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Ex-deputy claims Cupp, counselors colluded in canceling career

June 6th, 2014 9:53 pm by Brad Hicks

Ex-deputy claims Cupp, counselors colluded in canceling career

Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp, pictured here in a file photo from Sept. 26, 2013, has been named in a wrongful termination lawsuit by a former deputy of the Washington and Unicoi county sheriff's departments.

A former narcotics officer who previously worked for both the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department has filed a lawsuit seeking $11 million in damages each from a Washington County man, a Criminal Court judge and two assistant district attorneys whom he alleges conspired to have him terminated from the UCSD.

Troy Bowlin II, attorney for Richard Barnett, filed a complaint on his client’s behalf Thursday afternoon in Washington County Circuit Court. In his complaint, Barnett states that in October 2011, while working as a narcotics officer for the WCSO, he testified at a preliminary hearing for Timothy Wayne Lewis.

Barnett alleges in the complaint that he was subsequently confronted by Kenneth L. Lewis, father of Timothy Wayne Lewis, and was struck by Kenneth Lewis. The complaint states Kenneth Lewis was charged with assault in Washington County.

“The events which took place on or about October 26, 2011, set off a chain reaction whereby Kenneth L. Lewis began to exert his considerable political and social influence in Washington and surrounding counties to intentionally and maliciously conspire to interfere with Mr. Barnett’s employment,” Barnett’s complaint said.

Barnett said in his complaint that in early 2013, he resigned from the WCSO due to the fact he “ended a personal relationship with a superior at the department.” According to WCSO records, Barnett left the sheriff’s office there on April 13, 2012. Barnett’s complaint states that “to avoid the appearance of impropriety,” he decided to obtain employment with the UCSD.

Barnett also states that, at some point, he was personally informed by Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes that Lewis, Mathes’ brother-in-law, had “been making inquiries about him and that (Barnett) should be concerned about these inquiries and watch his back.”

On April 17, 2013, Barnett began working as a narcotics officers for the UCSD, and would work there only until June 5, 2013. Barnett alleges in his complaint that Lewis used his “long-time political relationship” with Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp to interfere with his employment at the UCSD.

Barnett alleges that Cupp, acting on the direction of Kenneth Lewis, induced Assistant District Attorneys Matt Roark and Ryan Curtis to contact the UCSD and provide “false or misleading” information to effect his termination as a narcotics officer with the department.

“Upon information and belief, Robert Cupp, at the explicit or implicit inducement of Kenneth Lewis, contacted Assistant District Attorneys Matt Roark and Ryan Curtis and requested that they support the assertion that Mr. Barnett was not credible and that ADA’s Roark and Curtis did not feel comfortable with prosecuting cases brought by Mr. Barnett,” Barnett’s complaint said.

“At the request of Robert Cupp, ADA’s Roark and Curtis informed the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office that they did not feel comfortable prosecuting Mr. Barnett’s cases. Furthermore, Robert Cupp met with (Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley) and conveyed his desire to have Mr. Barnett terminated.”

Barnett states in his complaint that in early June 2013, he was called into the office of UCSD Chief Deputy Frank Rogers and was informed that Cupp had contacted Hensley to say he would not approve any further warrants for Barnett and that Roark and Curtis would not prosecute any cases brought by Barnett. Barnett states he was terminated from the UCSD two days after this meeting.

“On or about June 5, 2013, Mr. Barnett was told that given the situation with the Judge and Assistant District Attorneys, that no jobs would be available for him and that he should resign,” the complaint states. “The actions of Robert Cupp, Ryan Curtis and Matt Roark were calculated to maliciously induce the termination of Mr. Barnett and were the result of a conspiracy created by Kenneth Lewis as retribution for his son’s and his own prosecution in Washington County.”

Barnett also stated that prior to the interference of Cupp and Kenneth Lewis, the Washington County District Attorney General’s Office did not have issues with his credibility, but Barnett said he received a letter from Hensley that said the reason for his termination was that judges and district attorneys from neighboring officials questioned his “truthfulness.”

Barnett is seeking $500,000 from each of the four defendants named in the complaint — Cupp, Kenneth Lewis, Roark and Curtis — for pecuniary damages for front pay, back pay and lost earning potential due to his alleged termination. He is also seeking $500,000 from each defendant for non-pecuniary damages for damage to his reputation, emotional distress and anxiety. He is also seeking $10 million from each defendant to “deter others from committing similar wrongs in the future.”

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