Brent Cooper on Lawrence County Sheriff
Although not required, an explanation of how the events of last week in Lawrence County occurred, may be helpful.
In the spring of 2017, a Lawrence County citizen met with me in order to voice a concern they had with the Sheriff's Dept. This is a common part of my job, and usually, a good explanation of the law will satisfy such concerns. The citizen explained to me that they felt that an intoxicated person had committed a crime on their property and that the Sheriff Dept had failed to take action. After listening to the facts, I felt that the deputy had acted properly when he decided not to arrest the individual on the night in question. However, it became clear during the conversation that the person that had committed the acts on this citizen's property was currently serving a TDOC SENTENCE and should have been incarcerated on the date of the incident.
The citizen relayed to me that the inmate was being released every weekend by the Sheriff Dept and was often intoxicated while out on this release. Due to this information, I checked the inmate's court file to see what kind court order there was authorizing these releases. I found no such order. I also discovered that these unauthorized "work releases" were a common occurrence.
Based on this, and other information I had received, I contacted the TBI and the Comptroller's office and asked them to open an investigation. The only other alternative was to turn a blind eye and allow this activity to continue, which would have been a violation of the oath I took to uphold the Constitution and enforce the law.
I initially oversaw the investigations, but once it became clear that there may be a possible criminal prosecution, I recused myself and asked for a Pro Tem Prosecutor, from another district, to take over the matter and make any and all decisions related to the case. I did this in order to avoid even the appearance of any impropriety on my part. From that point forward, DAG Ray Crouch, from the 23rd Judicial District has had the case. General Crouch directed the remainder of the investigation and made all decisions regarding criminal prosecution. He will also prosecute the case in its entirety, with no input from me.
I have been told that what this administration was doing is no different than previous administrations. That may be true, but it doesn't make it right.
My hope is that justice will be served in these cases and that the people of Lawrence County will have a renewed faith in their elected officials and the judicial system. How the case proceeds from here is strictly up to General Crouch, an honorable and fair man.