Former Carter County sheriff indicted on sexual battery charge

John Thompson • Feb 22, 2013 at 11:57 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Former Carter County Sheriff John Henson, 67, turned himself in to the Carter County Detention Center on Thursday night, following his indictment by a grand jury on a charge of sexual battery. He was released after posting at $3,000 bond.

The indictment said that Henson "did commit the act of sexual battery by unlawfully having sexual contact," with a woman on Sept 16, 2012.

Officers with the sheriff's department who are familiar with the case said the incident happened at a convenience store where the woman worked. In addition to the woman's complaint that she had not given consent to Henson's placing his arm on her, the evidence included another witness in the store and the store's security video recording.

Henson will answer the charge at an upcoming session of Criminal Court.

The veteran lawman had been convicted on simple assault by the Washington County Sessions Court in June 2009. That case involved a charge that he had given an unwanted hug to a woman at a laundromat on Watauga Road in Johnson City on April 12, 2009. He was working as a police officer for the city of Watauga at the time.

In that conviction, Judge James Nidiffer had given Henson suspended jail sentence of five months and 29 days. He was placed on unsupervised probation and had to pay a $50 fine. Henson was reinstated as a police officer for the city of Watauga, but was fired a month later on unrelated matters.

Henson was appointed as a constable in October 2011 by the Carter County Commission to fill a portion of the unexpired 6th District term of Ross Potter, a constable who had died from injuries received in a car crash. Henson then was elected constable for the remaining two years of the term during the 2012 election.

He is one of only two men who have served as sheriff of Carter County for 10 years. Henson has served the longest uninterrupted term, from 1996-2006. J.M. Moreland also served for 10 years, but was out of office for two years before winning re-election.

Henson served with the Carter County Sheriff's Department for over 30 years, rising to the rank of captain before being elected sheriff.

Henson is the third of Carter County's constables to face criminal charges. Barney Brown is facing a perjury charges stemming from his failure to report a burglary conviction he had in Washington, D.C. when he was a teenager. Leonard Johnson is facing a reckless endangerment charge stemming from a collision he suffered while driving to a memorial service for Potter. Both Brown and Johnson have plea deadlines in Criminal Court on Feb. 25.

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