Couple sue Loudon County sheriff, deputies over arrests

By Jim Balloch (Contact)
Saturday, April 12, 2008

A couple who say their arrests over a teenage drinking party last year were unjustified and led them into bankruptcy have filed a $7.5 million lawsuit against Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider and four of his deputies.

Jack and Katharine Butturini allege in the U.S. District Court lawsuit filed this week that deputies violated their civil rights during a search of their house and later gave false statements about the case to news reporters.

The couple ask $5 million in total compensatory damages, and from each defendant $500,000 in punitive damages. They want a jury trial.

The Butturinis were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor after a party for their daughter at their waterfront Loudon County home was broken up by authorities. Deputies cited several teens on charges of underage drinking at the party, which followed a prom at Farragut High School.

The story of the arrest and related events "continued to be plastered in newspapers, radio and television for several days," the lawsuit states. Reporters "relied upon information from various persons of the Loudon County Sheriff's Department, who provided false and libelous statements to the media."

The couple said the alcohol was brought by party crashers and pleaded not plead guilty, but they ultimately agreed to a pretrial diversion program, with all charges to be eventually dismissed.

Jack Butturini was awakened by his son around 3:30 a.m., told that deputies were at the house, and was "shocked" to learn that underage people were drinking alcohol at the party, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the officers searched the home without a warrant or permission for about three hours, found no alcohol or evidence that the Butturinis had provided alcohol to teenagers, but arrested them anyway.

The Butturinis own and operate karate studios. In September, they filed for bankruptcy, saying their arrests had damaged their reputation and drove clients away.