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Sheriff faces new indictment

A new presentment alleging official misconduct was handed down by the Unicoi County grand jury
against Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris on Thursday.

The indictment 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.”

District Attorney General Tony Clark said that the charge isn’t about using the department’s computer for personal use. “It’s about using a county employee on county time with county
equipment for personal gain,” said Clark. “It’s quite a bit different than using the computer for Facebook or something like that.”

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 offi ce or employment that constitutes an unauthorized exercise of official power.” Clark said that he doesn’t see any new charges being placed on Harris in the future. “I think everything is finished, but that’s not to say that something else won’t be reported,” he said. Clark said he felt this
complaint needed to be looked into. “I hope the public doesn’t think this is all we’re doing, picking on the sheriff,” he said. “We’re not.” Clark said that a new indictment requires Harris to be booked through the county again since he was given a criminal summons. An arraignment hearing is
scheduled for March 27. Clark said that it will more than likely be handled separately. “I’m sure the defense will ask that this be severed,” he said. “It’s two years later. The other six are linked because they involve the same time period and alleged inmates. This [the new indictment] is distinctly different.”

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