Pubdate: Mon, 24 Apr 2006
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2006 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: J.J. Stambaugh


Ex-Cocke Deputy To Be Sentenced Today; Family Says He Used To Be Good

According to his relatives and friends, Larry Joe Dodgin was once an
upright law enforcement officer and devoted father whose sense of
right and wrong was twisted by the years he spent working at the Cocke
County Sheriff's Department.

To federal prosecutors, Dodgin is one of the most dangerous types of
criminal: an officer willing to use his badge to steal, sell drugs and
protect gangsters who wanted to use his community as a recruiting
ground for corrupt cops.

	 Whatever his motives, Dodgin could end up spending the rest of his
life behind bars when he is sentenced today in federal court in

It's more likely, however, that Dodgin will end up facing at most a
decade in federal prison because of his cooperation in the five-year
"Rose Thorn" probe into public corruption and organized crime in Cocke

Dodgin, 27, was a veteran deputy when he was arrested 10 months ago
for trying to buy $60,000 worth of cocaine from an undercover FBI
agent. He later pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking and possession
of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense.

He agreed to cooperate with authorities, and four other Sheriff's
Department officers were later arrested on a slew of federal charges.
One of them, former Chief Deputy Patrick Taylor, is expected to enter
a guilty plea today along with his brother, Jarrod Taylor, to
conspiring to traffic in stolen goods.

The Taylor brothers are the nephews of longtime Sheriff D.C. Ramsey,
who resigned early this year after it was disclosed that he and the
Taylors had been targeted by the FBI because of allegations that they
were connected to organized gambling operations.

Because of Dodgin's assistance in the probe, federal prosecutors are
asking that he receive a sentence of 87-108 months and undergo both
substance-abuse and mental-health treatment while in prison. U.S.
District Judge Ronnie Greer, however, has the authority to sentence
him to the statutory maximum of 40 years on the cocaine charge and a
life sentence on the gun charge.

Although Dodgin has only been charged with two offenses, court records
show that he became involved in a staggering array of criminal
activities as the FBI focused on him in mid-2004 as part of an effort
to root out corruption in Cocke County.

In June of that year, Dodgin was introduced to an undercover FBI agent
who was supposedly working for "an organization" that sold drugs,
laundered money and dealt in stolen goods with the help of crooked
cops in Chicago, records show.

Dodgin took the bait and went on to guard a drug transaction in a
grocery store parking lot in Newport, deliver crack cocaine, and
protect tractor-trailers purportedly containing thousands of dollars
worth of stolen merchandise that were parked in the county, records
state. He also made several out-of-state trips to smuggle drug money
for "the organization" and abused drugs himself while helping a
friend, convicted cocaine dealer Jeremy Jones, stay out of trouble.

Eventually, Dodgin brokered a deal between the purported gangsters and
his boss, chief deputy Taylor, in which Taylor agreed to buy some of
the stolen merchandise that Dodgin had been paid to protect. The
Taylor brothers showed up to make the purchase on May 17, 2005, and
Dodgin later split $2,500 with the FBI agent.

While prosecutors are adamant about Dodgin going to prison, the former
lawman has filed motions through his attorney, J. Russell Pryor,
asking that he instead "be allowed to serve the remainder of his
sentence in community confinement or home detention."

Dodgin is the father of two young children and plans to marry his
youngest child's mother "as soon as possible," wrote Pryor. Also,
because of his status as a former cop, he "is a likely target for
abuse in prison," Pryor said.

"Given that law enforcement is essentially the only type of job
(Dodgin) has ever had, (his) career has been ruined," Pryor said.
"There has been a tremendous amount of negative publicity involving
(his) conviction, which has caused harm to his family and destroyed
his reputation in Newport - a very small town."

At worst, Pryor maintains, Dodgin should receive a 51-month

Several of Dodgin's relatives and acquaintances have also filed
letters of support in which they plead for Greer to show mercy on the
former lawman, who has been jailed without bond since his arrest.

Dodgin's stepfather, Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Holt,
wrote that Dodgin wanted to "follow in my footsteps" and that "it was
hard for my advice to overcome what he was seeing at the Cocke County
Sheriff's Department."

"He was always broke and borrowing money from me just to eat lunch or
get by to payday," Holt wrote. "I can understand how large sums of
easy money could be so tempting to him. His young sons need him in
their lives and they miss him dearly."

Holt then described several instances of alleged misconduct by other
lawmen that he believes affected Dodgin, including a time when he was
allegedly ordered by then-Sheriff Ramsey to drop a drug charge against
a political supporter whom Dodgin had cited to court. Holt also said
Dodgin arrested another man for DUI one night and Patrick Taylor "came
out and physically removed the arrested individual from the back of
the patrol car and released him" after the suspect called the chief

"A sad thing is Joe was a good officer when he wanted to be," Holt
wrote. "I really feel that, him being young, that it was easier for
the system here to demoralize him and more or less make him feel
(that) doing good and right was in vain."
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