- Law Cases
by Sharon Rondeau
(Feb. 22, 2011) — George Raudenbush, a missionary with the group Appalachian Youth Missions and Tennessee Christian Citizens Against Corruption (TNCCC), was released from the Monroe County, TN jail on Friday, February 18, 2011 on $25,000 bond following his arrest on December 30, 2010.
He was arrested the same day on which Walter Fitzpatrick was released.
Raudenbush reported that Officer Brian Millsaps used excessive force when Millsaps confronted the missionary on the evening of December 30, 2010 in Tellico Plains. Millsaps has a history of police brutality using excessive force which eventually resulted in the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department firing him. However, Millsaps was later hired by the Tellico Plains Police Department, which is independent of the Monroe County Sheriff’s office.
A retired captain and chaplain from the U.S. Army, Mr. Jim Hutchins, reportedly attempted to obtain copies of the arrest reports of Mr. Raudenbush but stated at a Tellico Plains board meeting that he was “tossed out of the building” and “mistreated” after requesting them. The local newspaper, The Advocate & Democrat, stated of Hutchins’ complaint: “When Mayor Powers tried to speak to Hutchins and clarify details, Hutchins asked him not to interrupt him because he had been given the floor and got more wordy, name-calling members of the police department. Powers stopped him and told him he was in a board meeting and that he would be civilized while speaking.”
The Post & Email obtained the reports from Ms. Martha Cook, Chief Clerk at the Monroe County courthouse.
Originally Raudenbush had stated that he did not plan on bonding out of the Monroe County jail because he had wanted the opportunity to present evidence to the Monroe County grand jury to demonstrate his innocence and thereby compel his immediate release. However, the district attorney’s office obstructed Raudenbush’s motion to present evidence to the grand jury, as counsel for Mr. Raudenbush waited outside the jury room to give such evidence of Mr. Raudenbush’s innocence but grand jury forewoman, Faye Tennyson, told counsel that his testimony was not needed.
Of the obstruction, Raudenbush stated, “Representatives from the district attorney’s office knowingly and intentionally obstructed information to the grand jury which proved my innocence of these charges. The district attorney’s office uses this tactic to steer indictments misinforming jury’s’ of their rights. Court records reflect the District Attorneys office to have brought numerous frivolous charges without any validity against the Christian mission workers. Their is certainly an underlining agenda at the district attorneys office. On February 6, 2011, Raudenbush submitted an emergency request for a hearing on “obstruction of evidence to the grand jury.”
Raudenbush is an active member of Christian Citizens Against Corruption, an educational group whose work includes bringing an awareness of public corruption by distributing literature throughout east Tennessee. Mr. Raudenbush maintains that his arrest on December 30 was retaliation on the part of the Sheriff’s Department following Appalachian Youth Ministries’ report to the FBI of the seizure of a trailer which belonged to the Christian organization worth over $100,000. The trailer had incorrectly been identified as Raudenbush’s personal property.
Mr. Raudenbush told The Post & Email that when the Tennessee Corrections Institute inspected the jail for code violations in December 2010, they were shown only certain parts of the facility. He stated that while he was incarcerated, the temperature inside the jail fluctuated between 45 and 85 degrees, with many men falling ill during his incarceration. He reported that he was billed twice for medication which he never received, and that all he was given for coughing up blood was a decongestant.
Also reported was black mold in the vents through which air is circulated with no filters. In a cell designed for 16 beds, there were 40 inmates at any given time. Raudenbush stated that of those, at least one-third were sleeping on the floor on mattresses intended for temporary use only. This resulted in severe back pain for the majority of the inmates.
Daily fights among inmates would erupt when innocent people not yet tried were put in with convicted violent felons, which Raudenbush stated is a violation of Tennessee state code. Raudenbush stated that the violent offenders would often attack those brought in whose cases had not yet gone to trial. “The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department officials are very aware of this and continue to allow it to happen,” he said.
Of the $2,500 bond paid for his release, Raudenbush said, “Those accused of violent crimes such as armed robbery walk out on a $1000 bond. Why was my bond set so high when I was accused of failing to signal a turn and not wearing a seatbelt?” The bond paid was 10% of the entire bond of $25,000.
Editor’s Note: See the Tennessee Constitution, Article I, Section 16.
There were several additional charges against Mr. Raudenbush, who denied all charges in a previous interview on January 25, 2011.
Mr. Raudenbush also told The Post & Email that while in jail, he met a man who had filed a lawsuit against the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department whose hearing was last month. That and other details of his incarceration follow.
