Trooper to continue his appeals

Lawyer says claims against Nix were misunderstandings
By Matt Lakin

A Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper accused of unprofessional behavior plans to carry on his fight against a two-week suspension. The state Department of Safety this week upheld the THP's decision to suspend Trooper Marty Nix, 43, for 14 days without pay. "We're appealing," said his attorny, James A.H. Bell. "This is purely retaliatory."

The THP placed Nix, a nine-year veteran assigned to the Knoxville district, on paid leave June 29 after Dr. Sandra Elkins, Knox County medical examiner, complained that he'd interfered with the investigation of an accidental death.

More complaints followed. THP officials said they found an envelope of seized crack cocaine in the trunk of Nix's cruiser, along with photos and negatives of a naked woman. Loudon County authorities accused him of cursing a deputy who arrested Nix's brother. THP officials ordered Nix disciplined on four counts of unprofessional conduct.

Bell has called the claims "baloney" and accused THP officials of persecuting his client. He said the complaints resulted mainly from misunderstandings. The lawyer said Nix never got involved in the death investigation except to pick up some photos for the man's family. He said Nix stored the cocaine in his trunk after picking it up from the state crime lab and forgot about it. Bell said the same thing happened with the photos, which Nix says he found in a used car his son bought. He said Nix cursed the Loudon County deputy only in passing after being roused from a sound sleep. Bell argued Nix's case Nov. 20 before a hearing officer, who ruled the suspension was justified. Tennessee Commissioner of Safety Dave Mitchell approved that decision Tuesday.

Nix returned to duty this fall, working at a weigh station in West Knox County.

The THP could hear his next appeal Jan. 8.