Fentress County Sheriff facing corruption and civil rights charges

JAMESTOWN — Charles Cravens, 47, the former Fentress County sheriff, was charged Thursday with three counts of honest services fraud and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, announced Jack Smith, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

According to the allegations contained in the charging document, Cravens allegedly had sex with inmates. If convicted, Cravens faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each count of honest services fraud and up to one year in prison on the civil rights charge.

“Our citizens deserve public officials who serve their constituents, not their own personal interests,” Smith said. “I promise you that elected officials in our district who abuse their authority and take advantage of the trust placed in them by the folks who put them in office will be brought to justice. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners serve the people of the entire district, including, not just Nashville, but also rural areas like Fentress County. We will enforce our nation’s laws equally to protect all our citizens of against abuses of power wherever they occur.”

The information alleges that in July 2016, “Inmate 1” was summoned into Craven’s office where she had unprotected sex with the sheriff.

The Information also alleges that in August 2016, Cravens discussed having sex together with “Inmate 1” and “Inmate 2” and they formulated a plan to leave the jail together. Cravens subsequently drove these inmates to a vacant trailer where they all engaged in unprotected sex. Cravens maintained a sexual relationship with these inmates for several months, until they were released from jail, the last being in February 2017.

The Information also alleges that in February 2017, Craven’s drove “Inmate 3” outside of Fentress County to visit a relative. On the way back to the jail, Craven’s raised the subject of sex and the inmate agreed and had unprotected sex with him in his vehicle. The Information alleges that Cravens had sex with this inmate on at least one other occasion.

The Information alleges that in exchange for the sexual relationships with these inmates, Cravens used his position as sheriff to provide additional benefits to these inmates. These extra benefits included the inmates being transported personally by the sheriff from the jail to visit relatives; the inmates being allowed to go outside of the jail to smoke cigarettes; and the sheriff providing money to relatives of the inmates for deposit into their jail commissary accounts.

To request the special privileges, the inmates called Cravens’ personal cell phone and left recorded messages through the jail’s telephone system, operated by Securus Technologies Inc. Through the use of this system, payment is required when inmates make outgoing calls, however, the system allowed for an approximate 20-second message to be left without incurring charges. The Information alleges that between Aug. 24, 2016, and March 1, 2017, Inmate 1 called Cravens 332 times; Inmate 2 called Cravens 51 times; and Inmate 3 placed 349 calls to Cravens’ phone.

Finally, the information alleges that on November 13, 2016, Cravens and “Inmate 4” were in an open area within the jail and Cravens kicked Inmate 4 twice in the backside and placed him in a headlock while another correctional officer handcuffed him. After the inmate was handcuffed, Cravens struck him twice in the back of the head with his fist.

“The citizens of Fentress County, and all of Tennessee, deserve elected officials who work in the public’s best interest, especially from those officials who are sworn to uphold the law,” says TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “We are grateful to have the cooperation and support of our federal and state partners in investigating officials who abuse that public trust.”

“I am grateful to our law enforcement partners for their swift response and assistance to the citizens of Fentress County,” said District Attorney General Jared Effler. “The District Attorney’s Office always stands ready to provide any assistance necessary to investigate and prosecute matters involving public corruption.”

Cravens has been in law enforcement since 1991 and has served as a city policeman, deputy sheriff and sheriff. He was elected in September 2014. He resigned his post last week amid the investigation.