Richardson is wrongfully arrested on drug charges
By Kim Swindell Wood | August 27, 2018 8:04 am
A White County man who was wrongfully arrested on four felony drug counts for selling and delivering methamphetamine has had the charges dismissed after the assistant district attorney general was informed of the incident that occurred after a sheriff department detective reportedly misidentified the subject.
According to Attorney General Bryant Dunaway, on Aug. 20, 2018, the criminal court judge of White County empaneled the new grand jury for the August term of court. One of the new grand jurors was Ronnie Richardson, 50, of White County.
Dunaway stated that as the grand jury began to meet to consider the cases to be presented to them, a White County Sheriff Department detective incorrectly identified Richardson as the subject of a drug investigation he had conducted. As a result of the misidentification, Richardson was excused from grand jury service, on Aug. 20.
Because of the misidentification by the detective, Dunaway stated that Richardson was arrested and charged with a drug offense.
On Aug. 24, 2018, the White County Sheriff Department detective informed the district attorney general’s office that he had identified the wrong person as the subject of his investigation. Dunaway met with the criminal court judges, on Aug. 24, and informed them of this incident and told the court the charge would be dismissed immediately. On Aug. 24, Assistant District Attorney Bruce MacLeod prepared the order to dismiss the matter.
“It is the right thing to do to inform the public that Mr. Ronnie Richardson, age 50, did not commit any criminal offense,” said Dunaway. “This office will be closely reviewing all investigative files produced by the investigator who misidentified Mr. Ronnie Richardson to ensure that no similar error has occurred or will occur in any other cases.
In a statement released by Richardson’s attorney, Brett Knight, he praised the district attorney general’s office for its diligence in dismissing the wrongful charges filed against Richardson.
“Ronnie Richardson, of White County, Tennessee, came to my office earlier this week fresh out of jail, with four felony drug charges hanging over his head,” said Knight. “Ronnie sat with his wife in our conference room, the strain of the last few days clearly showing on his face. This is the story of how an innocent man goes to jail.”
Knight said he was providing this statement with the permission of Richardson.
“Ronnie was called to serve on the White County Grand Jury,” said Knight. “He reported and was selected. The grand jury began hearing cases, and the first couple went by very quickly. Soon, though, a detective with the White County Sheriff’s Office said, ‘The next case we have is Ronnie Richardson. Do any of you know him?’ Ronnie was a bit taken back, and he told me he honestly thought this was a joke they pull on new grand jury members. He was waiting for someone to come out with a camera.”
However, according to Knight, Richardson soon realized it was not a joke. Knight said by the end of the afternoon, Richardson had been served with a warrant for his arrest and charged with four felony drug charges revolving around selling and delivering methamphetamine.
“Ronnie told everyone who would listen that there had to be a mistake, that they had to have the wrong guy,” said Knight. “Ronnie had never been in even the slightest legal trouble in his 50 years. Ronnie never tried drugs, and certainly did not sell drugs or associate with people who do. He was a pillar of the community, a dedicated family man, and an outstanding worker. But despite that and his statements of innocence, Ronnie was booked into the White County Jail and given a $60,000 bond.”
Knight said Richardson called his wife and “quickly tried to explain the unexplainable.” Richardson made bond and then sought out an attorney.
“The very next day, the White County Sheriff’s Department posted a mug shot of Ronnie on their Facebook page, along with information saying he had been arrested and charged with four counts of sell/del/manufacture of methamphetamine,” said Knight. “When Ronnie and I spoke that evening, I could hear how devastated he was. He felt as though his life of maintaining an honorable reputation was all destroyed by this public display of his picture and charges.
“Ronnie was schedule to be arraigned in criminal court, and I appeared there on his behalf. Luckily for Ronnie, things began to turn his way. The assistant district attorney for White County is known to be a fair man, and he proved that again. He discussed the case with the sheriff’s deputies. After some further investigation, it was quickly discovered that what we were saying was true – that Ronnie had not been involved in any illegal activity at all. They had arrested the wrong man. When the assistant district attorney got confirmation of the misidentification, he moved quickly to dismiss all charges against Ronnie. The detective personally apologized to Ronnie for the mistake. As happy as we are with the outcome, we are left with many questions and concerns.”