Abuse of the Badge? Part 1-4

By: Skylar Zwick Email
By: Skylar Zwick Email

Part 1
In June of this year, News 4 learned of a young woman, claiming to have been sexually assaulted, intimidated and coerced by a Coffee County Sheriff's deputy.

Her statement caught the attention of the FBI, ABI and media. Since then, five other women have come forward, all arrested by the same officer at some point during the last 10 years.

Some women provided signed affidavits and court testimony, others drew floorplans of Deputy Tony Harrison's home, showing investigators at the local, state and federal level where weapons, drug paraphernalia and other items could be found.

To verify their claims, we requested Harrison's employment and disciplinary records from several agencies where he is accused of intimidating and sexually coercing women he arrested on drug charges.

We began our requests in July and were either denied, or our requests were never answered.

The question remains: Did this deputy abuse the badge?

"This particular deputy comes with an extensive history of and reputation that's not good," Officer Chris Davis told News 4.

Officer Chris Davis first met Tony Harrison in the early 90s, Davis was working for Enterprise Police, Harrison was a member of the Andalusia Department of Public Safety.

"There's been other cases I was involved in where females were arrested and they would say that at some point he had either made a pass at them or offered them some kind of deal on their case to be involved with him, or have relations with him," Davis remembered.

One alleged victim, we'll call her "Jane," says Harrison arrested her more than seven years ago in the Enterprise area.

"...he just put it out on the table that we could work things out in other ways and i told him to take me to jail," she said.

"Do you think there's anyway you misinterpreted that proposition?, Skylar asked."

"No, no, no there was no doubt what he was saying, i mean he was looking me up and down like i was a piece of candy, no," she replied.

"In this secluded parking lot by a child's' baseball field is where one woman claims the alleged incidents occurred. she says she was sexually coerced by Deputy Tony Harrison and that it escalated from there. The victim told her story to two independent investigators who taped her story and submitted it to the FBI and News 4."

(tape transcription)
Investigator: "The initial sexual contact between tony and yourself, before y'all ever had intercourse or had relations, was there any point in time that you said no?"
Alleged victim: To him? Yeah, when he first started touchin' on me
Investigator: "At that point what did he do or say?"
Alleged victim: "He asked me if I wanted to cooperate or go to jail."
Investigator: "And then he did what?"
Alleged victim: "...he pulled his pants down."
"He doesn't even deserve a badge," "Jane" said.

Since news broke that we were looking into these claims, more women have come forward. Just Sunday night, Officer Chris Davis told us two more claims of impropriety were made.

The Coffee County Sheriff's Office was notified by the FBI in February of this year.

Tuesday we'll examine the claims a little closer and hear why investigators say these similar stories could not have been fabricated.

Part 2

Monday night, we introduced you to two women claiming to have been abused by a Coffee County Sheriff's deputy and a former co-worker who says this officer has crossed the line.

Skylar continues to investigate these allegations.

More than half-a-dozen women have made similar claims...this is a case of he said she said, all evidence is circumstantial and testimony is hearsay, at best.

Each of these women, most of whom were afraid to speak on camera has a checkered past with at least one arrest on her record,

But still, trained investigators and alleged victims say this deputy has abused the badge.

"You've drawn me a floor plan of Tony's home, yes, how many times have you been to his home, several, about 15-20," ask an investigator.

“One of his hobbies off-duty is to go to knife shows and he has a friend who makes knives and she described the case that he has with all these different knives in it…I’ve seen his briefcase with all his glocks, diff caliber and different models that he has and in her description, it's a direct description of what i know about Tony personally,” says a local law enforcement officer.

“I don't believe there is any possible way for her to know these type details without having been exposed to them.”

They claim current Coffee County Deputy Tony Harrison supplied them with illegal drugs, cash and clothes.

“To keep her in a compliant mode or mood so he could convince her to do things he wanted to do sexually or in other ways,” the officer says.

