State commission denies Ed Graybeal III’s request for conviction waiver

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – A state commission has denied former Washington County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Eddie Graybeal’s request for a conviction waiver related to assaulting an arrestee in November 2018. The vote was 7-4.

Graybeal, who is Sheriff Ed Graybeal’s son, won’t be able to transition back to a non-civilian job. The waiver was required in order for him to be recertified and return to the duties he performed prior to the November 10, 2018 assault going public in September 2019 after a video of it was provided to News Channel 11.

Graybeal’s actions resulted in an assault charge – which came after News Channel 11 reported on the incident, during which Graybeal slapped handcuffed inmate William Rawls – in 2019.  

Eddie Graybeal was indicted in early November 2019 on charges of assault, official misconduct and official oppression. He pleaded guilty to simple assault in May 2020, while the other charges were dropped.

A video still shows then Lt. Eddie Graybeal, left, and prisoner William Rawls just before Graybeal slapped laws in November 2018.

Graybeal, who after a suspension was transferred to a civilian job within the WCSO, completed probation in May of this year.

Tennessee’s Peace Officer Standard and Training (POST) Commission heard the “waiver for pre-employment requirements” at its monthly meeting Friday morning. 

Both Sheriff Ed Graybeal and Eddie Graybeal were present, as was Graybeal’s attorney Lawrence Counts.

After lengthy questioning and a review of the video, commissioners voted 7-4 in favor of Commissioner Lowell Russell’s motion to deny Graybeal’s request.

“I didn’t see any aggressive action from the prisoner,” Russell said seconds after the video ended. “I make a motion to disapprove the waiver.”

Counts stepped forward to ask about an appeal and was told that would need to be lodged in Washington County Chancery Court.

Eddie Graybeal began working for the WCSO in 1995. Ed Graybeal became sheriff in 2003.

Both Graybeals testify – commissioners’ opinions, questions vary widely

The hearing covered quite a bit of ground with both Graybeals answering several questions.

Commissioners’ approaches varied. Lowell Russell was the most vocal with more difficult questions. Brent Cherry, one of four votes against Russell’s motion to deny the waiver, was the most verbally supportive of Graybeal.

Eddie Graybeal testifies at his waiver hearing.

The hearing began with Sheriff Graybeal recounting how he wasn’t informed of the incident until after it became public. He said after internal disciplinary action and completing his sentence, Eddie Graybeal — who had been a lieutenant prior to the revelation of the assault — deserved a return to certification.

“Everything that the court asked him to do he’s done and completed and he’s working in a civilian position for me now and that’s the reason we’re down here — to ask if we can get recertified,” the sheriff said.

Eddie Graybeal reviewed the night he slapped Rawls for commissioners. He said Rawls had been in the custody of two of Graybeal’s subordinates and they’d called him about a “very unruly subject.”

Rawls was still combative when he was brought into the sally port, a safe holding area.

“As I approached him to grab him in an escort position and take him in the jail it happened so fast,” Graybeal said.

“I knew the second that I did it I shouldn’t have done it,” Graybeal said. “I slapped him on the side of the face with my right hand and kind of distracted him for a second and I grabbed him by the arm and took him in the jail and that was it.”

Eddie Graybeal also referenced the other officers’ presence.

“I knew at the time I shouldn’t have done that, especially with two of my officers with me, and the next morning I called my supervisor,” he said.

Graybeal said he reported the incident, and the major over him reprimanded him and had him review the general orders on the use of force.

Commissioner Russell asked Eddie Graybeal whether law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard then the general public, and supervisors to an even higher one. Graybeal said yes.

At that point Russell said “I’m all for giving people a break, but this being less than two years (after the conviction) I just can’t (support recertification).”

Cherry had a much different opinion. He referenced a current public scrutiny of police and said in his opinion that had resulted in “a knee jerk reaction that an officer does something bad you’ve got to crucify them. I think that’s completely out of bounds.”

Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal testifies at Eddie Graybeal’s certification waiver hearing July 16.

Sheriff Graybeal said he didn’t learn of the matter until the video surfaced. He said not long after that, someone from District Attorney Ken Baldwin’s office brought over a couple of press releases, but no one attempted to talk directly with him.

“He was doing his job, and I just wish he had dropped the memos off and hollered at me, but he just dropped them off at the front desk and left,” Ed Graybeal said.

Ed Graybeal spoke of Rawls and about use of force in a couple instances, giving the impression that Rawls wasn’t that concerned about the incident himself.

“The guy wasn’t hurt, didn’t have anything wrong with him,” Sheriff Graybeal said. “He didn’t even file a complaint against us or anything. We’re accredited so we have all that they can do. So the first time that we – that I heard about it was when the video played.”

Ed Graybeal defended Eddie Graybeal’s work history. In response to a question about likely public perception if Eddie Graybeal were to be recertified, the sheriff said there were people in the community who wanted him to pursue recertification and that he was a model citizen who volunteered at his church, the volunteer fire department and coached baseball.

“I think it may well have been because I’m sheriff,” Graybeal said of the video being leaked.

‘Trooper Looper taught the slap’

The fact that Eddie Graybeal had delivered an open-handed slap was the subject of some discussion.

When asked whether the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) had been brought in to investigate following the video surfacing, Ed Graybeal affirmed and then brought up the nature of the strike against Rawls.

“It was open-handed smack, wasn’t with a closed fist, it wasn’t any of that,” Ed Graybeal said.

He continued, seeming to suggest that the action his son had used could be seen as appropriate.

“You might remember a fellow down here at the academy called Trooper Looper,” the sheriff said. “At that time, Trooper Looper actually taught that as a diversion to somebody who wanted to fight.”

Russell pressed the matter.

“Sheriff, was the prisoner restrained when the lieutenant slapped him?” Russell asked.

“Yes sir,” Sheriff Graybeal said. “He was restrained, and it’s my understanding, through the civil lawsuit not the criminal lawsuit, that (Rawls) lunged. When he made the lunge, Eddie smacked him.”

Russell then asked if use of a an open-handed slap had been taught to the sheriff.

“Trooper Looper taught the slap,” Ed Graybeal responded.

Commissioner Cherry had a much different take.

“I’m not sure if this was an incorrect action,” Cherry said. “Maybe it didn’t fit the manual, but I don’t think it fits decertifying someone, depriving someone of their livelihood after so many years of service that’s been exemplary in leadership positions. For that reason, I think this waiver should be approved.”

Cherry also asked if Eddie Graybeal, who had no record, had been offered judicial diversion that would presumably have left his record clean.

Graybeal said he hadn’t, adding “that kind of threw me for a little bit of a loop that I couldn’t get diversion.”

Cherry later said he would have approached Graybeal’s case differently.

By the way, if I was the district attorney on this case, I don’t think I would have brought charges, and if I did, I certainly would have supported judicial diversion,” he said.

After commissioners viewed a recording of the initial News Channel 11 story and voted, Chairman Chad Partin said the case could potentially be reviewed again.

“I’m sorry sheriff, but this is where we’re at,” Partin said.

News Channel 11 has emailed Sheriff Graybeal asking if he plans to appeal the denial in chancery court.