Saturday, September 13, 2014

Texass Sheriff's deputy takes naked pictures of Registered Citizens because "It's the law"

When I first got the news, the tagline read "Florida," not "Texas." I can understand the confusion; after all, Florida is usually the state that gives us stories such as this one.  I guess you can say this was not a "Wise" choice.


Officer arrested for photos of sex offender
By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, September 13, 2014
(Un-)Wise Co. TX Sheriff's Office--
Sgt. Chad Hightower

{{platinum}}}This article contains descriptions that may be offensive to some readers.

A longtime officer at the Wise County Sheriff’s Office has been arrested for improper photography related to convicted sex offenders.

Chad Alan Hightower, 41, of Boyd was charged Friday morning with improper photography or visual recording. He was released after posting $25,000 bond.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit filed by Texas Ranger Ron Pettigrew, Hightower forced a male sex offender to strip naked and be photographed.

The victim came forward and related what had happened to District Attorney Investigator Jack McGuinn. He told McGuinn that after he was released from prison in June, he was required to register as a sex offender. On June 17, he met with Hightower to complete the paperwork, and was told nude photos would need to be taken.

“Deputy Hightower represented this as a change in the sex offender registration required by the state,” the affidavit states.

The victim was taken to a bathroom in the sheriff’s office lobby where he stripped naked, and Hightower took “several photographs from all sides” before telling the victim he could get dressed and leave, the affidavit states.

A month later, the victim had to meet with Hightower again to update his sex offender information. He was told the photos were defective due to a glare, and more would need to be taken. The two got into Hightower’s county vehicle and drove to the county’s impound yard on Farm Road 51 South in Decatur.

There, the statement alleges, Hightower directed the victim into the impound office where he once again was photographed in the nude. The two were the only ones in the building at that time.

“After a short time, Deputy Hightower reportedly advised (the victim) he believed the next thing the State was going to require was photographs of a sex offender’s erect penis,” the affidavit states. “Deputy Hightower asked (the victim) if he could obtain an erection for him, so that the needed photographs could be taken and (the victim) would not have to return in the future for them.”

The victim said he declined the request and was asked an additional “three or four times” before he was told to get dressed. The two returned to the sheriff’s office, and the victim went home.

McGuinn asked the victim to describe the impound office, and he was able to describe details that would only be known by someone who had been inside.

Surveillance video from the sheriff’s office lobby show Hightower with a camera with the victim with actions that are “consistent with (the victim’s) description of events,” according to the affidavit.

Pettigrew was able to collect the SD cards from Hightower’s county camera. Using the assistance of a forensic investigator, images that had been deleted were recovered. Among the images are several that appear to be the victim standing naked against a wood panel wall located in the impound office.

“Pettigrew noted on the above-mentioned media there are several more nude males that appear to be in the same bathroom (the victim) described, others are in the county impound office and yet more in what appears to be a residence,” the affidavit states.

Responding to Pettigrew’s questions, the victim confirmed that Hightower locked the gate of the impound yard behind them. He also said that he would not have consented to the nude photos if Hightower was not a police officer, and he felt compelled to submit to the photographs due to Hightower’s law enforcement position and being told it was state law.

Wise County Sheriff David Walker said he was shocked to learn what took place.

“It’s a shock and a sad day for all of us, especially me, because I have worked with Chad my entire law enforcement career,” Walker said.

Hightower started in 1992 as a dispatcher, became a deputy at the Wise County Sheriff’s Office in 1998 and was promoted to sergeant in 2004, according to a Wise County Messenger feature story on him in July 2011.

Walker said Hightower put in his papers to retire several weeks ago and is on leave until his retirement on Sept. 30.

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