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July 11, 2005 - Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)

Officers Seek Court's Mercy

Pointing Fingers: Real Criminal Man Behind Their Abuse Of Power

By Jamie Satterfield

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

If court records are any indication, when five former lawmen face judgment this week for beating, torturing and threatening a drug dealer, there will be lots of finger pointing.

They will accuse each other. They will argue the power of the heat of the moment. They will paint themselves not as criminals but as fallen heroes, whose lives were dedicated to serving others.

They will point to the loss of their jobs and reputations. They will cite death, mental illness and emotional struggles.

But most of all, they will blame their victim.

Former Campbell County Sheriff's Department deputies Gerald David Webber, Shayne Green, Joshua Monday, Samuel Franklin and William Carroll are to be sentenced this week by U.S. District Court Judge Tom Varlan.

All but Monday have admitted conspiring to violate the civil rights of Lester Eugene Siler in his White Oak community home on July 8, 2004. Monday has pleaded guilty to brandishing a gun during the incident.

At plea hearings earlier this year, all five conceded that Siler was beaten, tortured and threatened. They admitted that Siler was slapped, punched and kicked. They signed documents agreeing that Siler was threatened with electrocution and death. They agreed that Siler's head was forced underwater in both a toilet and a fish tank.

Now, all but Monday face up to 10 years in prison. Monday faces a mandatory minimum seven years behind bars. Court records reveal that Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Atchley is recommending sentencing breaks for the five because, under federal law, they get credit for confessing and cooperating, legalese for tattling.

Atchley is asking Varlan to dole out five-year prison terms to Webber, Franklin and Green. He wants Carroll to serve 66 months and Monday 72.

But Atchley's recommendations for each of the five are still too high, their defense attorneys contend in court documents.

In court filings, these five lawmen's defenders lay out their respective cases for judicial mercy, with one even insisting he should get no jail time at all. Although each cites distinctive reasons, there is one common thread: These five men may be guilty, but Siler is the real criminal.

Webber: Blaming Siler

Webber, former narcotics chief and the man who arranged that fateful visit to Siler's home, pulls no punches in his sentencing memorandum.

"The entire episode was precipitated by the victim persisting in drug dealing in the shadow of a public school, probation violations and attempts to escape while in the possession of drugs," defense attorney Lee Asbury wrote on Webber's behalf.

Webber, on the other hand, has lived a crime-free life, much of it spent enforcing the law, Asbury wrote.

When he learned the attack on Siler had been captured on a secret audio recording made by Siler's wife, Webber fessed up and was more than willing to tell tales to the FBI, Asbury contended.

In Asbury's view, Webber has already paid a tough price for his "heat of the moment" actions. He's lost his job, his pension, his marriage and his freedom, Asbury wrote. Not to mention the suffering he faces, Asbury noted.

"The extreme danger to which he will be exposed in a prison population because of his law enforcement background" cannot be ignored, the attorney said.

Asbury argues that Webber should serve no more than 16 months in prison.

Atchley wrote in response that Webber's bid for a break is offensive.

"It is clear from the tape that Webber takes a controlling position in this abuse," Atchley wrote. "His voice is heard throughout the entire tape, and it is he who calmly and repeatedly orders Siler to sign the consent to search form while others administer physical abuse.

"It is a shameful and repugnant abuse of power."

Atchley also noted that Webber lied to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation when confronted about the attack 11 days after it occurred in an attempt to "protect himself and his colleagues."

Franklin: Keeping Hands Off

Franklin, a veteran detective and former DARE officer, knows one thing for sure - Siler is no Rodney King.

In his bid for a sentencing break, Franklin contends through attorney Andrew S. Roskind that Siler, though victimized, suffered only minor injuries. King, on the other hand, "was in fact severely injured, including a broken leg and ribs, facial fractures and a host of other injuries," Roskind wrote.

Yet, the LAPD officer whose chief crime in the King attack was a failure to stop it wound up imprisoned for "substantially less" time than Atchley is seeking for Franklin, Roskind wrote.

Like that officer, Franklin's crime was not attacking Siler but failing to stop those who did, Roskind wrote.

"While in the Siler trailer, Mr. Franklin never physically harmed Mr. Siler," Roskind wrote.

