Sex-tape cover-up discovered within Tennessee Highway Patrol ranks

| 12/23/2005

Another Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper's name has been added to Santa's naughty list, thanks to some tenacious investigative reporting by an area newspaper.

On Thursday, Dec. 22, The Tennessean reported that Sgt. Gregory R. Badacour – who in August 2004 was arrested for filming people having sex at a local lookout point – was given a one-day suspension for his actions, and is still working as a patrol officer at the state Capitol.

According to The Tennessean , Badacour pleaded guilty to filming one couple and was placed on probation, while his police file says he filmed at least nine other couples. He also admitted to clicking on a child pornography Web site link on a computer.

However, his record with THP only mentions the one guilty plea, despite being informed by the local police of the other incidents, The Tennessean reported.

Although Badacour does have a criminal record, he's certainly not the only one in THP. The Tennessean found that 48 of the state's more than 800 troopers had some type of charges on their criminal record, including felony charges and suspended driver's licenses. The paper also found that two-thirds of all officers in the patrol had made some sort of campaign contribution, and about half of those were promoted over troopers with better test scores.

The investigation eventually led to the resignation of three higher-ups in the patrol, including Lynn Pitts, former head of the patrol, who resigned after the criminal record bombshell was dropped by the newspaper.

After stepping down, Pitts also fingered Deputy Gov. Dave Cooley – the second in command in the state's government – saying he was involved in cronyism and was often consulted when it came time for high-level promotions within THP.

Additionally, The Tennessean also uncovered the story of Jerry Dean Watson – a former “trooper of the year” – who'd been convicted of a felony and resigned from the Highway Patrol in November 2001, only to be hired back in January 2003.

His crime? Forging a judge's signature to get out of a speeding ticket.

The Tennessean's probe of the patrol has been an ongoing topic of interest for the newspaper. Less than six months ago, an investigative series uncovered corruption in THP's “honorary captain” program, which eventually led to its government-ordered shutdown.

State officials have not taken The Tennessean's investigations lightly. After Watson's rehiring was uncovered earlier this week, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen ordered background checks on all 800-plus Highway Patrol officers.