Sheriff Anderson apologizes for texts blasting opponent, threatening employees

Rain Smith • Jul 29, 2018 at 5:18 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Just days before the Sullivan County election, Sheriff Wayne Anderson has issued apologies for a series of texts he sent to a corrections officer.

The messages were shared on Facebook by mayoral candidate Gerald Sensabaugh and given to him by the employee. Anderson’s texts include threats to fire anyone who votes for Jeff Cassidy, a former SCSO officer running against him in Thursday’s election. There are also derogatory comments about Cassidy — employees would “pee on his grave if he died” — and claims that “He and his Satan worshippers are spewing their evil from Hell on face book. I hate him!”

The corrections officer originally brought the texts to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which then shared them with Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus. After reviewing the materials with the TBI, Staubus says he determined there was no evidence of criminal activity and no action needed to be taken.

On Saturday, Anderson sent a message to local media outlets saying he was aware that Sensabaugh had posted the texts on Facebook.

“This conversation was on my own time and I apologize for any material that could have been seen as offensive,” read Anderson’s email. “These past nine months I have been under a great amount of stress, and I was venting to a person I have known for years and trusted.”

Anderson’s texts also refer to one of Cassidy’s relatives as the “bitch from hell” and says that if corrections officers don’t vote for him, “I promise they will cry and regret it!”

Meanwhile, the employee’s messages to Anderson pledge support and promise to vote for him: “If you need me to do anything let me know.” In screenshots where a date can be seen, the text conversations appear to have occurred in March, April and July.

“For the last 20 years, I have faithfully and honorably served the citizens of Sullivan County,” reads Anderson’s statement to the media. “Pending approval, we have achieved great success in the addition of school resource officers for all of our county schools, and have been working diligently to fight the drug epidemic and jail overcrowding issues. With the continued support of the community, we will keep Sullivan County safe and prosperous.”

In posting the messages to Facebook, Sensabaugh didn’t specify any laws he believed to have been broken by Anderson but noted one message has “personal attacks against me in it.” That’s a reference to Anderson texting that Sensabaugh is a “black guy running for mayor … a decrepit old retired football player who was washed up.”

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable contacted a Times News reporter at home late Saturday evening and said he would issue a statement about the situation Monday.  He said he expected County Attorney Dan Street to issue a statement as well.

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