Speaking of disclosing convictions on an application: Did a Caroline County Sheriff’s Office sergeant disclose his involvement in the tear gas attack of a gay bar when he was hired?

Prologue: I had originally planned on publishing this post on Monday but I deferred posting for one reason. The person involved, Travis Nutter, was one of the investigators which worked on the Joseph Beverley murder case for which John Wayne Peck was on trial for earlier this week. Since I did not know if Nutter would be testifying during the trial for the case, and out of concern for some juror who might have tried to Google his name and find some reason not to believe what he testified to, I opted not to publish this post until after the trial concluded. And, yes, I’m aware that jurors are not supposed to use to Internet to check up on witnesses nor defendants, but given the number of morons that were obviously on that jury I believe my concern was well-founded. Anyway…

It’s amazing the stuff you can find on the internet by accident.

He was also given a bad conduct discharge by the United States Marine Corps according to The Washington Blade:

A former Marine who was given a bad conduct discharge from the military six years ago for his involvement in the tear-gas attack on a Capitol Hill gay bar is currently working as a deputy sheriff in southern Virginia.

Travis Lee Nutter is employed as a deputy in the Caroline County Police Department [sic], located south of Fredericksburg, Va., according to Deputy Sheriff Roger [sic] Moser.

Moser said he was unaware of Nutter’s involvement in the 1997 incident, which gay activists have characterized as a hate crime. According to Moser, Nutter was hired as a Caroline County police officer [sic] in 2000.

The incident dates back to the summer of 1997, when a group of five U.S. Marines, stationed at the Marine Barracks at Eighth and I Streets, in Southeast, D.C., threw a CS grenade, containing tear gas, inside Remington’s, a gay country-western themed bar, just six blocks from the base.

The following year Nutter, along with the other Marines involved, served brig time, was demoted to private status and was given a bad conduct discharge from the military as a result of the incident.

According to Moser, Caroline County Police Department authorities are aware of Nutter’s military background. But Moser would not comment when asked if he knew of the details surrounding Nutter’s discharge from the Marines. Moser also would not say if the department would investigate whether Nutter lied about his involvement in the ’97 incident when he applied to join the force.

It could not be confirmed by Blade deadline if Nutter had been convicted of any crime for his involvement in the Remington’s incident, but coverage of the attack in the Blade seven years ago documented Nutter’s demotion and bad conduct discharge from the military.

“We don’t hire any convicted felons,” Moser said. “By Virginia law, you can’t carry a weapon if you’ve been convicted of a felony.”

Moser added that the Caroline County Sheriff’s office conducts a National Criminal & Intelligence check on all applicants.

Moser said all applicants must pass a criminal background check, and a federal background investigation before being considered for the position. But because the Remington’s case was handled by military authorities, it may not have appeared on a criminal background check.

The Blade this week requested Nutter’s discharge records from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and was told that the request would take “several days.”

When Moser was asked if he had viewed Nutter’s military discharge records prior to hiring him, he said he was “not at liberty to discuss anything involving an officer’s personal issues.”

Nutter did not return calls seeking comment.

[…]

The Blade reported in early 1998 that Nutter, who was 21 at the time, was charged with conspiracy in aiding Ryan M. Barrett, the Marine who threw the tear gas grenade into Remington’s. Barrett pleaded guilty to conspiracy, assault and theft charges that year during a court martial proceeding at the Marine base in Quantico, Va.Barrett admitted that he threw a CS grenade — commonly known as a tear gas grenade, which is often used to control crowds during outdoor riots and other disturbances — into the gay bar.

The CS grenade was thrown into Remington’s at 2:15 a.m., on Saturday, July 12, 1997; about 70 patrons were inside at the time. No serious injuries were reported, but shortly after the attack, Remington’s owner Steven Smith told the Blade that many customers and employees had suffered stinging in their eyes and throats.

Authorities charged the Marines with conspiracy to commit assault, assault, wrongful disposition of property (the tear gas grenade), breach of peace, and underage drinking.

Five months after the incident, a judge in a military court martial sentenced Barrett to four months confinement in a brig, lowered his military status to private and issued a bad conduct discharge.

Nutter was demoted to private; the lowest military rank, and was one of five Marines sentenced to a 35-70 day confinement in the brig.

Nutter was given a bad conduct discharge for his involvement in the incident.

[…]

After the sentencing of the other four Marines in ‘98, the Marine Corps prosecutor of that case, Maj. Joseph Bowe, told the Blade that the bad conduct discharges, and the fact that these men had been convicted of crimes listed as federal offenses will remain on the records of the four for the rest of their lives.

It could not be confirmed by Blade deadline if Nutter had been convicted of any crimes listed as federal offenses, but he did receive a bad conduct discharge from the military in February of 1998.

