JAMESTOWN — The Fentress County sheriff who resigned Friday amid an investigation by federal authorities has been criminally charged, the Department of Justice announced today.
Charles “Chucky” Cravens, 47, who was elected in 2014 and resigned Friday, days after an FBI investigation began, is facing federal corruption and civil rights charges after authorities said he had sex with inmates.
Jack Smith, acting U.S. Attorney for Middle Tennessee, was joined by 8th Judicial District Attorney General Jared Effler, acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco, and Michael Gavin, the special agent in charge of the Memphis division of the FBI, as he announced Thursday that Cravens has been charged with three counts of honest services fraud and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law.
Information released by the Department of Justice on Thursday indicates that Cravens had inappropriate contact with four different inmates at the Fentress County Jail. Allegedly, Cravens used his position as sheriff to provide additional benefits to three of the inmates in exchange for sexual relationships.
Specifically, the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that the sheriff personally transported the inmates from jail to visit relatives, allowed them outside of jail to smoke cigarettes, and provided money to relatives to be deposited in the inmates’ commissary accounts.
It is alleged that the inappropriate behavior began in July 2016, when the first inmate was summoned into Craven’s office, “where she had unprotected sex with the sheriff,” according to a statement from Smith’s office. It is alleged that Cravens later discussed having sex together with the first inmate and a second inmate, and that he drove them to a vacant trailer, “where they all engaged in unprotected sex.” Allegedly, Cravens maintained a sexual relationship with the inmates for several months until they were released from jail in February.
A third inmate became involved at that time, with the federal allegations stating that Cravens “raised the subject of sex and the inmate agreed and had unprotected sex with the sheriff in his vehicle.”
According to authorities, the inmates would call Cravens’ personal cell phone and leave recorded messages on the jail’s telephone system to request special privileges. Between August 24, 2016, and March 1, 2017, authorities allege that the three inmates placed more than 700 calls to the sheriff.
The inappropriate nature of Cravens’ relationship to the fourth inmate involves alleged physical abuse. It is alleged that in November 2016, Cravens and the inmate were left in an open area of the jail, where Cravens kicked the man twice before placing him in a headlock while a correctional officer handcuffed him. Once the inmate was handcuffed, authorities say, Cravens punched him twice in the back of the head.
“I am grateful to our law enforcement partners for their swift response and assistance to the citizens of Fentress County,” said Effler, whose 8th Judicial District includes Fentress County, in addition to Scott County. “The District Attorney’s Office always stands ready to provide any assistance necessary to investigate and prosecute matters involving public corruption.”
If convicted, Cravens faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each count of honest services 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 rural areas like Fentress County. We will enforce our nation’s laws equally to protect all our citizens against abuses of power wherever they occur.”
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and Effler’s office.