Franklin, Roskind wrote, is a lifelong East Tennessee resident who has devoted 17 years helping children through his work as a DARE officer and child abuse investigator. He also served in the military.

"A lifetime spent serving others should not easily be forgotten," Roskind wrote.

Roskind wants Varlan to put Franklin on probation or, in the very least, give him half as much time as the other deputies, who Franklin insists actually attacked Siler.

Atchley argued in his response that there is a gaping hole in Roskind's memorandum. It fails to note that Franklin is a liar, Atchley wrote.

Atchley contends that Franklin lied at least three times about the attack - twice to the TBI and once to a state grand jury.

"The purpose of these lies was to obstruct the TBI investigation of himself and his friends," Atchley wrote. "It is important to note that all three of these statements were given under oath."

Green: Saving Society

The attack on Siler wasn't Green's idea, his attorney, Kimberly Parton, argues in her sentencing memorandum. Green was a poorly trained part-timer and off-duty, she wrote.

"Mr. Green, although participating in this conspiracy, was a subordinate officer who did not initiate the illegal conduct and to some degree took directions from his superior officers," Parton argued.

Green also points to a series of tragedies in his own life.

His father committed suicide when he was 13, Parton wrote. A teacher "died in front of him," she said. For years, he struggled with the fear of death, Parton contended.

Still, he worked hard and became the captain of a local fire department. He obeyed the law, unlike, Parton notes, Siler.

"Mr. Siler's wrongful and criminal conduct contributed significantly to provoking the (attack)," Parton wrote. "Citizens of Campbell County had repeatedly complained to authorities that Mr. Siler, who was on probation, continued to sell controlled substances from his residence, which is within 100 feet of White Oak Elementary School."

Green believed he was doing the community a favor, Parton wrote.

"It has been recognized that a defendant may sometimes commit a crime in order to avoid a perceived greater harm," she wrote.

Atchley calls that statement "absurd."

"The defendant should have lawfully arrested Mr. Siler for his probation violation and allowed the courts to punish him lawfully and justly," Atchley wrote. "This is how a civilized society conducts law enforcement."

Atchley noted that Siler was a man of small stature surrounded by five deputies, who "proceeded to torture and beat Mr. Siler in his home."

"(Green) and the others acted as judge, jury and executioner," Atchley wrote.

Monday: Dishing Dirt

Monday, as the lone deputy to use his service weapon to threaten Siler, stands apart from his former fellow men in blue. Unlike them, his sentence is required by law. The only way he can get a break is if Atchley gives him credit for cooperating with the FBI. Atchley has done just that, although the document is under seal.

Still, defense attorney Dennis Francis contends Monday deserves a bigger break than Atchley is willing to give.

Francis wrote that Monday "has no prior criminal history" and never hurt anyone else.

"It is submitted to this honorable court that Mr. Monday had not engaged in and is unlikely to engage in such conduct ever again," Francis wrote.

Francis' sentencing memorandum also drops a bit of a bombshell.

When "debriefed" by the FBI, Monday not only told on his fellow officers in the Siler case but also "provided information involving other possible illegal activities occurring in Campbell County involving various members of the county government ... including the present sheriff (Ron McClellan)," Francis wrote.

He did not elaborate.

Monday, Francis wrote, was poorly trained, having never even been sent to a basic police academy required for all certified police officers.

Atchley counters that Monday's cooperation with federal authorities was "limited" and rates no more than a one-year sentencing break.

Carroll: Sealing His Lips

Carroll, a reserve deputy, who was captured on the secret audiotape making bizarre statements such as "let's give him a haircut" and a repeated refrain of "thank ye," also wants a sentencing break.

But Federal Defender Beth Ford has filed her sentencing memorandum under seal, suggesting she will argue that Carroll has mental-health issues. Atchley's response is also under seal.

Regardless of the ultimate fate of these five men, Atchley contends their damage to law enforcement has already been done.

"(The five men's) behavior has so clearly undermined law enforcement efforts in Campbell County that it may be years before all the ramifications are fully known," Atchley wrote. "Instead of helping the war on drugs, (they have) dealt upon it a horrible blow."

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