Pubdate: Tue, 03 Mar 2009
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2009 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: Jon Ostendorff
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


HAYESVILLE - Narcotics officers assigned to a two-county drug task
force drank beer and ate pizza outside the home of a suspected
marijuana dealer after executing a search warrant there, authorities
acknowledged Monday.

The incident nearly two years ago became public last week after the
prosecutor trying the case that came from that search questioned the
officers about the beer and pizza on the witness stand. No one was
drunk that day in July 2007, said Clay County Sheriff Joe Shook, who
crossed the state line into Georgia to get the beer because his county
is dry. "It was bad judgment on my part that I let it happen," Shook
said Monday. "I can assure you it won't happen again, and it shouldn't
have happened then." Though not a beer drinker himself, Shook said he
got the 12-pack after one person in the group suggested a beer would
be good with the pizza the sheriff had offered to buy.

The team had spent the day searching the house and they were waiting
for a truck to arrive so that they could pack up the marijuana growing
equipment. They worked three more hours after dinner loading the truck
in what the sheriff called "tropical" heat created by the lamps used
in the pot growing operation. District Attorney Michael Bonfoey said
the assistant prosecutor trying the case learned about the drinking
while working on preparations with the officers. He said his office
alerted defense attorneys because state law requires that defendants
know all the facts before trial. And, he said, the prosecution brought
the issue to the jury first "because we wanted to, quite frankly,
minimize the impact." Donald and Terri Barry were convicted last week,
despite the testimony about the drinking on the job. They got three
years probation for felony manufacturing marijuana and misdemeanor
drug possession. The narcotics team, made up of two officers from
neighboring Cherokee County and two officers from Clay County, was
working under a N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety
grant, Shook said.

None of the officers were in uniform that day and all were working in
an undercover capacity, he said.

Shook said the two deputies he had on the team have since left law
enforcement, but not because of the beer drinking incident. He said
one got married and wanted to spend time with family, and the other,
who came out of retirement to help with the yearlong operation, is
back in retirement.

Shook said one of his deputies drank half a beer and the other had two
beers with three slices of pizza.

Cherokee County Sheriff Keith Lovin on Monday said one of the deputies
involved from his department has since resigned and the other says he
didn't drink any of the beer.

Shook said he's not sure what happened to the rest of the 12 pack.
Clay County policy prohibits drinking on the job, County Manager Paul
Leek said. Shook said he's heard from Clay County residents since the
incident became public and many are saying they'll forgive him.

He's been in office for two years and said he's focused on fighting
drugs. He's worried this mistake will overshadow the efforts his
office has made. "If I have done something wrong, I will take my
medicine for it," he said. "That is the way I was raised. I was raised
to tell the truth and do what's right."
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