In our system of jurisprudence, justice is expected to be blind. That means everyone is treated equally under the law. At least that’s the way the system is supposed to work. There are occasions, however, when it’s easy to suspect otherwise.
If you have been following the comments on our website regarding a Sept. 21 police chase involving former District Attorney General Joe Crumley, you know there are some readers who believe Crumley has received preferential treatment from law enforcement authorities. Given the way police officials have handled this case, we can’t say that we blame them.
When this paper asked last week to see the Jonesborough police in-car video from the chase and crash involving the former DA, the town’s top police official told us the video was being withheld as part of an ongoing investigation into the incident. Likewise, Jonesborough Public Safety Chief Matt Hawkins said the written report detailing the specifics of the pursuit and arrest of Crumley, who served as chief prosecutor of the 1st Judicial District from 1998 to 2006, was not being released for the same reason.
We know the pursuit of Crumley began on Sept. 21 just after noon in the 100 block of East Main Street in Jonesborough when, according to Hawkins, Crumley nearly struck a police vehicle head-on. The officer turned on Crumley and followed him west onto Tenn. Highway 81 South at speeds ranging from 13 mph to 48 mph.
Moments later, that officer and a backup officer forced Crumley’s car to stop near the area of Woodridge Road. Crumley reportedly ran several cars off the road before he was stopped.
After he was stopped, Hawkins said Crumley’s car lunged forward and struck the backup officer’s car, causing only minor damage. Officers said Crumley refused to get out of his car. He was then removed from the car and taken into custody, Hawkins told Press staff writer Rex Barber.
Hawkins also said Friday that Crumley had abrasions on his elbow and knee that occurred as he was being removed from his car. About an hour after being stopped, Hawkins said, Crumley was taken to Johnson City Medical Center because he was in medical duress.
The chief said his department’s investigation of the incident will resume after Crumley leaves the hospital if it is appropriate to do so.
We can’t help but agree with one commentator to this story on our website who noted that had this been “any other Joe,” police would have handled this case much differently.
It’s impossible for us to say at this point if Crumley was treated the same as or differently from any other driver stopped under the same circumstances. Even so, not releasing all the information about this incident has given ammunition to the cynics who believe otherwise.