Grand jury declines to charge Pigeon Forge officers

Three were fired after talk of killing
Jul. 09, 2013 @ 06:45 PM

District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn took evidence against three former Pigeon Forge Police offices before a grand jury Tuesday, but the grand jury declined to return a presentment against them.

Dunn and Pigeon Forge Police Chief Jack Baldwin were seen going into the grand jury room Tuesday morning. At the time, Dunn said he could not comment on a matter still under consideration before the grand jury.

Tuesday evening, Dunn confirmed that the grand jury was given evidence from the Pigeon Forge police department's investigation into Trinity Brown, Jefferson Thigpen and Michael Musgrove. The investigation  resulted in the dismissal of the officers.

Baldwin announced last week that he had fired the officers after a supervisor discovered a recorded conversation in which the three talked about killing Baldwin, other supervisors and the patrolmen from the morning shift.

When he made the announcement last week, Baldwin said that he had taken the case to Dunn and to the federal district attorney general’s office, and that both had declined to prosecute. However, Dunn said Tuesday that he had told Baldwin that he wasn’t sure the charges met the legal definition of conspiracy.

“Even though they were sitting there talking about killing people... we haven’t found there was any overt action taken,” Dunn said.

The federal office issued a statement saying it does not comment on pending investigations or confirm or deny their existence.

State law is explicit that “no person may be convicted of conspiracy to commit an offense, unless an overt act in pursuance of the conspiracy is alleged and proven to have been done by the person or by another with whom the person conspired.”

In the recording, taken from a microphone mounted with the dash cam of one of the officers, the three can be heard talking about supervisors and members of the day shift, and about the idea of shooting them at the police department, and how they might got about it.

The three released a statement last week saying that they were upset by the way the department handled their case, that they didn’t deserve to be fired, and that the case shouldn’t have been brought to the public’s attention.

The officers' attorney, Steven Marshall, could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Dunn, talking about the case for the first time Tuesday, said he was aware that many people have questioned whether the three should have been charged with conspiracy after officials heard the recording, and that some have claimed that the three weren’t being prosecuted because they were police officers.

“We have to prosecute using the law,” he said. “No matter what we want it to be, or what we think it out to be.”

Dunn indicated that a charge of official misconduct against the officers was considered. He would have needed to convince the panel that there was sufficient evidence that the officers committed an act related to their office that constituted an unauthorized exercise of official power, or committed an act under color of office that exceeded their official power, or refrained from performing their duty, or violated a law related to their office.

Official misconduct charges can only be filed through a grand jury.

Baldwin, reached Tuesday evening, declined to comment on the matter.

A grand jury is a panel of randomly selected county residents who meet in private to review criminal allegations to determine whether there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed. A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence and does not review evidence from the defense; it decides whether the case should proceed to trial .

A new grand jury is selected every two months and meets to review allegations brought by law enforcement or private parties.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com