Unicoi Co. inmate extortion case sent to grand jury

Brad Hicks • Feb 8, 2013 at 4:51 PM

A Unicoi County grand jury will consider the case of a county inmate previously charged with extortion for allegedly threatening to reveal a Unicoi County Sheriff's Department internal investigation in exchange for his release.

Jason C. Yarbrough, Pavo, Ga., waived his preliminary hearing Thursday in Unicoi County General Sessions Court. He was charged with extortion in October for allegedly threatening to reveal an internal investigation involving a Unicoi County jailer who had been fired by the sheriff's department.

Yarbrough has been in the Unicoi County Jail since June on a charge relating to the manufacture of methamphetamine. Unicoi County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Frank Rogers previously said the sheriff's department had conducted an internal investigation into one of the county's jailers violating the department's policies and procedures with respect to "inmate privileges."

Rogers said officials had grounds to believe the jailer had violated the procedures and was terminated as a result. Rogers also previously said because the investigation was an internal investigation and not a criminal investigation, details regarding the jailer and what led to her termination could not be released.

On Oct. 15, Yarbrough sent letters to Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley, in which he threatened to reveal the internal investigation to media if Hensley did not release him from jail and return him home to Georgia, Rogers said.

As a result of the alleged letters, Yarbrough was charged with extortion. Rogers said the jailer was fired due to the results of the sheriff's department's investigation and before Yarbrough's letters were sent.

"There has been no arrangement by the sheriff's office and there will not be an arrangement by the sheriff's office to give him any kind of immunity or to release him," Rogers said in October. "We just feel like, at this point, if there's something to be said, we'll say it, and we're not going to be threatened by him."

The Unicoi County grand jury is set to next convene on Feb. 15.

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