Deputies Keep Jobs in Sheriff’s Department Despite Prescription Pill Sharing
CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Eight employees in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office remain on the payroll despite admitting to providing prescription pain medication to a deputy who was ultimately terminated after a drug task force pill sting.
A News 4 I-Team investigation uncovered that the eight sheriff’s department employees – four deputies, a lieutenant, a corporal and two civilian workers – all admitted to investigators with the 19th Judicial Task Force that they gave prescription pain pills to former deputy Theodore Morey, who was busted in a prescription pill sting in 2014.
Under state and federal law, providing prescription medication to someone else is a crime.
“Functionally, the law treats you a drug dealer,” said attorney David Raybin, a criminal justice expert in Tennessee.
The I-Team obtained the complete investigative file from the 19th Judicial Task Force into Morey, who later terminated and received a judicial diversion.
Steven Collins, the undercover operative who conducted the sting that resulted in Morey’s termination, is also a former Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy, and believes all the employees should have been terminated.
Years after he left the department, Collins said Morey contacted him and asked for pain medication and told him that his prescription was out.
Collins said he then contacted the drug task force to alert them, who then told him to provide Morey pills then conduct the sting.
If he hadn’t, Collins feared that he could have been charged as well.
"There's a standard when you raise your hand and you're sworn by the sheriff to uphold these laws. It's not, please uphold these laws except for a couple that you may think are acceptable,” Collins said.
The drug task force investigation was heavily redacted when provided to the I-Team because of HIPPA rules. The names of the employees and the types of prescription pills they provided to Morey were not included, as the county attorney felt it violated their medical privacy.
In video from the sting, Morey purchases oxycodone and talks about being in pain.
Sheriff John Fuson, who made the decision to retain the employees, agreed to answer questions from the I-Team.
“Do you think your employees broke the law?” the I-Team asked.
“I do, based on the way the law is written. But, what was their intent?” Fuson said.
Fuson said while what his employees did was a technical violation of the law, the district attorney’s office did not press charges after the drug force investigator determined that they did not intend to harm anyone by passing along the pills.
Fuson said the employees wanted to help Morey and didn’t know supplying him the pills was a crime.
“Should they have known that this was a criminal offense?” the I-Team asked.
“They should have. We should be cognizant of the laws of the books," Fuson said.
Fuson knows what happened in the sheriff’s office could happen anywhere, given the current crisis involving opioids and other prescription drug addictions.
But Fuson also knows that his workplace in different, in that his workplace is tasked with enforcing all laws.
“Should people who have done this remain working in law enforcement?” the I-Team asked.
“Under the circumstances that these employees were involved with, I found that they were retainable. They were re-trainable. They were salvageable,” Fuson said. “I think we've got better employees because of it.”
Following Morey’s termination, the two supervisors were ultimately suspended for three days without pay, the four deputies were given reprimands and the two civilian employees were counseled.
Fuson said all the supervisors in his department then underwent training about not sharing prescription pills.