Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson, calling himself the “most thoroughly vetted sheriff” in the county’s history, delivered a statement of gratitude, humor and heart during his press conference …
Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson, calling himself the “most thoroughly vetted sheriff” in the county’s history, delivered a statement of gratitude, humor and heart during his press conference Friday morning as he addressed the decision of Fourth District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn to drop the charges which had been filed against him last July.
While the statement delivered thanks to his constituents, family and fellow law enforcement officers, it did deliver some blows to two people who Watson felt had led the attacks against him for the past two years: Bradley County Commissioner Dan Rawls, and a Chattanooga Times Free Press staff writer, Judy Walton.
He also took a moment to blast recent allegations against two other county government officials. Though he did not identify them by name, he was apparently referring to allegations made against Bradley County Court Clerk Gayla Miller and Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis. According to reports, these allegations were connected to 6th District Constable Dewayne Hicks.
Watson’s statement is reprinted here in its entirety:
“President Ronald Reagan once said, ‘Facts are stubborn things.’
He was right then and that statement remains as true as ever today.
Facts are the cornerstone of law enforcement.
Facts are what proves guilt or innocence.
For two years, I have been subjected to rumors, innuendo, slander, allegations, charges and flat-out lies.
I have said from the beginning none of these are true, and I welcomed the chance for the facts to be made public — knowing they would prove my innocence.
I have said from the beginning these falsehoods were based not from wanting to do the right thing for the public good, but from the motivation of revenge, politics and self-interests.
Thursday at 11:04 a.m., my hopes were finally realized, as I always knew they would be, when General Dunn released his decision to not pursue the case against me and drop all charges.
In doing so, he has put to an end for me and my family — as well as this county and sheriff’s office — this painful episode which has gone too far and too long.
I give all thanks and praise to God for his deliverance from this episode.
My distractors have been quick to criticize my open faith, but I stood by Him just as He promised to stand by me. Just as I have tried to keep my promises to Him, He has once again kept his promise to me and my willingness to say “In God We Trust” has never been stronger.
I want to thank General Dunn and his staff which, throughout this case, has been nothing but professional in their manner and process.
We work on the same side of the street in law enforcement, and I understand how difficult it must be to be called upon to enter into the determination as to whether one of their own is breaking the law.
Taking the oath as a law enforcement officer is a sacred one, which comes with a high standard of trust, morals and honesty.
It is the same one I took when I entered the field and uphold proudly to this very day.
Sometimes justice comes hard and slow, but the judicial system does work and this ordeal has only hardened my faith in its operations.
I want to thank my legal counsel, James Logan, for the countless hours and work he delivered in helping me to see this case through to the outcome we always believed would be the final decision.
Then, to the men and women of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
The people out there who pay your salaries, salaries that in no way match your service to them, will never know the superior and unmatched dedication you have in protecting them, even during a time when the department under which you serve has come under such unfair attacks and criticism.
You are nothing short of remarkable. I am proud to be your sheriff. I stand prouder to be your colleague in law enforcement. I am aware the historic successes this department has seen over the past few years is because of the work you do.
Through your efforts, in 2016 alone, this department has received more awards and recognitions from the local, state and federal levels than ever before in its history. I will defend you and support you any day, anywhere, anytime.
To the people of Bradley County, I frankly owe you a debt that can never be repaid.
From the start of this, all of the letters, cards, emails, and good wishes yelled across the street that were so full of love, prayers and support kept me going when the days got long.
I always knew how many votes I got. Now I know how many friends I have.
My occupation before I became sheriff, and will be after I leave that office, is that of son, brother, husband and father.
First, to my loving wife Tennille, who never asked to become front-page fodder and have her character so viciously assassinated. If I ever loved you before, that love is now where it cannot even be measured. You have withstood the fire, and came out stronger. But there is no way you could be any better nor could I love you anymore.
I thank our children who found themselves having to grow up just a little faster than any of us planned. These have been rough days for you, but you always made the rough days better for the parents who love you more than you will ever know.
Last, but not least, I thank my parents.
They will probably be the first to tell you their “Little Eric” wasn’t always the easiest. But I will never let them say I didn’t work the hardest and gave them the love and respect they deserve. You can never payback unconditional love.
Now, let’s get to those “stubborn facts.” But, these are about my accusers, mainly two — Commissioner Dan Rawls and Judy Walton from the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Frankly, I lost track of everything the commissioner has tried to accuse me of. He’s had me investigated by almost every agency except the Warren Commission.
But I do know this. When it comes to the credibility of Commissioner Dan Rawls, let me quote from the chancellor who ruled against him last year in a $25,000 personal lawsuit filed against him and the business he runs:
‘Judging the credibility of the parties, the court will note Rawls produced no documents related to this project. He kept no receipt books, even though he knew for years this case was involved in a lawsuit. He knew the paint job on the automobile was expensive [and] produced no waiver signed by the customer. Therefore, he is responsible for the damage to the paint.’
This ruling speaks of the man who continuously preaches documentation and fiduciary responsibility and practiced total hypocrisy in accusing me of lacking the very practices a court ruled he has lacked in his own business.
As for Ms. Walton and the tabloid she works for, they never failed to trumpet it was their investigative skills that led to the charges that were eventually filed against me.
Well, the facts here really turned out to be stubborn. These were facts they either cared not to find or their stellar investigative skills failed to find.
I wouldn’t hire them to investigate the death of a house cat.
And, this tabloid needs to start looking in their own backyard.
Bradley County is sick and tired of a publication that only seeks the bad in what is a county full of good things and good people.
Even more disturbing is she was assisted in this charade by a Bradley County commissioner, wasting both time and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars — two things that commissioner was happy to accuse me of doing.
I understand how I, as an elected official, can be a target. But when it comes to how they affected my family, I am diligently researching the potential of going through the judicial system in which I believe to repair the damage they have so wrongly suffered.
I hope the people of Bradley County rise up and put an end to the types of muckraking we have seen. The call must go out strong there will be no more tolerance for these rumor mills and gossip fests. We are better than that. We are, as Mayor Davis would say, “Tennessee at its best.”
I now leave to spend some time with my family, take a deep breath, and then get right back to work doing what the people of this county elected me to do.
And I offer this reminder, in May, the people of Bradley County will be able to re-elect the most thoroughly vetted sheriff in its history. One that has served through good times and bad and, as almost every agency and commission in the state has now confirmed, has never, ever let you down.”
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