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School board member/ex-deputy indicted by Unicoi grand jury

June 12th, 2013 9:05 pm by Brad Hicks

School board member/ex-deputy indicted by Unicoi grand jury

Ricky L. Butler

ERWIN — A former Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department captain and current member of the Unicoi County Board of Education is facing several charges following his Monday indictment by a Unicoi County grand jury.

Ricky L. Butler was charged with two counts of filing a false report and one count each of reckless driving and failure to exercise due care. The false report charges are Class D felonies, the reckless driving charge is a Class B misdemeanor and the failure to exercise due care is a Class C misdemeanor.

The alleged offenses occurred on or around Jan. 16, according to the presentment document. It said Butler committed the false report offenses by initiating a report or statement to a law enforcement officer “concerning an offense or incident within the officer’s concern knowing the offense or incident reported did not occur.” 

The document said Butler committed the offense of reckless driving by operating a vehicle “upon a public road with the willful and wanton disregard for the safety of other persons and/or property.” The document said Butler failed to exercise due care because he failed to “avoid colliding with any other motor vehicle, either being driven or legally parked, upon the roadway, or any road sign, guard rail or any fixed object legally placed within or beside the roadway right of way.” 

The document gives no further information on the circumstances that led to Butler’s charges. 

Butler was charged by the grand jury on a presentment, and details of his indictment could not be released until Butler was served with the presentment. 

Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus was appointed to prosecute the matter. Staubus said Wednesday that he could not discuss details of the case at this time. 

“It was initiated when Mr. Butler made a call to the (Tennessee Highway Patrol) about damage to his vehicle and, as a result of that, an investigation ensued and these charges were the result of that investigation by the Tennessee Highway Patrol,” Staubus said. 

Butler is set to make his initial appearance in Unicoi County Criminal Court on June 28. Staubus said after Butler has acquired the services of an attorney, his office would file discovery items in the case in court. 

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley previously said Butler resigned from the sheriff’s department in January to avoid disciplinary action. Hensley said Butler’s resignation and the resignation of another officer at that time were the result of two separate internal investigations revealing “misconduct and inefficiency of the behalf of the officers.”

A release issued by the sheriff’s department at the time of the officers’ resignations said both resigned after the officers were aware of the findings of these investigations, were placed on administrative leave and were informed a termination hearing would be held. 

Butler, a 13-year veteran of the department, was given the option to resign or face a termination hearing Jan. 17, Hensley said previously. The release said the cause of the investigation involving Butler was violations of the department’s operating procedure and misconduct. Hensley said a report of the investigation’s findings were turned over to the District Attorney General’s office. 

UCSD Chief Deputy Frank Rogers said Wednesday that the sheriff’s department cannot comment on Butler’s criminal charges. 

Butler is a former Unicoi County Commissioner and has served on the county’s Board of Education since he was elected in August 2010. Board Chairwoman Renea Jones-Rogers said she was previously advised by the Tennessee School Board Association that the impact of Butler’s charges is in the hands of the state attorney general because he is an elected official. 

“I think he actually has to be convicted before it’s turned over to the attorney general, and then the attorney general would be the one that would be charged with removing him from office, if that was warranted,” Jones-Rogers said. “That was what they had told me when I called.”

Butler could not be reached Wednesday for comment. 

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