[WATCH] Records Indicate Sevier County Official Resisted Charging Deputy in Drunken Rampage

J.W. Parker had video evidence of a man rampaging in Parker’s bar, but he was told he couldn’t pursue criminal charges because the accused was a sheriff’s deputy, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee.

Parker and his mother, Barbara Parker, sought charges for more than a month against James M. Schirnglone, who was captured on video — while off duty from his job as a Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputy — uprooting a table from its moorings and appearing to take a swipe at the mother inside the Parkers’ bar in Gatlinburg in August, records show.

Sevier County’s chief judicial commissioner, Albert Snyder, didn’t deny the details outlined in the records but refused to comment on why his staff twice turned the Parkers away without even holding a probable cause hearing as required by law.

“I am not going to discuss that with the media,” Snyder said.

The press for prosecution:

Schirnglone, 43, resigned from his job as a deputy as his bosses were poised to fire him over his behavior inside and outside Salty Bear Raw Bar in August. A Gatlinburg Police Department report stated the then-deputy was drunk and cursed at police officers who encountered him a short time after he and his friends were ordered to leave the bar.

The agency didn’t charge him. Police Chief Randy Brackins did not return calls about why.

The Parkers, according to the police report, sought charges of vandalism and assault based on surveillance video of Schirnglone’s behavior at the bar.

Judicial commissioners are paid by taxpayers to hold hearings to determine if a citizen or a police officer has presented enough proof to show that a crime was probably committed and the person accused probably committed it. It’s a low standard in the legal system known as “probable cause.”

The Parkers, records show, twice sought such hearings. According to a letter the Parkers penned to the 4th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office, they were first told by an on-duty judicial commissioner they could not seek a warrant because the accused was a deputy. In a second call to the judicial commissioner’s office, the Parkers were told they could get a warrant only in Knox County because Schirnglone lives there.

“If this incident had been committed by an average civilian in any place of business in the county, he would have been arrested and charged as he should be,” J.W. Parker said when contacted by USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee on Friday.

No law degree required:

The law in Tennessee requires a warrant be issued in the county in which a crime is alleged — not where the accused lives. Snyder would not address the misstatement of law alleged in the Parkers’ letter.

Snyder is not a lawyer. Neither are the other judicial commissioners in Sevier County. The law requires only a legal education to qualify for a commissioner’s job in counties with a population greater than 700,000. Knox County’s judicial commissioners, for instance, are lawyers.

Some judicial commissioners in rural counties are lawyers, but many are not. No legal training is required other than an annual 12-hour course. These are appointed, taxpayer-funded positions.

A judicial commissioner is the gatekeeper for the issuance of criminal charges when judges are not available, including after business hours and on weekends or holidays. It’s a commissioner’s job under state law to decide if charges should be issued, to set bond for the accused and to issue search warrants authorized by a judge.

A prosecutor has no authority to issue a warrant and can only ask for an indictment from a grand jury of 13 citizens.

For the full story visit: http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/crime/2017/11/04/sevier-county-official-resists-charging-deputy-james-m-schirngelone-drunken-rampage-records-indicate/824085001/