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Videotaping ended trial of Niota officers
Story by Dewey Morgan, The Daily Post-Athenian
Videotaping ended trial of Niota officers
Alleged improper videotaping led to a dismissal of all charges with prejudice in the Keith McCarter and Jonathon Scott trial Friday.
That dismissal left many people representing Niota at the trial very happy as it ended any chance of the charges being brought back against the two Niota police officers and it opened the door for them to return to duty.
Feelings in the courtroom Friday were mixed, however, as those supporting McCarter and Scott felt justice was done, while those there to support alleged victim Ray Stewart felt that justice had betrayed him.
“We always took the position that McCarter and Scott were doing nothing more than their job,” McCarter’s attorney, Charles Burks, said after the trial ended. The attorney noted that Stewart ultimately was the “author of his own fate” and that he “does not respect authority” as it was the allegations of misconduct by Stewart that led to the dismissal of the case he wanted prosecuted.
Scott attorney Andrew Freiberg focused on his happiness for Scott.
“I meant what I told the jury – it was truly an honor to represent Jonathon Scott in this matter,” Freiberg said. “I am so pleased that justice was done and am so happy for Jonathon and his family.”
Freiberg also reiterated that he felt the facts of the case were clearly on the side of Scott and McCarter.
“Sometimes opinions can be formed based on partial facts,” Freiberg noted. “Thankfully, we have a system in place for truth to reveal itself. Anyone present to hear all the facts of this case knows this to be the correct and righteous outcome.”
Burks agreed with Freiberg’s assessment. “I am convinced had the jury completed the case and ruled on it, we believe the verdict would be not guilty,” he said.
Burks added that this lifts the “cloud that hung over them the past two years” and “these two citizens can now get on with their lives.”
On the Niota side of things, Mayor Lois Preece expressed relief that it was over and also sadness that it cost the two officers so much.
“I’m glad it’s over because they’re good policemen and they did nothing but follow police procedures,” Preece said. “I feel bad for the amount of money they needed to pay for legal fees because criminal cases are not covered by the city insurance policy.”
She noted that they should be back on the job Tuesday, but that will likely be officially decided upon during Monday’s emergency Niota City Commission meeting.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, Stewart rose the subject of prosecutorial misconduct.
“I’ve had suspicions all along of prosecutorial misconduct,” Stewart said of both 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Bebb and Special Prosecutor Joe Baugh.
He also noted that he took issue with Baugh “arguing only for a mistrial and to then switch 180 degrees in a snap of the fingers and blaming me after talking to me and knowing I did no wrong this morning.”
Stewart added that this “confirms my suspicions” on why some evidence that was gathered wasn’t put forth in the trial and why Baugh made some of the mistakes Stewart feels like he made. “It’s prosecutorial misconduct on his part as well,” Stewart said.
Stewart said the allegations about him videotaping jurors and their license plates are completely false.
According to Stewart, he arrived at the McMinn County Courthouse a little early Friday and asked Baugh if he wanted Stewart to go somewhere and make copies of photos they hoped to introduce that day.
Baugh said yes, so Stewart headed down to his truck and was starting to head out when he saw a man who fit the description of the man who allegedly pulled the valve stint out of his wife’s van tire Wednesday.
Stewart said he then stopped, grabbed his camera and took a photo of the man and one photo of each side of a truck that matched the description of that driven by the alleged vandal.
After that he went on to the store, made copies and returned to pandemonium at the Courthouse.
Stewart is not yet done with his fight against McCarter and Scott, however, as he said there are still federal and state civil lawsuits in the system and federal criminal indictments, as well.
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