GREENFIELD — The attorney for former Sheriff Bud Gray is speaking out about the circumstances leading to a $100,000 settlement for the officeholder once accused of theft.
Richard Cook, who represented Gray in a civil suit against the city after the criminal case against Gray was dismissed, has posted a 10-minute video about the case on YouTube.
Such a disclosure is unusual, and while there is no non-disclosure agreement as part of the settlement, city attorney Tom Billings called the video borderline unethical.
The video includes edited snippets of the deposition of Greenfield Police Chief John Jester, interspersed with commentary from Gray’s attorney.
Jester served as the lead investigator when Gray was arrested on a charge of obstruction of justice in August 2010.
Gray was being investigated over allegations of misappropriated public funds; namely, he was accused of taking money from the department’s drug-buy fund to pay personal bills. He was also accused of threatening to harm a fellow officer who would have testified against him.
Six months after Gray’s arrest, a special prosecutor dropped the obstruction charge and declined to pursue the case, saying there was not enough credible evidence or witnesses to prosecute the sheriff. He commented in a report to the court that local investigators rushed to judgment.
Cook cited that report in a written statement he released late Thursday. The statement also highlighted key points of Jester’s deposition as presented in the video.
“In Chief John Jester’s deposition, he was unable to point to any evidence that Sheriff Gray had ever communicated a threat to any witness with the intent that the witness withhold information or delay the investigation,” Cook wrote. “Also, Jester could not identify any evidence that Gray unlawfully obstructed the city police department’s investigation.”
Reached by phone Friday, Cook says he posted the video to clear Gray’s name and allow members of the public to make their own judgments about the lead investigator’s actions.
“Obviously, the objective was for people to understand the rest of the story,” he said. “I always figure that evidence speaks louder than anybody spinning or talking about it.”
Billings took issue with an attorney posting a video with only bits and pieces of testimony, saying that doesn’t provide an accurate picture.
“Especially when you only pick certain questions and take them out of context,” he said.
Billings said the fact the city chose to settle the case doesn’t indicate wrongdoing; it was a decision made by the city’s insurance company to avoid further legal fees.
“I in no way recommended a settlement because this would save John (Jester) from testifying,” he said, insisting that the police chief would have been a strong witness in defending his actions during the Gray investigation.
Much of the $100,000 settlement will go to creditors; Gray filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
Cook said Gray will be reimbursed for $7,000 in legal fees and may receive a small amount beyond that from the settlement.
“We’ll have to wait for the bankruptcy court to see what they say,” Cook said. “It won’t be a very large amount of money.”
He added that money was never at the heart of Gray’s complaint against the city.
“The objective of this is to try to shed some light on what the facts were regarding Bud and I think trying to re-establish … his good name in the law enforcement community that he had before this,” he said.
The video ends with an attorney asking Jester if he ever ran for sheriff against Gray, suggesting Jester’s actions might have been politically motivated.
Jester was one of six candidates for sheriff in the 2006 Republican primary. Gray won the election; Jester finished fourth.
Billings dismissed the suggestion that Jester might have a personal vendetta, noting that Jester went on to work on Gray’s campaign and was a family friend who baby-sat for Gray’s children when they were young.
“John was a good friend,” Billings said.
Cook said the Gray family wasn’t meaning to disparage Jester personally.
“We don’t have any ill will towards him,” he said. “We’re here to clear Bud’s name.”
Jester had no comment when reached by phone Friday.