“I’ve heard all of that and that he has had people who are on drugs stay with him and aiding and abetting pretty much, having women stay with him while they were being hunted and he supplied them with drugs and clothes and whatever else they wanted,” said Jane.

Trained investigators we spoke to, on and off camera, say they believe these alleged victims, despite their checkered pasts.

“During that interview on that day, I saw no sign of deception in regards to anything she was saying or claiming had taken place,” the officer said.

But their opinions of Deputy Harrison, are not quite as high.

“So to do the things I know he has done and to be accused of the others things, you know, he's alleged to have done, he's had a second chance and it's over and done with, he doesn't deserve a third.”

Jane says that "he deserves to go to prison”

Law enforcement agents we spoke to, many of whom could or would not go on camera all told News 4 that Harrison was allowed to resign from his post in Andalusia and multiple other wiregrass agencies for similar improprieties.

Those records were never turned over.

When we had the chance to interview his superiors, we again questioned his work history and were met with denial...they say they have no knowledge of these accusations and it's a violation of the deputy's civil liberties to release his personnel file, despite the fact that as a sheriff's deputy, his salary is paid with your tax dollars.

In part three of the series, Skylar sits down with deputy Tony Harrison and his supervisors...and the admission Harrison makes, may surprise you.

Part 3
This week we've introduced you to women claiming to have been sexually extorted by Coffee County Deputy Tony Harrison.

News 4 was denied access to his employee records, but Skylar Zwick discovered, Harrison admitted to at least one transgression.
Deputy Tony Harrison did admit to one inappropriate contact with a potential witness he had arrested.

Like the others we spoke with, she has a criminal part and says that's why no one has ever taken any of the complaints seriously, but their stories caught the attention of the FBI and its Alabama counterpart.

Both reviewed the allegations against Deputy Harrison and delivered a verdict to Coffee County Sheriff Dave Sutton.

We sit down with Sheriff Sutton to find out if this Deputy Abused the Badge?

"These are criminals these are ex-employees, disgruntled employees, Sheriff Sutton said."

One alleged victim took her story to two independent investigators who then submitted this tape to the FBI and News 4.

"Investigator: about how many times have you been to Tony's house
Alleged Victim: several, i don't know, maybe 15-20."

News 4 has discovered at least six women, spanning more than a decade with similar stories of proposition, coercion and intimidation, all afraid to speak openly on camera.

"Alleged Victim: ...he told me that if I ever told anybody anything he would deny it even if he was on camera he would deny it and that I had to deny it too."

"As far as witnesses and informants we have an association policy, we are not to associate with them in any which way shape or form," Sheriff Sutton told News 4.

Even his supervisors admit: Tony Harrison did not follow the rules.
"That protocol was broken by his own admittance, yes ma'am," Sheriff Sutton.

Deputy Tony Harrison sat-in on our interview, but refused to speak. His lawyer saying he had answered to these charges in court, leaving News 4 this message:

"Someone indicated to you he would do a sit-down interview and that just isn't going to happen," Attorney Debbie Jared said in her voice mail message.

But through his superiors, the Deputy admitted to one, single transgression involving a victim in our story.

"We did have one of our investigators that was involved in a sexual contact with an individual that was a potential witness, and not an informant, but it did occur he openly admitted it to us and we have taken sanctions against him for that," Sheriff Sutton said.

He accepted a written punishment for violating department regulations.

"We do not sanction it, that is why we gave him a letter of reprimand," Sheriff Sutton declared.

While some say that's not punishment enough and former co-workers say this is far from a first offense, the Sheriff says the Deputy's poor personal judgment does not outweigh his contributions to the force.

"If you have a good drug investigator and you believe in that investigator and he is helping protect the citizens of your county you do what you can to keep that individual still employed," Sheriff Sutton says.

But Sheriff Sutton says this will be Harrison's one and only warning, he will not tolerate a repeat offense.

"I would put the rubber stamp on it and he would be finished in law enforcement," Sheriff Sutton said.

After our interview, the Sheriff and Chief Deputy did remember another incident, but told us it turned out to be an unfounded harassment claim based on a misinterpreted cell phone message.

