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State v. Ryan

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

January 22, 2015


Session November 4, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hardeman County No. 13-CR-74 J. Weber McCraw, Judge.

Parker O. Dixon, Memphis, Tennessee (on appeal); and C. Michael Robbins, Covington, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Patrick Leighton Ryan, Jr.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Joe Van Dyke, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., joined.




Formerly, the defendant was employed as a deputy sheriff in Hardeman County and, during the events resulting in these charges, as the police chief in Grand Junction, Tennessee. The indictment alleged that he continued to exercise control over certain items valued over $1000 but less than $10, 000 issued to him by the Grand Junction Police Department or the Hardeman County Sheriff's Department.

For the convenience of readers of this opinion, we are setting out the testimony of witnesses in an order different from that at the trial.

State's Proof

William Curtis Lane testified that he was the mayor of Grand Junction and that the defendant had been employed by the city's police department as a part-time officer during the periods from March until July 2001 and December 2005 to November 2006. The defendant then served as the police chief from December 2006 until March 2012, when he was terminated. Both the police department and the city had a policy requiring that all employees return city property at the end of their employment.

Lane said that during the time that the defendant was employed as the chief of police, he and the defendant believed that a drug dog would be of benefit, so they checked prices for the necessary equipment and purchased it from money in the drug fund. Receipts showed that the City of Grand Junction purchased a dog kennel for $200 and a dog house for $84.78.

Lane said that a burglary occurred at city hall on March 10, 2012, and law enforcement agencies were contacted. The defendant was terminated from his position, and, upon checking, no inventory sheets were found although the defendant had been responsible for keeping such records. Lane met with the defendant who told him that he still had some of the city property issued to him and agreed to have it ready to be picked up by March 12. Lane told the defendant this should include the kennel and dog house. The acting police chief went to the defendant's residence and retrieved some of the property and was told the defendant was still getting the rest of the property together. The City did not recover the kennel until these charges were brought. Lane was shown a photograph of the kennel recovered from the defendant's residence and said it appeared to be the kennel purchased by the City. He also identified a photograph of a recovered dog house with a green base as one purchased by the City.

Lane testified that Benny Jennings, a former police officer, purchased shirts from the defendant, which belonged to the city, as evidenced by "GJPD" sewn on the sleeves. Officers were required to turn in such items upon leaving employment to prevent impersonation. Lane said that pants and reflective vests, which he also identified, were of the same type as issued to officers and would have been on one of the missing inventory sheets.

The trial court took judicial notice of the city charter, setting the mayor's spending authority at $50.

Investigator Jason Wilson of the Hardeman County Sheriff's Department testified that he used a confidential informant to purchase items from the defendant. On September 19 and 27, 2012, two purchases were made, each time for $250, both at the defendant's residence. During the September 19 buy, a dog kennel, three dog houses, and a dog carrier were purchased. During the September 27 buy, Grand Junction Police Department uniform shirts, pants, rain jacket, two police vests, and a bulletproof vest were among the items purchased. At the time of his arrest, the defendant admitted the dog kennel belonged to the police department but said that some of the items belonged to him. Investigator Greg Moore, also of the Hardeman County Sheriff's Department, verified that the defendant made these statements at the time of his arrest. Chief Deputy Billy Davis of the Hardeman County Sheriff's Department testified that bulletproof vests were custom made to fit individual officers and each bore a serial number. The vests cost $450 each and were to be returned when an officer left the department. Records at the department were not well maintained, and there was no record showing that a vest had been issued to the defendant.

Benny Jennings testified that he had been employed as a Grand Junction police officer and worked for the defendant. He worked with the first drug dog and decided that it was not suitable. He later resigned from the police department and in September 2012, the defendant told him that "he had a lot of things that . . . belonged to Grand Junction" and that "he was going to have to get rid of it if they [did not] come get it." Later, he telephoned Jennings asking if he wanted to buy the kennel, and Jennings passed along this information to the mayor. From the defendant, he purchased a dog kennel, three dog houses, and a pet porter. Later, he bought from the defendant a bulletproof vest. On a subsequent occasion, the defendant sold him uniform shirts and pants, reflector vests, and various other items.

Lori Rice, the finance officer for the City of Grand Junction, testified that the replacement costs for the police uniform shirts were $35 each, the pants were $35 to $38, reflective vests were $28, and the patches for the shirts were $4.50 each, with an additional setup fee of $75.

Defendant's Proof

Sammy Brasher testified that he was a former Grand Junction police officer and had helped the defendant design a shoulder patch for the uniform shirt. He was offered "close to a box" of patches as compensation for this work.

Sammy Flake testified that he was employed as a deputy by the Hardeman County Sheriff's Department, under a previous sheriff, from 2002 until 2007. He said that, around 2004, he was issued a bulletproof vest, and, at the time, there had been no procedure regarding return of such vests upon leaving the employment of the department. He left the department upon being convicted of sexual battery by an authority figure. During his employment, he was a "road deputy, " without supervision over others.

Robert Gilmore testified that "[s]ometime in the nineties, " he and his wife gave a Doberman puppy to Pat and Brenda Ryan and had ...

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