|Deputy Aikens cleared of extortion charge
By J.J. Stambaugh Knoxville News Sentenal
LOUDON — Flanked by family, friends and fellow officers, Loudon County Chief Deputy Tony Aikens announced Friday he had been cleared of criminal allegations that have dogged him since 2004.
Aikens also said that former District Attorney General Scott McCluen should be permanently disbarred, describing McCluen as a renegade prosecutor who let politics dictate his handling of cases.
“Words cannot express how this ordeal has affected my life and the lives of my family,” Aikens said. “It’s truly been a living hell this has been a true example of politics at its dirtiest.”
McCluen, who lost a bid for re-election last year, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday evening. It wasn’t clear if he is still practicing law, but a Web site for a real estate company in Spring City states that McCluen is working there as an affiliate broker.
Aikens had been facing an indictment on a single count of extortion, a felony. The charge stemmed from a 2002 traffic stop of motorist Eddie Witt, who claimed that Aikens threatened to seize his car and all of his money unless he “donated” nearly $10,000 to the county’s drug fund.
Aikens was not accused of pocketing the money, and records show it was immediately deposited into the county’s drug fund. Witt filed a successful lawsuit to recover his money, and his attorney later pushed for a grand jury investigation of the incident, which led to Aikens’ indictment.
The extortion charge was dropped Friday by special prosecutor Robert “Gus” Radford, a former district attorney general from West Tennessee. Radford said he took over the case from Ed Bailey, a former Blount County prosecutor, about two months ago.
“I didn’t have anything I thought I could win in court,” Radford said when asked why the charge was dropped.
Aikens had maintained since the beginning of the criminal case that the charge was politically motivated, an allegation he repeated numerous times Friday.
Aikens said he would like to see McCluen permanently disbarred and compared him to Michael Nifong, the prosecutor in the Duke University alleged rape case who was recently stripped of his law license in North Carolina due to misconduct.
Aikens’ announcement brought a crowd of more than 80 supporters to the Sheriff’s Office. Also present were numerous uniformed officers, Sheriff Tim Guider and Aikens’ attorneys, T. Scott Jones and Joan Stallard.
“We’re glad this is finally over,” Jones said.
When asked if they planned to file a complaint against McCluen with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, Jones replied that he couldn’t discuss any potential complaint because of strict confidentiality rules.