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Car search leads to Wash. Co. deputy’s termination

September 7th, 2011 11:28 pm by Becky Campbell

A Washington County sheriff’s deputy was fired last month after he violated a general order while conducting a traffic stop, according to personnel records.
The incident happened in July when then-Deputy John Moon pulled over a vehicle on Dry Creek Road and searched it with no other officer present.
The Johnson City Press received a tip in August regarding an officer’s termination, but Sheriff Ed Graybeal declined to comment on the case without specific information and an officer’s name.
The Press filed a public records request to obtain the information, which was detailed in Moon’s personnel file.
During the July 20 traffic stop, Moon conducted a search of the vehicle, driven by Cody Higgins, but did not write any citations during the stop.
Two days later, Virginia Ruth Story, a passenger in Higgins’ car when Moon pulled him over, filed a complaint at the sheriff’s office claiming Moon stole two bottles of pain medication — hydrocodone — from her during the stop.
During the internal investigation, Moon denied the claim, but the sheriff’s office could not gather enough evidence to prove he did or didn’t take the pills.
The investigation did show that Moon violated a department general order requiring two officers be present during a vehicle search and that the driver sign a search consent form.
Moon had apparently been “counseled” by his supervisor about conducting searches alone, according to the investigation documents.
“While Officer Moon did check with the dispatcher to see if another officer was available to assist with the search, he failed to contact his supervisor,” Major Russell Jamerson wrote in a memorandum to Graybeal.
Jamerson noted that Moon also failed to activate his in-car video camera to record the traffic stop.
Moon’s account of the stop, also noted in the investigation memo to Graybeal, was that he found three pill bottles in Story’s purse and “he looked at the contents of each one by pouring them out into his hand and then putting them back into the bottles.”
Moon reported that he left the three pill bottles with other contents of the purse on the passenger’s seat when he finished searching.
Moon was informed in writing by WCSO administrators that there was an internal affairs investigation, and approximately three weeks later received a letter from Chief Deputy Patrick Littleton of his termination.

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