For those that are unaware, a bad conduct discharge is just one level about a dishonorable discharge. And while I don’t see where The Washington Blade did any follow-up regarding whether Nutter was actually convicted of any crime for the whole accident, what I did find out online regarding a bad conduct discharge says that it can only be given to a someone as the result of a court martial which leaves me to believe that Nutter was convicted of something.

And while Homer Johnson bears the responsibility for hiring Nutter, it was Lippa that retained Nutter as investigator even after his office learned the full details of Nutter’s separation from the military.

And to make matters even worst, Nutter was just promoted to sergeant where he “will serve as the first line supervisor for the Investigative Division” according to Portsia Smith’s “Caroline Crossroads” blog at Fredericksburg.com.

I guess everyone deserves a second chance, except for that monster Ben Boyd of course. </snark>

17 Comments

  1. william e. sparks says:

    Hmm, maybe time for a new Sheriff if everything checks out about Nutter?

  2. Mike Jones says:

    I dont know if this is believeable or not. As a former employee of that wacked up Sheriffs Office, I can honestly say Nutter was a good person in general and a hell of an investigator. He was promoted to Sgt because he deserved it which anyone who has close relations to the Sheriffs Office would know if they checked his track record of arrest. Lieutenant Crowder is another story, his background is even worse.

  3. Mike, Nutter might be a good person and great investigator, but that’s not the question. The question is whether he should be working in law-enforcement given his background. The question is also whether he properly disclosed his involvement with this crime on his application, something that seems to be a pressing law-enforcement issue in the case of teachers.

    • Kenneth Wickstrom says:

      When this event took place I was a Corporal at the Marine Barracks Washington D.C.. I was also present during the trial as I was a Chaser/Bailiff from their unit as required. I am not defending what these Marines did. I also would not classify it as a hate crime. You had a group of young men on a Saturday night. One pulls out a (stolen) CS Grenade and shows his friends. Someone gets the stupid idea to use it. During my time of escorting the men I heard the story many times. All stated that they did not know it was a gay establishment. I believe this. I think it was wrong to have done it anywhere it might have caused injury to someone.
      Out of the five, four where given bad conduct discharges. Only one stood up and said he was wrong in what he had done and that felt regret for putting someone in danger and embarrassing the Marine Corps. This individual was demoted to E-1/Private but allowed to stay in the Marine Corps. Point of fact he did not throw the grenade nor steal it.
      Also I want to clarify that the time of confinement was time served while awaiting trial. No time was given to follow the court proceedings.
      These young men did a stupid thing and they paid for it severely. I hope today that the four who were discharged have matured and are serving society in a beneficial way. If Deputy Sherif Nutter is serving his community and has done so in a commendable way, I fail to see why this is a matter. Has he done anything during his time at the Sherif’s office that should be questioned?

  4. Mike Jones says:

    No need to get all bent out of shape about Watson. Obviously, Nutter wasnt convicted of anything that would keep him out of law enforcement. If he was convicted of a felony, he would not be able to carry a firearm. Also a bad conduct discharge is not a “DISHONORABLE” discharge just as a medical discharge is not an “HONORABLE” discharge. The fact of the matter is, until there is a post on this site with a copy of a military record saying he was convicted of something, im not buying what is being said. The Department of Criminal Justice Services (VA DCJS)also screens individuals being allowed certifications which require a clean history. That would mean that if Nutter did something wrong or CCSO did something wrong, it would be 2 mistakes made in hiring him. Thats highly unlikely but not impossible especially since he was hired under the Johnson administration.

  5. Mike, you don’t get a bad conduct discharge except as punishment during a court martial. And he was only charged with conspiracy to commit assault which probably makes it a misdemeanor, not a felony, which means he would still be eligible to legally buy and use a firearm. You also don’t get demoted and serve brig time unless you’ve been convicted of something.

    And, yes, it would be great if I could get a copy of his DD Form 214 or his criminal background check done during his application process, but those documents are considered confidential by the Sheriff’s Office.

    But other government employee’s personnel files aren’t obviously.

  6. Mike Jones says:

    Well if thats the case, he may have disclosed the “misdemeanor” you speak of and you are just not aware of the facts surrounding his initial background investigation due to its “confidentiality”. Also crimes that are tried in the military are not the same as those tried with civilians (ie: adultery to civilians is not a common offense that someone is tried for, but in the military, it is an offense that would result in a court martial.) Besides, what does it matter now, he is an employee and theres nothing anyone can do about it. Trust me, if he did do this, when he decides one day to be a sheriff or something (god forbid) it will all come out!

  7. Mike Jones says:

    Also, if you read the initial post, whomever did the research regarding this topic is sloppy.

    1. Roger Moser does not work for Caroline County Sheriffs Office, nor has there ever been a Roger Moser employed there or at a non-existent Caroline County Police Department.

