Monday, June 4, 2012

This is just another story about the little David taking over the Big Goliath. Only this is the true story of two young reporters taking on a powerful sheriff in a small town and risking their lives to expose the corruption going on in their town that is centered around prescription drug abuse. It is about money. Laboratories are popping up everywhere to make stuff like Oxycontin. Prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic in America.
Kentucky used to be known for its race horses and beautiful pastures, now it can be known for its government owned property that used to be known as crystal meth labs. In Whitley County, in the heart of Appalachia, matters became worse when the person that was at the center of the drug trades was the county’s top law enforcer, Sheriff Lawrence Hodge.
There were suspicions that the Sheriff was taking bribes and confiscating and selling drugs but no one dared to try to prove it ; not even federal agents wanted to touch the notion. That is when two local journalists both in their twenties launched their own investigation. They soon discovered that poking into the affairs of a local county sheriff can be dangerous.
The young 20 year old did not picture a career starting with federal agents investigating him for looking at a story. His name is Adam and he was born and raised in Whitley County. In 2009 he was a sophomore in college and needed a part time job. The county’s daily newspaper The Curbin Times Tribune had an opening and he was a reporter. He soon found that he had dangerous enemies and unusual stories and felt safer buying and carrying a gun.
Samantha Swindler then 27 years old was the managing editor of the Times Tribune and was Adam’s boss. They were writing articles about people involved in the drug trade. She was worried interviewing people all hyped up on Oxycontin. She was born in New Orleans and educated in Boston. As editor she tangled with public officials and after working briefly for a small newspaper, the Daily Progress, she remembered how small town politics worked. Samantha started carrying a gun too.
There are problems in small counties with the good old boys syndrome. The small town is a proud one but they do not want to see change . The population of the town is only 35 thousand people on the south east border of Tennessee. People used to go to witness the great waterfalls there and visit Sander’s CafĂ©, the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken. There is also poverty. The median income is $26,000 per year and drug addiction is rampart. Throughout the region red signs are put on the houses once used as meth labs.
There is also prescription drug use rampart in the town. Oxycodone flows so freely that they call an area of I-75 the pill pipeline. The sheriff was hired in 2002 to clean up the town. According to the FBI from about 2004 he was already very corrupt by being involved with drug dealers, taking bribes, payoffs and extorting from defendants. The FBI and State Police tried to build a case against the Sheriff but couldn’t penetrate his inner circle of drug dealers, politicians and police officers. He was untouchable. Until the editor researched his paperwork.
The reporters noticed that things were not being filed properly since arrests were happening every day. She hired the 20 year old whose only experience was writing on the high school newspaper and together they acquired enough evidence to have the sheriff arrested after many months of being fearful of their lives. Adam worked 70 hours a week compiling the evidence of arrests where drugs and weapons were seized and never reported not filed or written about. Being so insignificant worked in their favor.
The reporters filed an Open Records Request requiring him to file where these weapons were stored and with recorded evidence of a threat to kill them by the sheriff he was arrested by May 2010 now he is serving 15 years in a Federal Prison. So, give the young and the unsuspecting a chance in life. Without the reporters dedication and fearless drive another county in America would still be corrupt.

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