Roane County Grand Jury returns 90 Indictments
On Monday, June 17, 2019, the Roane County Grand Jury met to review over 90 indictments prepared and presented by the Roane County District Attorney General Russell Johnson. The twelve grand jurors and the grand jury foreman heard testimony from law enforcement officers describing assaults, burglaries, drug offenses, thefts, sex offenses and other crimes occurring in the Roane County community over the last several months.
After listening to the testimony from law enforcement officers, the grand jury was asked to determine if there were reasonable grounds to believe a crime had been committed by the accused individual. This determination is also commonly referred to as finding of probable cause. The grand jury then convened in private session and voted to determine if they found sufficient probable cause for each individual case to move forward to Criminal Court for further prosecution and, possibly, even a jury trial. As is the rule, in this private deliberation even the District Attorney is not permitted to be present for the vote.
The number and nature of these indictments reflect that Roane County, like other areas of East Tennessee and even other parts of our entire nation, is still experiencing the after effects of a prolonged and pervasive opiate crisis. The demand for opiate type drugs was created by the aggressive marketing of opioid pain killers by the drug manufacturers in the late 1990s and early 2000s which eventually led to the proliferation of the pain clinics and pill mills. This process led to the addiction to opiates by an even larger population of people than were normally users of illegal drugs like marijuana and/or cocaine. These drug dependent individuals are now resorting to illegal street drugs to feed their drug dependency and have to either engage in lower level drug trafficking or theft or both to purchase these drugs.
Therefore, the Roane County Grand Jury returned numerous indictments for theft of property, burglary, and aggravated burglary what this office believes is part of these cycle. Much of the property stolen in these thefts is sold or traded to purchase heroin, methamphetamine, and illegal opiates from drug dealers who are down the chain from cartel and other gang related drug suppliers. Our office is working diligently with local and state law enforcement to prosecute the drug suppliers and dealers.
On the other hand, our office has been the leader in bringing a drug court to Roane County along with a drug treatment provider to support the individuals in drug court, as well as some who are not. Our office also established and operates the Align9 organization that is bringing other programs to the four counties in the 9th Judicial District to work within the Roane County community to address the problems left by the opioid crisis.
The individuals indicted by the grand jury are now summoned to the Roane County Criminal Court for arraignment on July 2, 2019 for the indicted charges. At arraignment, the charged individual will be informed of the charges being pursued by the District Attorney’s Office. The individual will also have the opportunity to ask for time to hire an attorney or ask the court to appoint the individual an attorney.
An individual indicted by the grand jury is presumed innocent of the accused crimes until he or she voluntarily enters a plea of guilty or is found guilty after a trial.
The Roane County Grand Jury will reconvene on July 22, 2019.