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TBI agent says KPD officer offered to buy drugs at club

Kacie Breeding • Apr 9, 2010 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Kingsport Police Department Officer Christopher Smith had just denied all knowledge of illegal activities at James “Jimmie” Swafford Jr.’s nightclub when he suddenly claimed he could buy drugs from him and his associates within “a matter of weeks” if it were true that he was selling.

That’s according to testimony a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation special agent gave Friday. The agent said Smith made the offer after they went outside for a smoke break upon Smith’s completion of a statement concerning his knowledge of what, if anything, was going on at the Lime Light nightclub. The statement was taken on Aug. 22, 2006, just prior to Smith’s resignation from the KPD in September 2006.

“How do you plan on accomplishing this when they know that you’re a uniformed police officer?” he asked Smith.

Smith’s response, according to the agent, was, “They trust me.”

Smith’s trial on a drug conspiracy charge and two counts of official misconduct began Monday. The charges allege he used his position at the KPD to provide Swafford with information to hide his sizable drug operation from police, and that he failed to charge another Kingsport businessman with a DUI. In both instances, it’s alleged he intended to personally benefit.

Smith is one of 20 suspects a Sullivan County grand jury indicted in January 2007 in connection with Swafford’s drug ring, which authorities believe Swafford had been running since as far back as 1998. Swafford and most of the group have since been convicted of numerous charges for distributing over 300 pounds of marijuana while using business ventures — including first Club 229 in Riverview and then the Lime Light on Stone Drive — to launder proceeds of his drug deals. Two of the accused co-conspirators have died of drug overdoses.

In the statement preceding that offer, Smith said his cousin Jerry Smith introduced him to Swafford in April 2006 because Swafford wanted him to work security in his club. Since then, Smith said he’d been randomly stopping in there, both on duty and off duty, and had never seen or participated in anything illegal there. He said he’d have no trouble testifying to that.

Smith also said he had never been paid to work at the Lime Light, and he wasn’t authorized to work there. He said he’d been voluntarily helping Swafford get the club ready for opening night. Smith said he was interested in working security there to gain some extra income.

At one point, Smith states, “I was blinded and did not pay attention to details that were going on at the club, like pre-paid phones I have observed James Swafford using.”

Due to scheduling conflicts, the trial will not resume until Wednesday. At that time, defense attorney Don Spurrell is expected to present a motion for judgment of acquittal. If denied, Spurrell told the judge he would need about a day’s time to present Smith’s defense.

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