgow church.

FBI special agent Michael Schaffer told the court he interviewed Detective Eric Guffey twice in one day following the alleged beating of Stinnett. Schaffer says Guffey told two different stories about whether Stinnett was on the ground or standing when he was struck by officers.

The government is on the stand in the federal trial of Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, Deputy Aaron Bennett, and Detective Eric Guffey. The three are on trial in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green for using excessive force on a suspect and lying about it to federal investigators. 

Part of Monday’s testimony came from the FBI’s lead investigator on the case.  Special Agent Mike Brown interviewed the three officers at the Barren County Sheriff’s Office in April 2010, about two months after suspect Billy Stinnett was allegedly beaten after being handcuffed. 

Brown began each interview by reminding the officers that if they lied, they could be criminally charged.  Brown said he also gave each defendant an opportunity to make corrections to their written statements to the FBI, but each officer affirmed their report was accurate.  The reports, however, contained inconsistencies between the defendants and eye witnesses at the arrest scene.

Defense attorneys took Brown through a timeline of what they saw as shoddy investigative work, including failure to record interviews with the defendants and the fact a private citizen was asked to collect evidence from the scene. 

Agent Brown will resume his testimony Tuesday morning under cross-examination.

The prosecution continues to call witnesses Monday in the trial of Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton and two other southern Kentucky law enforcement officers.

On the stand Monday is Dave McClellan, one of the two FBI agents who investigated the alleged beating of drug suspect Billy Stinnett, who led officers on a high-speed, two-county chase in February of 2010, before crashing his van into a Glasgow church. 

McClellan interviewed Sheriff Eaton, Barren County Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Bennett, and Barren-Metcalfe Drug Task Force Detective Eric Guffey after the 2010 incident. Each of the three men were told they could be criminally charged if information in the report turned out to be false.

The officers were adamant that the written reports they had produced about the chase and arrest of Stinnett were accurate.

In the fourth day of testimony Friday in the federal trial of three southern Kentucky law enforcement officers, the prosecution continued to call expert witnesses to the stand.

Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, one of his deputies, and a Barren-Edmonson drug task force detective are accused of beating drug suspect Billy Stinnett while he was custody in Glasgow, and then lying about it to federal investigators.

On the witness stand Friday afternoon was  Dr. Lee Carter, the on-duty emergency room physician at Glasgow's T.J. Samson Hospital the night of Feb. 24, 2010, when Billy Stinnett crashed his van into a Barren County church after leading officers on a high-speed chase.

Dr. Carter treated Stinnett for injuries Stinnett said were caused by beatings administered by law enforcement after he was handcuffed. Dr. Carter testified that Stinnett had blunt-force trauma to the head that could have been caused by a baton or fist.

Kentucky Department of Corrections

The man who claims he was beaten by law enforcement officers in Barren County took the stand Thursday in the federal trial of Sheriff Chris Eaton, Deputy Aaron Bennett, and drug task force Detective Eric Guffey. 

Billy Stinnett, a convicted felon and meth addict, led officers on a high speed chase through Hart and Barren counties before crashing his van into a Glasgow church. 

According to Stinnett, he got out of the van, threw his hands up and starting going to the ground when Sheriff Eaton began hitting him in the head with a baton. When backup arrived that day in 2010, Stinnett claims the other officers joined in the attack even though he was in handcuffs. 

Stinnett has a civil suit pending against the defendants. 

The man who says he was beaten by four southern Kentucky law enforcement officers while in custody is on the stand Thursday at the federal courthouse in Bowling Green.

Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, deputy Aaron Bennett, and Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force Detective Eric Guffey face charges of beating suspect Billy Stinnett, and then lying about it to federal investigators. A fourth officer who took part in the beating avoided prosecution by testifying against the other three.

On the stand Thursday, Stinnett acknowledged that he led the officers on a high-speed chase through two counties before crashing his van into a Glasgow church. Stinnett also admitted that he was high on meth at the time, and had a mobile meth lab in the back of his vehicle.

Stinnett says after he crashed into the church he thew his hands up in the air and started going to the ground. Stinnett testified that Sheriff Eaton then began to strike him on the head with a baton without giving any commands.

The prosecution will call more witnesses Thursday in the trial of Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, Deputy Aaron Bennett, and drug task force Detective Eric Guffey.  The law enforcement officers are facing federal charges of deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice relating to the arrest of a suspect and the resulting FBI investigation. 

The defense spent most of Wednesday cross-examining former deputy Adam Minor, who in 2010, joined in the arrest of meth suspect Billy Stinnett following an hour-long car and foot chase. 

Minor first entered a not guilty plea, but later pled guilty to one count of making false statements to federal investigators.  Minor is cooperating with the government and testifying against Sheriff Eaton and the other officers. 

Minor told jurors when he arrived on the scene that day, Stinnett was already in handcuffs and non-combative, although the alleged beating of Stinnett continued.  Minor admitted to kicking the suspect while Deputy Bennett threw punches at his head and while Sheriff Eaton took swings at him with a baton.

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