Prosecutor drops title fraud charges against Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson [documents]Times Free Press
Chattanooga Times Free Press | Judy Walton | January 11th, 2018
A special prosecutor has dismissed all 12 felony counts against Bradley County, Tenn., Sheriff Eric Watson, who was due to be tried Jan. 22 on charges of forging automobile titles.
After the dismissal was announced Thursday morning, Watson said in a statement he was “thankful for the words of support and encouragement for the last 18 months, when I had to face the allegations and accusations that was made against me. I have maintained my faith in the judicial system to prove my innocence.”
He added, “It is the utmost importance to me that Bradley County residents know that employees at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office have consistently provided this community great law-enforcement services throughout this ordeal.”
Watson was charged with having or using forged titles for six cars he bought in Florida and sold in Tennessee in 2016.
However, Jimmy Dunn, district attorney in the 4th Judicial District, said he decided to dismiss the charges after Watson’s attorney provided proof the sheriff paid local taxes on the vehicles, a wholly new issue in the case.
Up to now, the state’s case only alleged Watson, who had a car salesman’s license, wrote in the name of the dealership he worked for after his own signature on the titles. He needed to go through the dealership because he’d already transferred the maximum number of cars he could sell without a dealers’ license.
Dunn’s statement said the “crux of the state’s case” was that after Watson brought the cars to Tennessee, he “made alterations to the titles of these vehicles and failed to pay certain taxes and fees required by law … ”
He said Watson’s attorney, James F. Logan Jr., gave his office documents on Dec. 29 proving Watson paid the taxes and fees on Dec. 13, 2016.
That was 11 days after the Times Free Press emailed Watson asking for proof that he had registered and paid taxes on the cars he bought in August 2016, and nine days after the newspaper printed a story detailing the car purchases and sales.
Dunn said that “even though there may be technical violations of the law, the spirit of the law seeks to punish fraudulent conduct” to evade taxes. ” … Since Sheriff Watson rectified this failure prior to the seeking of the [charges] this case will be closed with a dismissal of the case on all counts.”…”