Sheriff asks TBI to probe seized car procedure9:35 am | October 31, 2012
CHATTANOOGA AP) — The Hamilton County sheriff says he is asking the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into whether he violated procedure by giving a car back to its owner after it was seized during the drug arrest of the woman’s son.
Marcia Tenenbaum told the Chattanooga Times Free Press she phoned Sheriff Jim Hammond after her son was arrested in April for having 15 ounces of marijuana in her Lincoln Towncar.
Tenenbaum said she knew the sheriff because they were classmates at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the criminal justice program.
“I called him. I said, ‘I’m disabled. My car’s all I got,”’ Tenenbaum said.
The sheriff arranged to have the car returned to her.
But the sheriff can’t release a car without an order from the state Department of Safety, said department attorney Joe Bartlett, who handles asset forfeitures. The state never released the vehicle, Bartlett said, and records show the car officially became state property last week.
Hammond said the car may have been turned over to Tenenbaum by mistake, but it was not done as a favor for an acquaintance.
“This is a procedural situation. It had nothing to do with influence,” Hammond said. “I don’t know the lady. … She may have gone to school with me, but so did a thousand other people.”
Hammond said the return of the car went through proper channels.
“I always turn it over to narcotics. That’s what happened this time,” he said. “We were in error. We didn’t file the paperwork, or somewhere it got lost in the shuffle. We will correct that.”
The sheriff’s office is also conducting an internal investigation into how the car was released.
“I don’t know what we’re going to end up doing,” Hamilton County Deputy Chief Allen Branum said. “We’re looking for legal advice right now.”