The first time I found out about this lawsuit was from another inmate in the Monroe County detention facility, and they provided me the name “Rodney Dillingham.” I actually had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Dillingham, and our legal team spoke with him as well. Mr. Dillingham explained to me that he had an incident with the same officer who violently attacked me. In his attack, he was left in critical condition. As the paramedics were treating neck and critical head wounds, this officer took out his taser gun and started tasering with high voltage electricity as he was strapped down to the stretcher and the paramedics were working to treat his injuries. The paramedic who was working on him was so appalled at the behavior of the officer that he confronted the officer and told him to back off. The officer refused to back off and repeatedly tasered Mr. Dillingham.
Mr. Dillingham retained an attorney. I believe the incident happened about four years ago, and they are actually settling the case this year. Mr. Dillingham was again incarcerated, and we believe it was a retaliatory measure from the sheriff because of the lawsuit. I believe it’s a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department when Brian Millsaps was a Monroe County Sheriff’s Department deputy. However, Mr. Millsaps was fired after the EMT personnel testified on Mr. Dillingham’s behalf.
The name of the attorney representing Mr. Dillingham is Keith Edmondson.
There is another multi-million-dollar lawsuit that came up this month. It involved a retired firefighter from Florida who had purchased a home in Madisonville. He is suing the Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Bill Bivens and the jail. The jailers actually stole money from him and then tried to place drugs on him. The man was arrested in February 2008, and reportedly there was over $1,100 in cash on his person which disappeared when they booked him in to the jail.
Reading from the news article, it says, “Mr. Thomas hired Knoxville attorney Ralph Harwell on February 2, 2009. The lawsuit, which also names Madisonville City and Monroe County, claims that not only was his arrest unwarranted, but the Monroe County jailers stole money from him during his 11-day incarceration.”
Editor’s Note: The link to the story from which Mr. Raudenbush was reading is dead, and the article does not appear to be available through Google Cache.
The article then continues on, saying, “They made up outlandish allegations against a senior citizen who attempted to make East Tennessee his home, and Mr. Thomas is presumed innocent.” It also goes on to say that Mr. Thomas repeats the far-fetched allegations and claims that he never gave anyone marijuana and never told them to come back and he would sell them more. So they made up a story. They do that around here to try to put that type of charge on an individual when there were no drugs involved at all. It’s a $1,500,000 lawsuit. The final pretrial conference was set for January 19, 2011, and the trial was set for January 25, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. So this took place last month.
There are several million-dollar lawsuits going on right now which involve Monroe County. There was another lawsuit which had the same situation we had where the sheriff stole private property and took it to his farm.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department will retaliate if you disclose information that could incriminate them. I’ve seen it inside the jail, and other inmates have warned me about it. Being in the jail was an opportunity not just to share my faith in Christ, but to learn even further of other atrocities and other people who have been victimized by the sheriff. There are quite a few people there who should not be there.
The thing I found out about Monroe County is that they bring these outlandish, outrageous charges, and then you have to spend thousands of dollars in proving that something didn’t happen. They have a procedure of doing this where they’re perjuring themselves, giving false and misleading information, to make money. And that’s what they’re doing.
One young man, Dimitrius, who is 18 years old, recounted his story to me of armed robbery. I believe his bond was only $10,000. He was riding in someone else’s car, and there was a BB gun in the trunk which was broken. He was charged with armed robbery because he told someone in the car to give him something. Because the gun was locked in the trunk, albeit broken, they charged him with armed robbery. Even without an eyewitness to anything, they can do this and get away with it because no one has held them accountable. So they’ve been enabled in this extortion, and they continue with it because no one has held them accountable, especially when you have attorneys and judges who are looking the other way and are entertaining this type of behavior. So everybody is making money. As long as everybody is making money, they’re not going to rock the boat. The issue is that they’ve been doing this primarily to poor people, people who can’t afford to pay. They let them out on parole for heinous crimes, then they pull them right back in again, and they know how much money they can extract each time. It’s a business, a huge business here.
There is no corrections here; there is no rehabilitation. These men are going through the system, surely just as a business to extract money from them. There have no desire to rehabilitate these people. They definitely want them coming back because there’s income and money that the sheriffs department is receiving from the state, the federal government, and from the families of these individuals through a commissary which is set up as a private, for-profit corporation directly benefiting the sheriff. Both the state and county have a responsibility to provide for an indigent person’s basic necessities, but they don’t do it. Instead, they’re forced to purchase it through the commissary, which is a private, for-profit corporation run by the sheriff.
I had expected to get out on a “no-bill” and not have to pay anything with the evidence. However, because of the obstruction of evidence to the grand jury by the district attorney’s office and his representatives, we were unable to get the no-bill, so we had to pay the bondsman. I’m not familiar with the arrangement that the bondsman has with the sheriff. All I know is the check was written out to the bondsman for my release for $2,500.
