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Controversy surrounds weekend incident at Whitley Co. Detention Center

By: Kendall Downing Email
By: Kendall Downing Email

There's lots of finger pointing in Whitley County in a case that has two county officials at odds and an almost prisoner lucky to be alive!

Saturday night a Whitley County Sheriff's Deputy took a man to the jail on public intoxication charges, but the jail refused to take him.

Video from jail security cameras shows Whitley County Sheriff's Deputy Cody Harrell bringing Johnny Satterfield into the jail.

"The supervisor was trying to get information, couldn't ask questions, couldn't keep his eyes open," said Ken Mobley, Whitley County Jailer.

Mobley said Deputy Jailer Donald McElroy refused to accept the prisoner because he needed medical attention. The man can be seen in surveillance video sliding down the jail wall.

Mobley said they couldn't admit the man until he was medically cleared, so they told the deputy he could not leave the jail without the prisoner in the car.

"My supervisor wouldn't open the door for him," said Mobley.

Video shows the deputy putting the man into his car - then leaving through the sally port. But once the car exits the door, the deputy lets the man out.

"I remember a couple cars had to swerve to keep from hitting me. I'm in bad shape and couldn't have made it further," said Johnny Satterfield, the man in the video.

Satterfield said he walked into the jail parking lot and down the hill, finally ending up at a church where he got help.

Jailers went looking for him outside, but they said they could not find him.

"The deputy was doing what he was told to do by his immediate supervisor," said Colan Harrell, Whitley County Sheriff.

Hours later cruisers came back with a criminal summons charging the deputy jailer with unlawful imprisonment for holding the deputy inside the sally port.

"No one has the right to restrain anyone without process of law," said Harrell.

Harrell said the jail shouldn't have held the deputy, even if it was only for a few minutes. He said the jail can refuse to accept prisoners, but only when emergency attention is needed, and this was not one of those situations.

"We're not going to admit somebody that's highly intoxicated for the prisoner's safety," said Mobley.

It's a circumstance that now has one man admitting his wrongs but also counting his blessings for his life.

"Prescription drugs - I don't know how many of what," said Satterfield.

The sheriff's deputy in the video is the son of Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell.

The jailer said there are legal actions he could take against the sheriff's department.

Mountain News was told there will be a meeting later this week with the Commonwealth's Attorney to set out a formal procedure for receiving inmates.


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