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Harris to face third trial in July

The next trial for former Unicoi County sheriff Kent Harris has been set for July 8 in the Unicoi County Courthouse.
Harris will be tried on one count of official misconduct for allegedly using a county employee and equipment to solicit funds to pay attorney fees, said District Attorney General Tony Clark.
Clark said he chose this charge because the case is not as complex as the other charges placed against Harris.
“The reason I picked this one is it’s not a very complicated case,” Clark said. “The allegations are of course that he used county employees, county time and county funding to send out letters asking for money for his criminal defense fund.”
Time involved in the case is also another reason Clark said he chose the single count of official misconduct to try next.
“There’s not that many witnesses in that case and I don’t see it taking near as long as the first two trials,” Clark said. “That was basically my reason for picking that particular case. It seems to be straightforward and not as convoluted as the last one we tried.”
The indictment handed down by a Unicoi County grand jury in February 2012 alleges that Harris used “an employee of [the] Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department during his/her working hours, as well as equipment and supplies of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department to prepare a letter soliciting funds to pay his attorney’s fees.”
According to the presentment, the charge placed against Harris is a violation of T.C.A. 39-16-402 (a)(1), which states that “A public servant commits an offense who, with intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another, intentionally or knowingly: Commits an act relating to the servant's office or employment that constitutes an unauthorized exercise of official power.”
Clark said he met with Honorable Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood and Harris’ attorneys on Jan. 29 to submit paperwork dismissing the first trial as well as to set the date of the next trial.

For the remainder of this article please see the February 5, 2013 edition of The Erwin Record.