A $25,000 bond is for somebody who is a repeat offender, has a prior record in the county or state, and someone who has either committed a heinous crime or something involving banks and robberies. Twenty-five thousand dollars is not a bond for an individual who forgot to turn on his turn signal or whom they’re claiming had a suspended license. Anybody with a suspended license usually has a $1,200 bond, which means $120 to get out. They wanted to make it very difficult for me to bond out; they wanted to keep me there so they can continue making money, collecting money from the state and federal governments from my being there. That is called extortion under the RICO ACT.
Another reason to keep me there was so that I couldn’t work on my case. I couldn’t present evidence, and I wasn’t able to call an attorney because the phones were not working and they would often block certain calls. They’re in complete control, and they’re very aware of it. Officer Grande told me that on the orders of Captain Pat Wilson, “You’re not to make any phone calls; you’re not to receive them or to make them.” That is a human rights violation, and it’s a violation of the statute which regulates detention facilities in Tennessee. It’s very clear that all inmates at all times, unless they’re incapacitated or sleeping, are allowed to have access to a pay phone to be able to make calls, and that was not afforded to me. When I was given access to the phones, they were shut down; they did not work. So technically they could say, “Yes, we gave him access,” but they didn’t turn the phones on. What they don’t tell you is that the phones were not operable; they weren’t working.
I was in Cell 1, and another inmate climbed up and opened up the vent to specifically show me, because I did not believe what he had been telling me. He said, “There’s black mold in these vents, and we’re breathing it in.” So he went up there with the help of a couple of other inmates, and they removed the vent cover, and he put his hand, which was clean, inside the vent. When his hand came out, it looked as if it a was a furry mitten, as if he had put a furry mitten on his hand, and it was black. There was just a little bit of brown, but mostly black. When he tried to wiggle his fingers to get some of it to come down so I could see it, it was mold, for sure. It was dirt and mold. There are no filters whatsoever in any of the vents in the cells that I was in, and I was in six different cells while I was there for 51 days. When I looked inside the vent, the walls were just covered black with mold and dust. It was thick; it wasn’t just one-eighth of an inch. In some places it was a quarter-inch thick or more.
The information I got from inmates who had been there for over a year was that someone contacted the Tennessee Corrections Institute in advance of their inspection. The jailers give special amenities to the inmates there to do a super-cleaning, and it’s not the vents that they’re cleaning; it’s the floors, tidying up the living areas. They take anyone who’s sleeping on the floor off the floor; the food is switched out and they serve larger portions and fresher food when the inspectors come in. This is all information I’ve received from inmates who have been there for a year or have gone through that jail over the years. Everybody I interviewed there had stories which lined up when I interviewed them individually, so there was no way for one person to go to the other person and tell me his story. I interviewed people in different cells after I was transferred. I really feel that the information was credible, objective, and it was very appalling to hear the stories.
Even though I saw the evidence of the mold and the conditions were way below the state’s guidelines, I experienced it by becoming very sick with a serious viral infection, and for two or three days, I coughed up blood. Southern Health Partners is the company subcontracted by Monroe County to manage the medical treatment of the inmates. Representatives from Southern Health Partners downplayed my condition. The medical person there asked me, “Well, where’s the blood? Didn’t you save it in a napkin for me?” and I said, “Why would I save something in a napkin when I spit this stuff up in the toilet?” I said, “How can I save it in a napkin? And if I did save it in a napkin, it would be nine hours later.” So in the mornings, that’s what happened. It took me three days to get into a sick call, and I was so sick that I couldn’t even get off the floor where I was. I just lay there, I was so sick.
They have a responsibility not to put infected people into a population if they’re contagious, and they knowingly do this often. Their explanation is that they don’t have room. If they don’t have room, they shouldn’t bring them in and infect the whole population of that cell. Here’s the big catch on this: after you’re sick, they’re actually promoting the sickness. After you go to sick call, they charge for it. I was double-billed for the medication and never received it. That way, they can perpetuate the sickness and continue billing. That’s what I observed going on. I was told the charge to see the nurse was $5.00 a visit. Someone had come in and had anonymously put $25 on my account, unbeknownst to me. Southern Health Partners deducted most of that money for billing purposes when they are supposed to be providing free services to indigent inmates. I’m not sure exactly what they charge for the visit or the meds; however, they bill the state for the meds and for the visit and they also receive money from the state and the federal government to take care of indigent individuals. Even though you’re indigent, you’re still double-billed; they bill the state and then they bill you. But they double-billed me, so I don’t know if they double-billed the state or not, but they double-billed me.
Editor’s Note: See TCA 41-4-142 for fees that can be charged of inmates. Mr. Raudenbush reported that for the first 72 hours of his incarceration, he was put in a cell without running water and denied basic needs such as soap, toothpaste, and even food. He was also subjected to temperature deprivation conditioning.
