Fentress County sheriff faces federal corruption, civil rights charges

Chucky Cravens (Courtesy: FentressCountyTN.com)

FENTRESS COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Federal charges were announced Thursday against the sheriff of Fentress County.

Charles “Chucky” Cravens, 47, pleaded guilty to three counts of honest services fraud and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. Sentencing is scheduled for July 20, 2017.

According to court documents, the now-former sheriff, who resigned last week, is accused of summoning a female inmate to his office in July 2016 and having unprotected sex.

Cravens is also accused of discussing having sex with the same inmate as well as another one month later in August 2016. The three allegedly formulated a plan to leave the jail together, and authorities say Cravens drove them to a vacant trailer where they engaged in unprotected sex.

The federal government says Cravens maintained a sexual relationship with these inmates for several months until they were released from jail. The most recent release was in February 2017.

The investigation reportedly also revealed Cravens drove a third inmate out of Fentress County to visit a relative this past February and, on the way back to jail, raised the subject of sex. The two then had unprotected sex inside his vehicle. Cravens is accused of sleeping with this inmate on at least one other occasion.

Authorities say Cravens reportedly used his position as sheriff to provide additional benefits to these inmates in exchange for their sexual relationships, including being transported personally by the sheriff from the jail to visit relatives, being allowed to go outside to smoke cigarettes, and providing money to relatives of the inmates to deposit into their jail commissary accounts.

According to a press release, the inmates called Sheriff Cravens’ personal cell phone and left recorded messages through the jail’s phone system when requesting special privileges. The Information alleges that between August 24, 2016 and March 1, 2017, one inmate called Cravens 332 times, the second called him 51 times, and the third placed 349 calls to Cravens’ phone.

And lastly, on Nov. 13, 2016, Cravens is accused of kicking a fourth inmate two times and placing him in a headlock while another correctional officer handcuffed him. The sheriff is accused of hitting him twice in the back of the head after he was cuffed.

“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.”

If convicted, Cravens faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each count of honest services fraud and up to one year in prison on the civil rights charge.