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Arrests, lies and audio tapes

It is about a one-hour drive northwest of Chattanooga to get to Tracy City. The small town raised some eyebrows a decade ago when its voters chose a man who had died more than a month before election day as their new mayor.

More recently, the Tracy City Police Department has raised eyebrows with its extensive use of an informant who has admitted that she framed people. Police chief Charlie Wilder and his assistant used Tina Prater over and over in 2017, a recent news article stated. Law enforcement agencies then used Prater's tape-recorded "evidence" to make arrests of 29 people on drug-related charges.

Prater recorded audio of what she said were drug deals, and then gave the tapes to the two top officers, who by their own admission didn't follow her, listen in, make independent identification of the people involved, examine the drugs she collected or do anything to verify the contents of the tapes.

Prater says "Wilder told her who to frame and how to do it," according to the news report. He denies her allegations.

Investigators who listened to the recordings of the purported drugs deals noticed oddities: a pair of defendants sounded like the same person and one defendant appeared to be two different people.

Cases began to unravel. Prosecutors dropped charges against 18 of the people accused of selling illegal drugs to Prater, though two defendants did plead guilty.

The article about the cases is fascinating. It shows again that one should never leap to the conclusion that all allegations made by police officers are accurate or true.

Those facing charges in Chattanooga should decline to speak to a prosecutor until they have talked over allegations and evidence with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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