Attorney says lieutenant who slapped handcuffed man can still be charged

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- The son of Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal Jr., who slapped a man in handcuffs while on duty, was never charged but a local attorney says that could change.

Chief Deputy Leighta Laitinen confirmed Monday that Lt. Eddie Graybeal III self-reported slapping William Rawl, 30, at the Washington County Detention Center on November 10, 2018.

According to department records, Rawl was intoxicated and combative. Laitinen said he ultimately pleaded guilty to evading and resisting arrest.

MORE: Video shows lieutenant, son of local sheriff, slapping handcuffed man

Mac Meade, criminal defense attorney for Meade Law Group in Johnson City, said this incident meets the legal definition of assault after viewing a video from that night sent anonymously to News Channel 11.

Johnson City Attorney Mac Meade sits down with Reporter Jackie DeFusco.

“Absolutely, an open hand slap clearly fits the definition,” said Meade. “I wouldn’t expect any special treatment because he is a police officer.”

“The key is whether a reasonable person would find the contact to be extremely offensive or provocative in order to obtain a conviction.”

Meade said Lt. Graybeal could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.

“It’s the most significant misdemeanor you can get in the state of Tennessee,” he said. “The maximum punishment is 11 months and 29 days of usually some combination of jail time and probation. Typically somebody who has got a clean record would be sentenced to supervised probation for that period of time.”

News Channel 11 reviewed Lt. Graybeal’s personnel file, documenting memos, evaluations and disciplinary records throughout his 24-year career, and found no similar incidents.

Laitinen said that’s why he was issued a letter of counseling as a warning, instead of facing suspension or assault charges.

Plus, she said Rawl was not seriously injured.

Meade said, “There’s body camera footage of the assault occurring. Even if the victim does not want to go forward with it or doesn’t care, the state of Tennessee can and does prosecute those cases.”

Leslie Earhart, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said the District Attorney would have to request an investigation and choose to press charges.

Washington County DA Kenneth Baldwin was not available for an interview Tuesday.

His office said he wasn’t aware of the incident until News Channel 11 called Monday.

Laitinen said the department didn’t refer the matter to an outside agency because Lt. Graybeal self-reported the incident and the video validated his admission.

News Channel 11 asked the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department about what they would do in a “use of force” case.

Lt. Jim McCready said, “Normally if we have a use of force that’s reviewed and determined that it could be criminal then it’s referred to the District Attorney’s Office so that an outside agency can look at it.”

McCready said this makes the process more objective.

Laitinen said Monday the department has no intention of revising its initial actions.

Sheriff Graybeal and Rawl have not returned News Channel 11’s request for comment.

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