Following I-Team investigation, asst. DA sends letter to governo - WSMV News 4

Following I-Team investigation, asst. DA sends letter to governor

Posted: Updated: Dec 12, 2016 09:42 PM
Lt. Col. Stephen Jaco (WSMV) Lt. Col. Stephen Jaco (WSMV)

An assistant district attorney is asking Gov. Bill Haslam to look into the reasons why a lieutenant colonel remains employed with the Tennessee National Guard despite being convicted of two serious crimes.

A Channel 4 I-Team investigation in April first exposed that Lt. Col. Stephen Jaco was convicted of DUI and possession of a loaded weapon while intoxicated, yet remains employed with the guard and at his full rank.

Following our investigation, prosecutor Jack Arnold said someone sent him the I-Team’s story. He then wrote a letter in August to Gov. Haslam and copied Major General Terry Haston as well.

In the letter, Arnold wrote, “Recently, it came to my attention that LTC Jaco is still an active duty member of the Tennessee National Guard. Frankly, I cannot get my head around this, given that his convictions are legal facts.”

Click here to read the full letter.

"I was surprised, probably a bit angry,” Arnold said after watching the I-Team’s investigation.

The I-Team recently obtained video of Jaco’s arrest in 2012. In the video, he can be heard repeatedly apologizing to the arresting officers with the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office for drinking then driving.

"Have I been drinking? Yes sir. I’m going to admit that 100 percent,” Jaco said in the video.

In that video, Jaco also admitted that he has a loaded gun in his truck.

“Having a loaded weapons, that’s definitely wrong,” Jaco said.

Court records show at his trial, Jaco was not only convicted of DUI and possession of a handgun while intoxicated, but his request for a second trial was denied.

In the letter to Gov. Haslam, Arnold pointed out that Jaco was found to have a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit.

"I was surprised that he was still in the Tennessee National Guard and still at his rank,” Arnold said.

A veteran of the U.S. Army himself, Arnold said he has seen what happens to members of the Army if they’re convicted of Jaco’s same crimes.

"(Army members) lost their military position in the active duty military as a result of that kind of charge. So I was a bit surprised,” Arnold said.

What remains to be seen is if an Army enlistment program, obtained by the I-Team, explains why Jaco still remains with the guard four years after his arrest.

That enlistment program reads that in the Tennessee National Guard, members can receive waivers for certain crimes.

Ten months ago, the I-Team filed a Freedom of Information Act request, asking for all the Tennessee National Guard members awaiting waives for criminal charges. We are still waiting on those records.

Arnold said he is still waiting on a response from the governor or the Tennessee National Guard to the letter he sent in August.

No one from the Tennessee National Guard responded to our request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the governor’s office said they did receive the letter, but that Jaco is not a state employee.

The I-Team asked for clarification as to what that means, and the spokeswoman responded that their statement is only that they received the letter, and that Jaco is not a state employee.

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