KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Knox County prosecutors identified one pending criminal case that could be tainted by the homophobic rantings of a disgraced former Knox County detective, according to Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen.
As a result, the prosecution last month decided against retrying a man on sex charges that Grayson Fritts had investigated. The defendant already had been convicted on theft and impersonation charges but a Knox County jury had been unable to reach a verdict on charges that he'd sexually assaulted another male.
Allen said Monday it was decided it'd be best, with Fritts having served as the state's prosecuting witness in that case, to stop pursuing sex charges against the defendant.
RELATED: Knox Co. sheriff denounces detective's 'vile and hate-filled' sermon at county commission meeting
RELATED: Protesters gather outside church where Knox Co. Sheriff's detective delivered anti-gay sermon
RELATED: 'Extremely vile and reprehensible': Knox Co. mayor condemns detective who called for execution of gay people in sermons
Allen said Monday that after an extensive review, prosecutors found no other instances in which Fritts' bias against homosexuals could affect any criminal investigation in which he'd taken part.
In June, as first reported by the News Sentinel, videos surfaced on YouTube showing Fritts, preacher of All Scripture Baptist Church off Cherry Street in East Knoxville, railing against gay people. He called for their mass executions, labeled them "fags" and said he hated them all. He called them "freaks."
Fritts was poised to leave KCSO when he delivered those sermons. He took a buyout. Prior recorded talks to the congregation hadn't been so strongly worded.
What prosecutors saw, Allen said, shocked and disturbed them.
"We were all kinda -- when we saw those videos for the first time -- our jaws just dropped," she said Monday.
Law officers who investigate crimes have to conduct themselves in a fair and unbiased manner. Anyone with a clear bias against a class of people, because of their sexual preference or race or gender, could be impeached in court and their testimony rendered unreliable.
"It has no place in the justice system," Allen said. "Justice applies to everyone regardless of your sexual preference or anything else."
After Fritts' sermons emerged in early June, Allen said she directed her office to open a phone line that allowed anyone in the public to report any case where Fritts may have demonstrated bias. No credible, solid lead emerged about him, she said.
The office also checked all past cases that Fritts had touched, whether they were open or closed. Authorities identified a dozen open cases.
They looked for possible bias against victims and defendants, she said.
Of the 12 open cases, she said, three defendants were in a period of diversion after submitting a plea and one defendant had entered a plea and was awaiting sentencing.
That left eight other open cases. Six were upcoming felony trials, one was an upcoming misdemeanor case and the other case involved the man convicted of a couple crimes but facing a retrial for sex crimes against another male.
The prosecution conducted a "deep dive" on its open cases, Allen said. Except for the pending retrial, it found no evidence of conduct by Fritts that had tainted any case.
That included any bias he may have shown or any questionable approach he could have taken in how he worked the case, she said.
Prosecutors also checked with the defense attorneys to see if they knew of any bias by Fritts that could have affected the case.
"My assistant district attorney found none in any of those cases," she said.
Allen said her office advised the male alleged victim in the case that was poised for retrial that it was best not to go forward considering Fritts' comments from the pulpit. The case formally was dropped in late August, she said.
"He (the alleged victim) understood what we were doing and we discussed what we were doing," she said.
After the Fritts sermons became public, Allen said she tried to recall any specific instance in which the former detective's comments or conduct offered clues about his personal or religious beliefs. She could think of none, she said.