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Police say former Surgoinsville vice mayor motivated by ‘greed and revenge’ in insurance scam

November 19th, 2013 4:46 pm by Jeff Bobo

Police say former Surgoinsville vice mayor motivated by ‘greed and revenge’ in insurance scam

Charles “Otis” Lawson

SURGOINSVILLE — Police believe “greed and revenge” were the motives of former Surgoinsville vice mayor Charles “Otis” Lawson last month when he crashed his truck into a vehicle parked on Main Street during one of the current mayor’s monthly concerts.

Lawson, 65, 1315 Main Street, Surgoinsville, was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with felony insurance fraud and filing a false report.

An alleged accomplice, former Hawkins County jailer Jerry William “Willy” Dishner, 34, 108 Gilda Avenue, Church Hill, was arrested Monday and charged with filing a false report.

On Oct. 19 shortly before 9 p.m., Lawson was driving a white 2001 GMC SUV westbound on Main Street in Surgoinsville near City Hall when he struck a parked car on Main Street. 

Lawson claimed that an oncoming eastbound car went into his lane and forced him to swerve into a parked car.

The accident occurred while the monthly concert was under way at nearby Bellamy Hardware, which is a music venue owned and operated by current Surgoinsville Mayor Johnny Greer. The vehicle struck by Lawson belonged to a concert patron.

Lawson subsequently made an insurance claim for damage to his vehicle while Dishner, who was a passenger in Lawson’s vehicle, made a medical insurance claim.

Surgoinsville Police Department Chief Jeff Hesoun conducted a follow-up investigation on Lawson’s wreck. SPD Officer Jeff Greer had reportedly located witnesses who stated there was no eastbound vehicle at the time of Lawson’s accident and that Lawson had hit the parked vehicle on purpose.

The Surgionsville Police Department on Main Street has outside video surveillance, and Hesoun was able to determine from that footage that there was no eastbound vehicle on Main Street at the time of Lawson’s accident.

Hesoun said the video footage shows Lawson make several passes past the police department and circle through town before the crash occurred, and there was no oncoming car.

Dishner was interviewed Monday at the Surgoinsville Police Department, and upon being confronted with the video evidence, allegedly admitted that Lawson crashed on purpose.

In his statement Dishner allegedly stated Lawson was on his cell phone and said, “Look at all the cars parked for Johnny Greer’s show. I ought to hit one and sue the city.”

Dishner allegedly stated that Lawson then drove past city hall and ran into a parked car.

Lawson has denied any wrongdoing in the accident and has stated that he was “framed” and “set up” and that the investigation against him is politically motivated.

Lawson was part of the Surgoinsville Board of Mayor and Alderman administration that was ousted after Johnny Greer’s election in 2006. Following Greer’s election, information came to light which resulted in felony charges against Lawson, the previous vice mayor, and Hanes Cooper, the previous mayor.

Both subsequently pleaded guilty to felony charges.

In 2009 Lawson pleaded guilty to two counts of felony official misconduct. He was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay Surgoinsville $4,590 in restitution.

Hesoun said he believes Lawson’s motive for the wreck was “greed and revenge.” The biggest part of Lawson’s insurance claim was that the computer on the truck was damaged in the wreck. Dishner gave a statement that the computer in Lawson’s vehicle was already damaged prior to the wreck.

Dishner was released on bond Monday. As of Tuesday evening Lawson was being held in the Hawkins County Jail with bond yet to be set.

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