They wanted to give me a Tylenol for the pain, and I said, “I don’t want to treat the symptoms; I need antibiotics.” There was one time in my life that I had gotten really sick and had almost died, and I felt as if I was getting close to that time. So at that point, the nurse just fluffed it off and said, “Well, we have a decongestant that we can give you.” I said, “My nose is not running. My throat is bleeding,” and she just gave me the decongestant and that was it. It appears as if they’re told that this is the only thing they can do. Southern Health Partners, is subcontracted by the county is supposed to have a doctor and a dentist on staff. I was there for 51 days, and I didn’t see a doctor or a dentist at any time, nor did I hear of one coming in.
There was one inmate who had a severe abscess in his mouth for six months. He reported the abscess as very painful and throbbing and the infection to have caused his teeth to loosen. Southern Health Partners would not treat his problem. That’s pretty serious when you have an infection in your jaw; it’s so easy to contract TMJ or for that infection to go into your brain and kill you. Any dentist whom I have ever been to has told me, “If you have an infection, do not hesitate; call, and we’ll get you in here right away.” The jailers had knowledge of this young man, this inmate, who had this infection for six months, and they had reported it to Southern Health Partners. He put in medical request after medical request after medical request, and he was an indigent, so they are required by law to take care of his medical needs.
From what I understand, one of their medical people had an inappropriate sexual relationship in the jail with an inmate, and she was let go from her position. There are a lot of unethical things going on there with that medical service. It’s very evident that people are not getting the proper medication; they’re not getting their medication, and speaking for myself, I was double-billed and did not get the medication.
The temperature in each cell fluctuates from extremely hot to extremely cold, and we know that the whole heating/air system does not meet the minimal state requirements. There’s no way that that system could meet it. The guards have stated to me that they cannot control the temperature in the separate compartments. I don’t know how true a statement that is; however, I know the inmates in the pod next to us said the temperature went up into the high 80s and possibly 90 in their compartment, and it got so bad, and people were so sick over there that they couldn’t even sleep. They were soaking wet in their prison uniforms, and they just started smashing cameras, windows, lights; they smashed the TV. The conditions were so stressful and they were pushed to their limits. The environment actually caused a lot of them to snap and lose their rationale. They destroyed the compartment. Cell 1 did the same thing, but they lowered the temperature there down into the 40s, and they got to the point where they couldn’t take it because everybody was so sick. When you have that type of temperature deprivation, it pushes people over the edge.
I don’t believe those men are responsible for what they did. They were pushed, forced into their actions. I’m not agreeing with what they did, but I’m saying that because I was there and I experienced it, these individuals were pushed beyond their human limits of enduring those situations. Under the World Health Organization, if prisoners are being mistreated in a detention facility and there are human rights violations and those individuals have no way of communicating with the outside, especially when the phones are not working and you can’t call out to get help, those individuals were forced into acts of desperation. They were pushed into that extreme behavior because of their environment and circumstances. I don’t believe you can hold anyone liable for that behavior under those conditions according to international law, the World Health Organization, and human rights laws.
I lost 20 pounds in 50 days. The sum of $2,500 was borrowed to bond me out, and I am responsible to reimburse that money.
Editor’s Note: See Tennessee Constitution, Article I, Section 13.
The Post & Email then asked Mr. Raudenbush:
One of the duties of a grand jury is to oversee the conditions of the local detention facility. Do you have any idea if any grand jury member has gone through the jail recently and seen the conditions?
Mr. Raudenbush answered:
I can tell you, from what I experienced, that if the grand jury was allowed into the jail, I think it would be only in certain cells that were already prepped. This is only my personal belief, but I don’t believe that they would allow them to see the negative situations. That would only incriminate county officials, and I don’t think that they would allow that.
Mr. Raudenbush quoted a local newspaper, “The Buzz,” as having stated in its February 15, 2011 edition:
Raudenbush is believed to be a convicted felon who has served time in prison on gun and theft charges.
In response, Mr. Raudenbush said, “This is completely false information, and they know this information is false. It is the intent of “The Buzz” newspaper, which supports the sheriff’s department, to intentionally steer the public into believing something other than the truth. As a Christian journalist, I understand this tactic, and it is designed to discredit my testimony which directly exposes criminal activity within the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.”
Editor’s Note: Donations to help defray the amount of Mr. Raudenbush’s bond loaned to him by a private individual can be made to:
P.O. Box 154
Tellico Plains, TN 37385
© 2011, The Post & Email. All rights reserved.
Tags: Appalachian Youth Ministries, Attorney Ralph Harwell, FBI, George Raudenbush, Geroge Raudenbush, Jim Hutchins, Martha Cook, Monroe County Sheriff's Department, Officer Brian Millsaps, Rodney Dillingham, Sheriff Bill Bivens, Tellico Plains Police Department, Tennessee Code Annotated, Tennessee constitution, Tennessee Corrections Institute, The Buzz, TNCCC, Walter Fitzpatrick