Washington County sheriff's son charged with official misconduct in wake of slap

Johnson City Press • Updated Nov 6, 2019 at 2:42 PM

A Washington County deputy shown on video slapping a handcuffed inmate was indicted on assault and official misconduct charges, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported Wednesday.

Lt. Edwin “Eddie” Graybeal, son of Sheriff Ed Graybeal, was booked into the Washington County Detention Center and later released under $3,000 bond.

Graybeal was also indicted on an official oppression charge, according to documents obtained by the Press. The official oppression and misconduct charges are both Class E felonies, the least-serious felony in Tennessee, and can result in a prison sentence between one and six years and a $3,000 fine. The assault charge is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. 

The charges resulted from a Nov. 10, 2018, situation apparently recorded on another deputy’s body camera. The video, which was sent to a local television station earlier this year, showed the deputy slapping handcuffed William H. Rawls, 30, in the Detention Center’s sally port.

The Johnson City Press filed an open records request for the body camera footage of the encounter, but Chief Deputy Leighta Laitinen said the Sheriff’s Office no longer had a copy of the video, as body cam footage is deleted after 60 days due to storage space issues. She also said previous attempts to recover the recording were unsuccessful.

On Sept. 19, 1st Judicial District Attorney General Ken Baldwin announced he had asked the Nashville District Attorney's General Conference to appoint a special prosecutor to review the case, and 7th District Attorney General Dave Clark was soon appointed.

Clark brought in the TBI to investigate on Sept. 20.

In a news release, the TBI said Wednesday the Washington County Grand Jury had returned the three indictments for Eddie Graybeal. He was due to appear in the next session of Washington County Criminal Court.

Sheriff Ed Graybeal could not be immediately reached for comment.

The slap happened after Rawls was taken to the Detention Center on a charge that he resisted arrest. Rawls also had an active warrant taken out against him in Blount County. Deputy Tim Moore wrote in his report, dated Nov. 10 at 3 a.m., that Rawls became combative after officers took him into custody and was kicking the cruiser’s window but did not cause any damage. Deputies had been initially dispatched to a 911 call about an intoxicated man trying to start a fight at 346 Conklin Road in Jonesborough.

In September, Laitinen said Eddie Graybeal had self-reported the slap, and Graybeal’s supervisor, Maj. Mark Page, reviewed his record — which she described as “stellar” — and found no previous allegations of misconduct. A Press review of his personnel file also did not find any allegations of previous misconduct.

Eddie Graybeal was given a written reprimand and was instructed to review the department’s use of force policy.

Tennessee Code Annotated 39-16-403 defines official oppression as when a public servant acting under color of office or employment commits an offense who:

(1) Intentionally subjects another to mistreatment or to arrest, detention, stop, frisk, halt, search, seizure, dispossession, assessment or lien when the public servant knows the conduct is unlawful; or

(2) Intentionally denies or impedes another in the exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power or immunity, when the public servant knows the conduct is unlawful.

TCA 39-16-402 defines official misconduct as a public servant commits an offense who, with intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another, intentionally or knowingly:

(1) Commits an act relating to the servant's office or employment that constitutes an unauthorized exercise of official power;

(2) Commits an act under color of office or employment that exceeds the servant's official power;

(3) Refrains from performing a duty that is imposed by law or that is clearly inherent in the nature of the public servant's office or employment;

(4) Violates a law relating to the public servant's office or employment; or

(5) Receives any benefit not otherwise authorized by law.