    2. Caroline County is not a police department, it is a Sheriffs Office.

    3. Police Officers do not work for a Sheriffs Office, they are deputy sheriffs! DUHH!

    Anyone, especially a newspaper that would post crap like this should not be working in the media field. This is the type of under investigated material that gets someone sued for slander.

  8. Just because some Yankee gets a single name wrong and doesn’t know the difference between a police department and a sheriff’s office doesn’t it make untrue.

    Oh, and I’m just waiting for the lawsuit Mike. I’ll be sure to file discovery motions for every one of Nutter’s military and sheriff’s office personnel documents.

  9. justice4all says:

    Mike – DCJS & background investigations don’t weed out everyone with a past… This story wasn’t hugely publicized, but it’s a good lesson:
    http://wfls.com/News/FLS/2006/112006/11092006/235741

  10. Mike Jones says:

    justice4all Says:

    “Mike – DCJS & background investigations don’t weed out everyone with a past… This story wasn’t hugely publicized, but it’s a good lesson:
    http://wfls.com/News/FLS/2006/112006/11092006/235741

    I am aware that they do not weed out everything. Thats what the background check thru the agency is for and they do in fact miss certain things in a persons background.

    IMHO, I would think that someone who is opening themselves up to a potential lawsuit regarding the character and reputation of “ANY” Law enforcement officer would want to have their facts straight prior to opening their mouths or in this case, posting it to a blog. It could be true but im not going to validate any of it.

  11. Mike Jones says:

    “Timothy Watson Says:

    Just because some Yankee gets a single name wrong and doesn’t know the difference between a police department and a sheriff’s office doesn’t it make untrue.

    Oh, and I’m just waiting for the lawsuit Mike. I’ll be sure to file discovery motions for every one of Nutter’s military and sheriff’s office personnel documents.”

    Ok, so now its a yankee that supposedly has no idea what the difference between a sheriffs office and a police department is? I thought it was a Washington based newspaper that posted the initial information? There are sheriffs offices and police departments in all states on the east coast, I cant speak for the west coast but I am sure it is very similar. For someone to not know the difference is beyond me.

    Also, for the record, Lippa is very picky about who represents him as a deputy sheriff for Caroline County so if Nutter had a criminal background, he would have been fired, not promoted. Lippa’s ethics standards are way too high and his arrogance would not allow him to retain such a person as it leads back to him, the Sheriff in the end regardless of what administration hired him.

  12. Mike, Lippa’s ethics standards must not apply to himself since he goes around hiring relatives and pursing a vendetta with BS charges against someone because he got a job over Lippa’s son-in-law.

    And Mike, you can choose not to believe this information or not, but it’s the truth.

  13. Mike Jones says:

    Thats your opinion Timothy. I havent seen anything personally or a scanned image on the web validating any of it.

  14. Stephanie Osborne says:

    He was not convicted. As such, he has every right to carry a firearm. He is making a difference in his current position as well – as is evident. Take up a hobby. Find something to do.

  15. Dubby says:

    Interesting article. You should also look into Henrico PD reports and see if there is a report associated with Nutter after one of the NASCAR races several years ago – maybe 2005 fall race? I don’t recall what I was told by a relative of his.

    Do you have a running list of all the Caroline deputies who have been arrested either before, during or after their time on the job?

  16. Mulhlnd says:

    Wickstrom doesn’t remember the story correctly… I was there when this happened and Brian (the one who stood up and told the truth) stuck to his story that he was drunk and didn’t remember anything. Ryan (the one who actually tossed the tear gas canister into the bar) got a couple years in the brig and a bad conduct discharge. The day of Nutter’s court hearing I was there in court. Metro DC Police officers were there and testified that a Marine from WHCA called them and told them Nutter wanted to talk to them. They went and interviewed him and he told them all about the incident. They testified that without Nutter reaching out to them they probably would have never solved the case and if the case was handled by the DC courts, he never would have been charged. Nutter got 15 days or something like that in the brig but they suspended that, demoted him to private or PFC and gave him a general discharge under honorable circumstances. All of them except Ryan were offered to re-enlist for another 4 years and get an honorable discharge after that. I remember talking to Nutter about that and trying to convince him to stay in, he was a good Marine. Because he was the “snitch” that got them all charged, he went through some rough stuff and said he didn’t care, he just wanted to get out. The rest of them got bad conduct discharges. And if you know the story, Ripkowski was never so much as questioned about telling the “fireside story” to them the night before about the time him and his platoon buddies did the same thing to the same bar back in the 80’s, which was what gave Ryan the idea. According to all of them, they didn’t know Ryan had the CS canister until he stopped in front of the bar and pulled it out…I’m actually glad to hear he persevered, he was a good kid.

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