The man who once headed the Campbell County Sheriff's Department's narcotics squad is behind bars, ordered there Tuesday by a federal judge after he admitted torturing a drug dealer.
David Webber Jr., 40, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiring with four other Campbell County lawmen to violate Lester Eugene Siler's civil rights through the use of force and intimidation.
=09 Webber admitted in a plea agreement that he was the ringleader of the two-hour attack on Siler, who was beaten while handcuffed, threatened, had his head pushed underwater and had a gun pointed at him.
Judge Tom Varlan turned aside a request from Webber's attorney, Lee Asbury, that he be allowed to go free pending his May 23 sentencing.
Varlan said he agreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Atchley, who argued Webber confessed to a "crime of violation" and was required under federal law to be locked up pending sentencing.
"I have carefully reviewed the statutes, and they lead me to agree with the government's position," Varlan said.
Asbury had argued that Webber had cooperated with the FBI in its probe of the July 8 attack on Siler at Siler's White Oak community home, but Varlan said that cooperation was "expected" from a former lawman and not exceptional.
Webber's plea agreement reveals that the former narcotics chief is being granted immunity from other crimes, although those misdeeds are not detailed in the court documents.
"If the defendant complies with the terms of this plea agreement, he will not be further prosecuted in the Eastern District of Tennessee by the United States for any offenses committed by the defendant about which the United States presently has knowledge," Atchley wrote.
Siler, his wife and a handful of supporters appeared at the hearing, sitting in the back of the courtroom while Webber admitted his guilt. Webber said little during the hearing, answering Varlan's questions with "yes, sir" or "no, sir."
Siler's attorneys, Kristie Anderson and Michael Farley, said they intended to file a civil lawsuit in the case within the next 30 days. Siler declined comment.
"We're pleased that this is moving forward," Anderson said.
Farley said Siler was "relieved" that Webber has been jailed.
An audiotape is a key piece of evidence in the government's case. The tape was made by Siler's wife, who secretly stashed a tape recorder in the kitchen before she was ordered to take her son and leave when the lawmen arrived in July.
"There had been other visits to their home by (deputies)," Anderson said when asked why Siler's wife decided to leave a recorder running.
An FBI transcript of that tape revealed the ordeal suffered by Siler at the hands of Webber and co-defendants Samuel Franklin, Shayne Green, Joshua Monday and William Carroll.
The transcript shows that Siler was repeatedly beaten and also reveals that Monday pointed a gun at Siler and threatened to shoot him. Court records state that the lawmen also threatened to electrocute him and hooked to his body clips wired to a battery.
Atchley said Siler was beaten with a plastic baseball bat and threatened with a slapjack.
Siler repeatedly begged for mercy, but the beatings and threats continued, the transcript showed. Atchley said at Tuesday's hearing that the lawmen insist they tortured Siler in an attempt to get him to sign a form giving them permission to search his house.
In the plea agreement, Webber also acknowledges lying to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on July 19 in that agency's probe of Siler's complaint. He lied, Atchley wrote, "to cover up this incident and obstruct any investigation, state or federal, into it."
Webber, Franklin, Monday and Green are all charged in Campbell County Criminal Court with perjury for allegedly lying to TBI agents and official oppression for the attack on Siler. A grand jury declined to indict Carroll in the state case. However, District Attorney General Paul Phillips has said he will drop those state charges if the men receive prison terms.
Atchley said Webber, Franklin, Carroll and Green all face a maximum prison term of 10 years if convicted in the conspiracy. Monday is charged in a separate information with brandishing a firearm and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years.
Franklin is set to plead guilty today. Monday and Green are scheduled to plead guilty Thursday. A court date for Carroll has not been set.
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