Charges against convicted felon overturned by TN Supreme Court

(WMC-TV) - The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned charges against a convicted felon, saying police must be able to corroborate anonymous tips before detaining anyone.

It is a case that dates back to May 2009, when Covington police arrested Guy Williamson and charged him with handgun possession and unlawful possession of a handgun.

The incident began after Covington police got an anonymous tip of an armed party at the Baxter Motel.

Police say the motel is a den of criminal activity.

"When they get a call there, the factor goes up just a little higher because they're alert," says Covington Police Department Assistant Chief Allen Wilson.

The caller did not mention any particular illegal activity or describe a suspect.

Covington police arrived on scene in less than one minute.

One officer drew his weapon and pointed it towards the second floor where Williamson and two other men stood.

"The guy we were patting down said the guy on the balcony had a pistol in his pocket so naturally officers draw down and sure enough he had a weapon in his pocket," Wilson adds.

Police say that guy with the gun was Williamson.

He was arrested and charged with felony possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Williamson's case was tried by a Tipton County jury and was also upheld in the court of criminal appeals.

The Tennessee state supreme court dismissed the charges saying "the anonymous call did not provide the officers with the requisite degree of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in order to justify Williamson's detention. Possession of a firearm is 'not necessarily a crime,' and police must first find circumstances corroborative of anonymous allegations".

Covington Police say they're afraid this state supreme court ruling will keep people from calling in tips anonymously because now investigators will be forced to ask more questions.

"It will hinder some of these calls because they're saying you've got to fully describe and sometimes we don't get that kind of info," continues Wilson.

Both the Covington police department and the District attorney stand behind the court of criminal appeals ruling -- saying the police officers did just as they're trained to do under constitutional law.

In addition to his 2009 arrests, Guy Williamson was most recently arrested in July of last year for aggravated assault.

You can read more about this story in this week's edition of The Leader.

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