As for the other women News 4 found, the two men claim they have never hear of these cases and since they allegedly happened before Harrison came to work for Coffee County, they are out the their jurisdiction.

As for the Sheriff's claim that all the alleged victims are criminals, in Part 4 we'll introduce you to a Wiregrass police officer who says Tony Harrison sexually assaulted her shortly after she left the police academy and joined the department where he worked.

Part 4
All this week, News 4 has investigated claims of impropriety levied against Coffee County Deputy Tony Harrison. Skylar Zwick has an update.

The Sheriff issued a written reprimand after Tony Harrison admitted to a transgression involving an alleged victim in our series.

He called the claims "allegations made by criminals and disgruntled employees."

But, after our first story aired, a female Wiregrass police officer came forward to, as she put it, lend credibility to the other alleged victims.

She says she was sexually assaulted by Tony Harrison and believes he abused the badge?

Here I was, a young police officer and new to the department, so my first thought was that was not the first thing I wanted to be known for in law enforcement is accusing a fellow officer of rape," "Nichole" remembered.

For 16 years, few knew of "Nichole's" story, until our series aired.

"The story came on and I think I had that initial defense up, that wall up, and than they said the name, I remember I gasped and I sat there for a second, to make sure I heard it right, that it was the same person, then not only the name, but that he had worked for Andalusia," she says.

And she remained silent, until now.

"I was not long out of the academy, and I started with Andalusia, it was my first real paid police job...and I met Tony Harrison, he was a drug investigator at the time," she recalled.

Two to three months later, she says Harrison abused her trust.
"One day he called and he wanted me to get something to eat or go somewhere with him and I told him I wasn't able to do that," she said.

Instead, she says Harrison came to her home.

"...and basically, at that point he didn't take no for an answer," she continued.

The following is her account of a friendly-outting, gone wrong.

"We sat and talked for a little while, as young people or young adults do, you begin to kiss," she says, "at some point he began to remove my clothing and you know I was apprehensive, kind of pushed away," she continued.

"When I tried to push myself out from under him, I kept backin', basically sliding back on the floor to get out from under him, and wasn't able to ever actually get completely out from under him, and the more I pushed back the more he was on top of me, and I ended up where my head was basically in the bottom shelf of a book shelf, it was against the wall so at that point I couldn't go any further at that point, he raped me," she says.

"Nichole" says she mentioned the incident to a fellow officer and was met not with support, but with stories.

"Started hearing alot of things about Tony at that point and kind of got criticized myself for even being around him, you know, not having better judgement that to kind of hang out with him," she recalled.

But she quickly learned, she may not have been the only one.

"and then eventually over several months I began to hear about how people knew that he was sleeping with some of his drug informants and things like that, which at that point, pretty much made it that much harder - that was kind of a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that made it even harder to where, you know i didn't even want to tell anyone what ever happened," she says.

After counseling, a move and a position with a new Wiregrass law enforcement agency, "Nichole" says it's no longer about her, but about the other women who remain in silence.

"At this point, I can understand from a law enforcement officer standpoint how it's hard to believe someone with a criminal past or who possibly has something to gain.

I have nothing to gain except possibly lending some credibility to what they're saying," she said.

As for her alleged attacker...

"If the allegations are proven, to be true, he deserves to be punished just like any other person would be if they were not a law enforcement officer," she said.

So, these alleged victims now include fellow law enforcement officers, who have taken the same oath of truth and justice as Harrison.

Again, all the stories we have reported to you are just allegations at this point. And so far, Harrison has admitted to only one incident, even when questioned in court.

He says he has never been involved with any other women.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Barbara Location: Florida on Feb 24, 2011 at 02:18 PM
    Well he said he's only been with one woman.Has he been with any men? He probably wants to get away with all that he can by keeping his mouth shut. All these women came forward with these alligations,even a woman police officer,all these people couldn't be lying.This deputy should be fired.We the people need people to up hold the laws,not try to be the law and step out of line because you think you can.
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