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Former Unicoi County Sheriff on trial

By Preston Ayres, payres@wcyb.com
Published On: Jul 08 2013 04:37:31 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 08 2013 11:58:27 AM CDT
KENT HARRIS
ERWIN, Tenn. -

UPDATE 6:30 pm:

A local man returned to the courtroom today, accused of breaking the laws he was once sworn to uphold.

Former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris is facing his third jury in a series of trials on 13 felony counts.  This trial will focus on six counts of official misconduct.

Harris is accused of using inmates to clean up his property on Mohawk Drive in Erwin three years ago.

The jury saw several pictures Monday afternoon which district attorney Tony Clark says are inmates working on Harris' property.  However, the defense does not agree that the people in the photos are even inmates.

"We will show you pictures of these individuals working on this property.  Work will include bush hogging, mowing, cutting wood, using different equipment," Clark said to jurors during court Monday.

Defense attorney Jim Bowman responded, "You did not hear the district attorney tell you that when these acts occurred that Kent was there supervising. You did not hear that the district attorney would present evidence that he knew that the inmates were there."

Harris told the jury he was not guilty of the crimes.

The trial is expected to last through Wednesday.

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UPDATE 1:00 p.m.: The jury has been selected. Seven women and five men were chosen. Opening statements are expected to begin shortly.

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Former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris is scheduled to go on trial again Monday, despite a defense motion trying to get some of the charges dismissed.

Judge John Kerry Blackwood denied a defense request to toss out the official misconduct charges against Harris last month. 

Harris is accused of using the sheriff's department supplies and equipment to prepare a letter, asking for money to pay his defense attorney's fees while he was on the job as Sheriff.

Harris also went to trial twice on a charge of theft but it ended in a hung jury both times.