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Giles returns to patrol duty despite Giglio Order

Eric Giles, a candidate for Macon County sheriff and a deputy for Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, speaks at a candidate forum held in April. File photo Eric Giles, a candidate for Macon County sheriff and a deputy for Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, speaks at a candidate forum held in April. File photo

Eric Giles, a candidate for Macon County sheriff, is back on patrol duty for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office after being on paid leave for more than a month despite having a Giglio Order against him from the 30th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

“I went back to work about two weeks ago — the chief deputy called me and told me to stop being lazy and get back to work,” Giles said with a sigh of relief. “And I’m back on full-time patrol duty — I’m not in courthouse security or behind a desk somewhere.”

Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer had placed Giles on leave Aug. 28 after he received a Giglio Order from the DA’s office stating that Giles’ testimony would no longer be used in court because it would be considered unreliable or biased. 

According to the letter sent to Palmer and Giles, Giles had misrepresented his duties as a law enforcement officer on multiple occasions. The Giglio Order letter, which was signed by Assistant District Attorney John Hindsman, stated that the DA’s office has a constitutional obligation to disclose any information that could be used to impeach the testimony of a prosecution witness, including instances of untruthfulness and potential bias. 

“In compliance with our procedures, prosecutors in our office recently reviewed materials and information in our possession regarding substantial violations,” the letter stated. “Unfortunately, in a review of these materials and information, the findings of the committee revealed that on more than one occasion you misrepresented your duties as a law enforcement officer in your employment with both the Clay and Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office in public forums.”

Giles said he was completely caught off guard by the letter as he’s testified for DA cases on many occasions and has never had a complaint. As for the alleged misrepresentations, Giles said he simply misspoke at a candidate forum back in April and made an effort to correct it as soon as he realized what he’d said. 

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District Attorney Ashley Welch said at the time the letter was issued that there were other incidents that led to the Giglio Order that were not outlined in the letter but said she couldn’t elaborate on the specifics since Giglio orders are not public record. 

Palmer placed Giles on paid leave while he conducted an internal investigation into the allegations against his deputy. 

Welch said she has issued five Giglio Orders since taking office about four years ago. Such an order typically leads to termination of the law enforcement officer or at the very least they’re usually taken off patrol duty because they are no longer able to testify in court in regard to arrests they’ve made. 

However, Palmer said he wasn’t able to conduct an internal investigation because Welch’s office would not supply more information on the accusations against Giles. 

“He said he was never given any evidence against me. He attempted to contact the DA’s office multiple times and no one responded,” Giles said. 

He said he’s relieved to be back at work doing what he loves and appreciates his sheriff for allowing him to return. As for the campaign for Macon County sheriff, Giles said he’s received a tremendous amount of support from people in the community. 

“I don’t think it’s hurt me — a lot of people have been supportive through this,” he said. “Things are going very well. I’m proud of my sheriff for taking up for me — I work for a real sheriff.” 

When asked what will happen if one of his cases goes to court and he can’t testify, he said only time would tell. 

“My sheriff said we’d deal with that as it came up,” Giles said. 

In the meantime, Welch says the Giglio Order still stands and she has no intentions to withdraw it. She said evidence wasn’t provided to Palmer based on a threat of litigation from Giles and his attorney Zeyland McKinney. 

“My intent was always to reply but before I got a chance I received a nasty letter from Giles’ attorney that caused me concern. Based on his accusations and tone it was very apparent to me I needed to see an attorney,” Welch said. “At the advice of counsel, I didn’t respond.”

However, Welch said she’s never been asked by a sheriff to provide evidence for an internal investigation after issuing a Giglio Order. 

McKinney responded to the Giglio Order by sending a letter to the DA’s office on Sept. 26 that included about 40 pages of campaign finance reports showing Welch’s contributions to Giles’ opponent — incumbent Sheriff Robert Holland — and Holland’s contributions to Welch’s campaign. 

In his letter addressed to Hindsman, McKinney stated that the DA office made no effort to contact his client regarding the allegations of “ethical or moral” breaches that would disqualify him from testifying in court. 

“It seems to me that due process, at a minimum, requires you to give my client an opportunity to be heard prior to making a decision to disqualify him from testifying in criminal proceedings,” he wrote. “Your actions, unless remedied, will likely bring an end to my client’s law enforcement career. It is disheartening to know that you and Ashley Welch have such little regard for fair play and substantial justice that you did not give my client an opportunity to rebut whatever allegations have been made against him…”

McKinney goes on to say misstatements made at a campaign event about past experience does not call for the issuance of a Giglio Order and requested the order be withdrawn. He also accused the DA’s office of misusing its power and interfering with an election campaign. 

“Your boss, Ashley Welch, has openly supported Sheriff Holland in the campaign for Sheriff of Macon County and has donated $1,000 to his re-election campaign,” he wrote. 

He also pointed out that if Welch felt she needed to recuse herself in the case of Scott Knibbs — a Macon County man who was shot and killed by a Macon sheriff’s deputy — then she should also recuse herself from the issue with Giles. 

“If your office may have a ‘conflict of interest’ in that case, why does your office not have a ‘conflict of interest’ when it comes to issuing a ‘Giglio Order’ to my client, who is running for Sheriff of Macon County against Robbie Holland?” he asked. 

After reviewing Giles’ personnel files from Graham, Macon, Clay and Cherokee counties, he said he found nothing to disqualify Giles from being a credible witness. 

“Moreover I have talked to numerous law enforcement professionals about my client’s job performance and have been told that my client is a good law enforcement officer and a good person,” McKinney wrote. 

McKinney said Giles misspoke at the candidate forum when he said he worked on the drug task force in Cherokee County when in fact he worked on “drug detail” for Graham County — a fact he claims he confirmed with Graham County. 

He added that his client was considering civil actions against “certain individuals” in their personal and professional capacities in regard to the Giglio Order being issued and asked the office to preserve any documents or records pertaining to the letter. 

McKinney’s letter makes no mention of another allegation that has been made against Giles that involved a high school student. While Giles has maintained he resigned from his deputy position with Graham County Sheriff on good terms, information from the Graham County human resources department says otherwise. According to a 2014 memo to county commissioners, Giles had applied for unemployment benefits and the county was denying his request because of behavior unbecoming of an officer. 

According to the high school principal at the time, David Matheson, Giles used his county-issued key to enter the high school weight room at 3:20 a.m. along with the female, and they departed the building at 4:10 a.m. The school administration wouldn’t have been aware of the early-morning entry if they hadn’t been reviewing video footage to find out who might have been responsible for a mess that was made in the bathroom and weight room. The school immediately alerted the sheriff’s office.

“Sheriff Mickey Anderson stated that he (Giles) would not be eligible to sign up (for benefits) due to he was on duty at the time that he entered the weight room with a civilian,” Board Clerk Kim Crisp stated in the memo. “Sheriff Anderson stated that his conduct was not acceptable to his standards and was negligent in his duties.”

The student has since come forward to The Smoky Mountain News stating that nothing inappropriate happened with Giles. She said Giles was simply offering her support and advice during a tough time in her life. 

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