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by Sharon Rondeau

The Cocke County Courthouse is located in Newport, TN northeast of Sevier County

(Feb. 7, 2011) — Several weeks ago, The Post & Email first reported on the case of a minor child who sustained serious gunshot wounds inflicted by a neighbor who was neither indicted by the county grand jury nor prosecuted for the crime.

The shooting occurred in Sevier County, TN.  The victim’s mother has contacted Governor Bill Haslam, who took office last month following his election on November 2, 2010.  The Post & Email has also faxed a letter to the governor and will be following up this week with his media contact, Mr. David Smith.

The child’s mother has reported that her daughter’s case has been assigned to Judge Ben W. Hooper following the recusal of the judge originally scheduled to preside, Rex Henry Ogle.  Hooper works for the Fourth Judicial District in Tennessee as well as the Circuit Court located in Newport, TN.  According to the victim’s mother, Ogle recused himself on December 7, 2010, the day after she filed a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator at the office of the Sevier County clerk.  No court date has been set as of this writing.

Cocke County has reportedly been the focus of both federal and state investigations into public corruption and various crimes dating back several decades.

Judge Hooper reportedly administered the oath of office to Sevier County District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn, whom the victim’s mother has reported failed to prosecute the man who fired shots at her daughter.  Hooper had been accused of revoking an FBI agent’s license to issue bonds after the agent had refused to accede to an alleged extortion scheme.   He was also accused of launching a probe by the FBI, TBI and the IRS against a Sessions Court judge who had himself been accused of granting favors to a family-owned probation-supervisory company.

The child’s mother has told The Post & Email that District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn “selectively prosecutes” and has a “reputation for allowing the politically ‘elite’ to go free.”  She has also said that she has been requesting records pertaining to her daughter’s case and has been stonewalled by public officials for months.  Local news coverage of the incident reported that the suspected shooter did not have his gun permit revoked as per Tennessee law because the authorities did not notify the Department of Safety of his arrest.  Mrs. Gebhardt had to contact the DOS herself in order to have the alleged perpetrator’s carry permit suspended.

The Daily Beast reports that Tennessee is the most corrupt state in the nation.  The Post & Email has been investigating corruption in Monroe County, which is two counties removed from Sevier County, where the child was shot.

A recent report states that a person arrested in Sevier County for drunk driving charges “fell ill,” was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support with a poor prognosis.

A citizen on a discussion forum accuses the editor of The Mountain Press of refusing to publish comments which expose the alleged “good old boy” connections in Sevier County.  Someone claiming to be Stan Voit, the editor of The Mountain Press, responded:

I am the man in charge, and you are a nothing. You never have anything of value to say. You are obviously insane. Nobody in their right mind would spend every waking hour venting hatred like you do. I could not post this in the mtn press, but by god I can do it here without losing my job.

Update, February 8, 2011: The Post & Email received a communication from Stan Voit this morning which stated:

I am Stan Voit, editor of The Mountain Press, the daily newspaper in Sevier County, Tenn. I have never posted comments on Topix and never would. A local wacko sometimes does and uses my name. This is an individual we have banned from posting on our website. Your story attributes comments to me based on what was posted on a website in which people can post anonymously or use whatever name they want to. I encourage you to delete the reference to me in the story. It is false.

Name: Stan Voit
Email: editor@themountainpress.com
Phone: 865-428-0746
Company: The Mountain Press
Website: themountainpress.com

And The Post & Email responded:

Hello, Mr. Voit, I was very careful to say that someone claiming to be you posted that comment.  I will be happy to add the comment you just sent me to the story and appreciate hearing from you directly.

Would you care to make a statement about the alleged corruption in Sevier County, particularly the case of the child who was shot by a neighbor and whose mother is seeking justice?

Sharon Rondeau
The Post & Email, Inc. www.thepostemail.com

Voit wrote an editorial advocating that Dunn not recuse himself from hearing a case because of a possible conflict of interest based on his prior acquaintance with the accused.

