Fentress County Sheriff pleads guilty to having sex with inmates

Nashville, TN (2017-04-20) Former Fentress County Sheriff Charles Cravens, 47, has pleaded guilty to charges that he had unprotected sex with three female inmates of the Fentress County Jail and violating the rights of a fourth.

Cravens appeared in a Nashville courtroom on Thursday afternoon and entered his guilty plea.  Sentencing has been set for Thursday, July 10, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Nashville.

On Thursday, Jack Smith, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, announced Sheriff Cravens had been charged with 3 counts of honest services fraud and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law.

“Our citizens deserve public officials who serve their constituents, not their own personal interests,” said Smith.  “I promise you that elected officials in our district who abuse their authority and take advantage of the trust placed in them by the folks who put them in office will be brought to justice,” he added.

According to the allegations contained in the charging document, Cravens is accused of having unprotected sex with three female inmates of the Fentress County Jail.  On one occasion, he is accused of having sex in his office.  In another, he’s accused of having sex in his vehicle.  Authorities say that at some point, he transported two females to a vacant trailer, where all three engaged in unprotected sex.  Cravens allegedly maintained a sexual relationship with those female inmates for several months, until they were released from jail, the last being in February 2017.

Cravens is accused of providing benefits to these inmates in exchange for sexual favors, including transporting inmates to visit relatives, allowing them to go outside the jail to smoke, and giving money to relatives to put in the inmates’ commissary accounts.

To request the special privileges, the inmates called Sheriff Cravens personal cell phone and left recorded messages through the jail’s telephone system. Through the use of this system, payment is required when inmates make outgoing calls; however, the system allowed for an approximate 20-second message to be left without incurring charges.  The charging documents allege that between August 24, 2016, and March 1, 2017, the three inmates collectively called Cravens 732 times.

Craven is also accused of striking a male inmate inside the jail.  On November 13, 2016, Cravens allegedly kicked a male inmate twice in the backside and placed him in a headlock while another correctional officer handcuffed him.  After the inmate was handcuffed, Cravens allegedly struck him twice in the back of the head with his fist.

“The citizens of Fentress County, and all of Tennessee, deserve elected officials who work in the public’s best interest, especially from those officials who are sworn to uphold the law,” says TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “We are grateful to have the cooperation and support of our federal and state partners in investigating officials who abuse that public trust.”

“I am grateful to our law enforcement partners for their swift response and assistance to the citizens of Fentress County,” said District Attorney General Jared Effler.  “The District Attorney’s Office always stands ready to provide any assistance necessary to investigate and prosecute matters involving public corruption.”

Cravens faces more than 20 years in prison and fines of up to $850,000.