District Attorney Candidates Differ About TBI Investigation On Coty Wamp Requested By Neal Pinkston

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 - by Joseph Dycus
Coty Wamp
Coty Wamp

The two candidates for the district attorney’s office expressed very different opinions on the ongoing TBI investigation following their joint appearance at the Tuesday Hamilton County Republican Women meeting. While not officially a debate, both district attorney Neal Pinkston and opponent Coty Wamp had an opportunity to answer questions and address criticisms levied by the other candidate.

 

DA Pinkston last week asked the TBI to look into a situation where he said Ms.

Wamp may have interfered with an investigation of a shooting in Soddy Daisy.

 

“I spoke with TBI, and it went great,” Ms. Wamp said. “I’m not worried about it, because we must quit with the shenanigans and focus on actual policy. The only person who can ask the TBI to investigate someone is the elected district attorney, and it’s a horrible abuse of power when you use it against your political opponent.”

 

Meanwhile, DR Pinkston said the investigation had “nothing to do with politics” and said the Soddy Daisy Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office both supported having the TBI come in to investigate.

 

He said, “I was contacted by the Soddy Daisy Police Department with some irregularities in the shooting investigation they were investigating. The irregularities dealt with a Jeff Cannon and a Coty Wamp. I knew immediately then that I had to contact the sheriff because she works for him. It was not political. In talking with him, due to what had been alleged. I said an independent agency away from the Sheriff should look into that.”

 

During the luncheon that preceded this, Ms. Wamp and DA Pinkston addressed a variety of issues. Ms. Wamp said that if she is elected, her DA’s office will try cases “at a rate that they have never been tried before in this county.” She believes that violent offenders have been given too-light sentences under DA Pinkston, and that this has led to more violent crimes being committed.

 

She also said her office will be vocal and characterized DA Pinkston’s office as being quiet or hidden. The district attorney responded by saying he is “a prosecutor, not a politician” and told the audience the DA’s office is not allowed to speak in many situations.

 

“Prosecutors worry about facts and evidence and must be very careful about what they say and speak about publicly,” DA Pinkston said. “We can’t talk about pending cases or investigations publicly. We’re ethically forbidden from speaking about these things.

 

"I’ve worked on numerous death penalty cases and prosecuted more murder cases than I can probably count at this point. We’ve created a unit that works on solved and unsolved homicides that have plagued this city and county. That’s why I am the only qualified prosecutor in this race.”

 

DA Pinkston said gang-related homicides have stayed steady over the last decade, while Ms. Wamp said statistics show the numbers have increased. The district attorney said his office works with law enforcement to track down who is dealing drugs such as fentanyl and heroin, and that “it’s not something we’ve avoided or shirked.”

 

“Our two major killers are heroin and fentanyl,” Ms. Wamp said. “If you prosecute those properly, you’ll send them to prison. We have got to start focusing on heroin and fentanyl, and if you deal those in this county, you will not be slapped on the wrist. You will be prosecuted as charged and you will be sent to prison.”

 

After the public statements, each candidate spoke to the press about the TBI situation and answered further questions. Ms. Wamp said that she wants to prosecute more juvenile cases, and said currently “gang members know that if you put a gun in a 15-year-old's hands to do your dirty work, they’ll get away with a slap on the wrist.”

 

She also stated that while she wants to focus more on violent crimes, she said that non-violent or low-level offenders will not get as much attention. She said, “Prison space needs to be reserved for our most violent offenses.”

 

DA Pinkston said prosecuting more violent offenses is a complicated task, and that it involves more than just the prosecution. He said it requires law enforcement and the family to also agree that there is enough to prosecute. He also said that reducing crime begins at a young age, and that it can take 10 to 15 years to see what he called tangible change.

 

DA Pinkston also addressed Wamp’s endorsement from the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and the Fraternal Order of Police, two major police unions in the county.

 

“I’ve got calls over the weekend from law enforcement officers who told me that (pair of endorsements) does not represent the law enforcement community as a whole,” he said. “They have my full backing and have worked with me for so long and know what kind of person I am and know my ethics and credibility.”

Neal Pinkston
Neal Pinkston

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