Former Washington County sheriff’s son fired from department

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JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Nearly three years after video captured him slapping an arrestee in handcuffs, the former Washington County sheriff’s son has been terminated from the department.

Former Lt. Eddie Graybeal, the son of former Sheriff Ed Graybeal, had been working as a maintenance custodian making $28 an hour at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office after the state denied a conviction waiver requesting his transition back to a non-civilian job.

Chief Deputy Leighta Laitinen confirmed that Eddie Graybeal was terminated on Monday after the Tennessee Corrections Institute determined that he could not work in the jail.

A copy of Graybeal III’s termination letter and Laitinen’s email exchange with the TCI director.

“He’s not eligible to work in the facility around inmates,” Laitinen said. “In the position he was in, he had two inmates all day long up in the jail supervising them. He’s got to meet the same qualifications as every other employee in the facility has to meet.”

Graybeal was caught on video slapping a handcuffed detainee in November 2018, which led a grand jury to indict him on charges of assault, official misconduct, and official oppression. He pleaded guilty to simple assault while the other charges were dropped in May 2020 and was sentenced to a year of probation.

“I brought him in my office and talked to him about my concerns with the TCI and the TCA standard to work in the jail — he would require a waiver at the time from the TCI board from the assault charge that is still on his criminal history,” Laitinen said. “After I talked with TCI, they said it’s not an [waivered] offense. TCI’s board has never waived an assault for someone to work. It’s a pre-employment requirement.”

Just a few days after he pleaded guilty, Graybeal was transferred to a civilian position within the sheriff’s office.

“I don’t want to be disrespectful to the former sheriff in any way, but I did not agree with his decision to not terminate his son,” Laitinen said. “I understand how hard that would have been, but it was not the decision I would have made.

“I would have terminated him like we have done everyone else. There would have been no transfer. It just would have ended with the charge.”

According to records, Graybeal was reassigned to maintenance effective Aug. 2.

Longtime Sheriff Ed Graybeal retired at the end of August.

“When the sheriff retired, I knew then the responsibility was on my shoulders to do the right thing and at least look into it because I did have concerns that he was not eligible to work in the facility,” Laitinen said. “That was his policy and his decision. I would hope that the public would see that I’m trying to right a wrong and that I’m trying to reinstate some integrity in this department and bring the morale back up.

“This hurt the morale of this department. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. It’s black and white.”

The email from the TCI director also said that the agency’s appointing authority, which is now Chief Deputy Laitinen, could have been charged with a Class A misdemeanor and given a fine if the situation was not corrected. 

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