Charges against two Humboldt car salesmen for failing to provide a car title after a sale were dropped last Wednesday.
Taylor Atkins and Billy Alexander both had charges against them dismissed after the state’s assistant district attorney reviewed the evidence, said Atkins’ attorney Bradley Owens.
It was the third time the case had been scheduled to be heard, but the first time the state’s witness, the alleged victim, had actually appeared.
“The DA’s office did a very fair job of reviewing the case and once they saw the evidence, they decided not to prosecute but to dismiss and expunge,” Owens said.
“It took longer than it should because the alleged victim didn’t appear twice. Once she got there and they confronted her, the system worked.”
Assistant DA Mark Hazelwood was the state prosecutor. Daniel Rodgers of the public defender’s office represented Alexander.
“We’re very happy with the state’s decision,” said Owens.
Atkins is the former police chief of Gibson, Tenn. He is suing the town, the mayor and the city board alleging his First Amendment rights were violated when he was fired December 22, 2015.
Meanwhile the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation continues looking into reports that officers of the Gibson Police Department had improperly seized vehicles and released them back to the owners in exchange for money to the police drug fund. The TBI investigation began Dec. 16 at the request of District Attorney Garry Brown. TBI media spokesperson Devine confirmed Friday this investigation is ongoing.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, Tuesday, July 12, 2016. In the lawsuit, Atkins states he was chief of police in Gibson from November 2007 until December 22, 2015. Sometime prior to November, 2015, Atkins posted comments on his Facebook page about two escapees from the Gibson County Jail.
The same night of his post, Atkins claims that Mayor Black contacted him and told him Sheriff Thomas wanted the mayor to make Atkins take the post down. Atkins told the mayor he couldn’t make him remove the post because it was his First Amendment right, according to the lawsuit.
Atkins contends the mayor met with aldermen in private to encourage them to terminate his employment in retaliation for the Facebook post.
On December 21, Mayor Black called a special meeting “for the sole purpose of furthering his agenda to terminate (Atkins) for having engage in speech protected by the First Amendment and/or for refusing to remain silent about (Mayor Black’s) illegal activities,” the lawsuit states.
No monetary amount is mentioned in the lawsuit. Along with violating his First Amendment rights, Atkins also asserts violations of the state Public Protection Act, or whistle-blower act, and the public employee political freedom act of 1980. Atkins is suing for damages, claiming mental anguish, public humiliation, diminished reputation, loss of employment and its benefits. He is seeking a jury trial.