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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Johnson City will request a third-party review of Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) actions in the case of a downtown businessman whom a whistleblowing attorney claims wasn’t adequately investigated for alleged sexual assaults.
City Manager Cathy Ball said in a statement Wednesday afternoon the external review will seek “to determine if any actions by the Johnson City Police Department were inconsistent with acceptable practice of law enforcement.”
The statement also said the JCPD and the U.S. Marshals Service “continues to search for the person believed to be Mr. Voe and asks that anyone with information about his whereabouts please contact the department, anonymously if preferred.”
“Robert Voe” is the pseudonym of the principal figure in a federal lawsuit filed June 23 by former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney “Kat” Dahl, who worked for JCPD from September 2019 through July 2021 under a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Greeneville.
Dahl’s suit claims that JCPD leaders and investigators, including Turner, stonewalled her repeated attempts from September 2020 through June 2021 to convince them to broaden a case against “Voe” beyond a federal charge of felon in possession of ammunition. It alleges that there was sufficient information to investigate “Voe” for a string of incidents in which he allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted women he would meet downtown.
Ball’s statement acknowledged that some people in the community “may be alarmed” by the allegations, acknowledged they were serious, and requested people “reserve judgment until all the facts can be presented.”
She wrote that an internal investigation has so far “not determined any of the allegations to be founded.”
Acknowledging that questions have arisen about JCPD’s handling of sexual assault cases in the wake of Dahl’s lawsuit, Ball made several comments about that issue.
“Please know: the Johnson City Police Department and the City of Johnson City take violent crimes and sexual assault very seriously,” Ball wrote. “It is important to note that victims of sexual assault face a tremendously difficult choice in pursuing charges against an attacker.”
Ball referenced the JCPD’s Family Justice Center (FJC), which assists sexual and domestic violence victims confidentially and sensitively. Ball encouraged people who have suffered physical and emotional trauma from such assault to contact the FJC at (423) 722-3720.
Ball said the city’s leaders “have confidence in our Police Department and want our citizens to as well” and that the city promises “to be transparent and accountable.”
“The integrity of our officers is of utmost importance, and we would never tolerate corruption in our organization,” Ball concluded.
Johnson City commissioners are scheduled to discuss the lawsuit, which names the city in addition to Police Chief Karl Turner, in an executive session at 4:30 p.m. Thursday prior to their regular commission meeting.
A citizens group plans to picket outside city hall ahead of the meeting and attend the 6 p.m. regular session. Members have demanded that Turner be suspended pending an outside investigation and that a police accountability board be established in the city.