Another comment left following the article about the man taken into custody reads:

Why would we blindly trust Sheriffs Seals” comment at all? If indeed, this inmate were “evading arrest” and “uncooperative through the whole process”, does this mean, a reasonable person would believe, that the officers there would simply stand by and do nothing? I don’t think so. I do hope all of the minutes that this man was in custody is on tape, and that there are no breaks in the tape, in which the inmate is out of sight, as this would signify potential wrong doing on the part of someone or several someones. There are too many oddities that occur in this jail and it requires much more than research or investigation from the TBI, it in fact, requires a federal investigation and possibly federal intervention. Perhaps the editor, will remove or censure this comment, as it seems that anything that does not shed light favorably on the sheriffs office or other county authorities, is removed. This is possibly to keep tourists from knowing what really goes on in this area.

A citizen group which advocates openness in government in Sevier County cites the Tennessee constitution as the foundation “to reform the government of Sevier County for the betterment of the people of Sevier County.”  The website also calls upon the Sevier County District Attorney, Jimmy Dunn, “to rectify wrongs done by Sevier County public officials.”  The same watchdog group has filed three lawsuits against Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters over a change in rules which the organization and an attorney who is also a county commissioner “criticized the new rules at the commission’s May meeting and told commissioners any action taken could violate Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act.”

There have been reports of police brutality involving tasers in Monroe County, but Sevier County Sheriff Ron Seals denied that similar treatment caused the new inmate to require hospitalization.  Seals stated that the man had been uncooperative but also that “There was no incident, no scuffle or fight.”  A report from the same publication dated February 7, 2011 stated that the man had died in the hospital.

Other stories of Tennessee police brutality can be found here but are as yet unconfirmed by The Post & Email.

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  1. Anytime a person shoots another person while that person is on their private property and there are witnesses and proof. I see no reason why some serious jail time would not be in order! I know if it was a kid in Texas, this guy would not just be walking around, and definitely would not still be in posession of his gun (or life probably). You just don’t go around shooting other people’s kids in Texas, the people wouldn’t allow it! I tell her keep on!

  2. Why won’t the FEDs step in? People are losing faith fast in our local justice system. Our justice system is running rampant with legalized extortion and selective justice. It is time we demand accountability of the evidence presented to a grand jury. We must protect our Patriots and children of Patriots from selective prosecution and extortion.
    Mrs. Rondeau replies: Yes, and if we can get one grand jury to assume its Fifth Amendment responsibility, then we can begin to turn back the corruption of the judiciary by putting the power back in the hands of the people.

  3. What are we teaching our children when someone can mistreat, by shooting, a child and continue to walk free! Will sweeping facts under the carpet teach children to respect the law and desire to live as a law abiding citizen. What stress this county has allowed to continue for this family. After the time that has passed, the legal officials look to be as guilty as the shooter!
    Given the amount of tourist traffic that passes through this county, maybe it would smart to caution visitors in planning trips to this area.
    From: A Marriage and Family Therapist

  4. It makes me sick that a child got shot, and no one did anything!! It is wrong on so many levels that her mother has to go through all this, just to get some justice!! What is wrong with you people! The guy that did this should be in jail. And as far as I am concerned, the corrupting is sickening!! These people are sworn to uphold the LAW, an they are doing NOTHING! Justice needs to be served!! Someone NEEDS to do something about this rampant corruption!!

  5. There is justice and then there is southern justice. There is law and then there is Sevier county law. Dunn and the rest of the crew there needs to realize that the shooting of a child is not a white collar crime.
    From what I have read and know about this matter, there is more involved though than the cover up from the district attorneys office. It also involves the falsities under oath committed by the sheriffs office in the grand jury proceedings. Who would not indict the shooting of a child in two places?
    Based upon what I know to be true, you could not pay me to live there. I know this mother and she is opinionated and passionate but she is no nut and I think they have bit off more than they can chew.