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Damron indicted; case at standstill

Criminal charges have officially been filed against former Letcher County sheriff ’s deputy Brian Damron, but the case will remain at a standstill until a special judge is appointed.

Damron, 38, of Jenkins, was indicted by the Letcher County Grand Jury last week on eight theftrelated charges. The indictments were handed up to Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright on May 13, but Damron has not been arrested on the charges contained in the true bills because Wright immediately stepped down from the case, citing conflict of interest.

“Because he had served as a witness and in other capacities before Judge Wright, (Wright) disqualified from the case,” said Pike Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Bartley, who was appointed to direct the grand jury’s probe of Damron after Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks II stepped aside earlier because of the same reasons cited by Wright.

“The case is awaiting appointment of a special judge,” explained Bartley. “That judge will then schedule the next step, such as when he (Damron) needs to appear in court to answer the indictment.”

Bartley said the special judge, who will be appointed by Chief Regional Judge Eddy Coleman, also of Pike County, could either issue a summons to set a hearing date for Damron to appear in court to answer the charges in the indictment or issue a warrant for his arrest.

Damron was indicted on seven counts of receiving stolen property and one count of theft by unlawful taking after the grand jury heard testimony last Wednesday from Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb and Deputy Sheriff Barry Engle, both of whom began their law-enforcement careers with Kentucky State Police.

Sheriff Webb, who announced the firing of Damron in January, reiterated this week that more than 30 potential witnesses were interviewed during a sheriff ’s department investigation into allegations the former department lieutenant stole six firearms and other evidence that was found missing from the property room located inside the sheriff ’s office.

Webb began the investigation of Damron last fall after a large sum of money was found missing from the evidence room. After the missing money was returned, it was then discovered that two AR-15 rifles manufactured by the Doublestar Corp. or Winchester, Ky., and four Glock 26 “Baby Glock” handguns were missing — apparently having been sold to members of the public by Damron.

As with the missing cash, all six firearms were returned to the sheriff ’s office by Damron. The eighth count in the indictment accused Damron of “receiving, retaining or disposing of” a FLIR Thermal Scope valued at more than $500.

Bartley was named to direct the prosecution of Damron by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway after Banks stepped aside.

Although Damron was not formally removed from his job until mid-January, he was already under suspicion for several weeks before that while he was away from the office and drawing workers’ compensation benefits after injuring a leg.

“It is what it is,” Webb said this week of the indictment naming Damron.

The indictment is signed by Grand Jury Foreman Scotty Amburgey.

Officials first became suspicious of Damron while a January 18, 2013 drug-trafficking case wound its way through Letcher Circuit Court.

The defendant in that case, Bobby Briggs of Kona, pleaded guilty to possessing controlled substances after Damron and six other state and local police offi- cers raided his home at Bill Lewis Hollow and found 475 tablets of oxycodone and other narcotics and anti-anxiety drugs, along with cash totaling $13,510.

Damron stirred suspicion after he repeatedly requested delays on the final hearing in the case, which involved the forfeiture $13,510. Although Damron returned the money, it resulted in his being indicted on one count of theft by unlawful taking of cash valued at more than $500.

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