ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WATE) – A now former Blount County, Tennessee, Sheriff’s Office deputy was arrested in Asheville, North Carolina, on Thursday for allegedly traveling there with the intent to have a sexual encounter with an underage girl.
James Eugene Patty, Jr., 48, is charged with soliciting a child by computer. He is being held in the Buncombe County Detention Center on $50,000 bond.
The Asheville Police Department says they became aware through online means of a threat to children in the Asheville area. They say it began with an action by Patty and an undercover officer made contact with him online.
A meeting was arranged and Patty traveled from Maryville to Asheville, thinking he was going to have sex with a 14-year-old girl. Patty was taken into custody by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Asheville Police Department shortly after he arrived.
Blount County Sheriff James Berrong says Patty was fired Thursday afternoon for violating sheriff’s office policy and said his actions were embarrassing.
“I will not tolerate the actions and behavior of James Patty or any other deputy who breaks the law or acts unethically,” Sheriff Berrong said. “His actions are an embarrassment and a black mark on me and the men and women of the Blount County Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement in general. The act of one does not take away the good deeds of others. This agency proudly serves the citizens of Blount County. I understand that an apology for Patty’s actions on behalf of this agency may not be enough, but it is my hope that our citizens will realize that his actions are not a reflection of the fine deputies who serve with honor and integrity each day.”
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation released a statement saying “The NC SBI greatly appreciates the ongoing assistance from Sheriff Berrong and his agency. I personally consider it intolerable that anyone would prey on children, but even more so when that predator is someone who has sworn an oath to protect the public. It has been made very clear to me that Sheriff Berrong feels the same way.”
Blounty County mother Felicia Richardson was shocked by the arrest.
“It’s very disturbing and it’s scary. Having four small children myself and living in Blount County and having it be someone of high authority that’s supposed to serve and protect, it’s very alarming,” said Richardson.
Blount County resident Amy Paveglio has a teenage daughter. She was also very upset by the deputy’s charges.
“I have taught my children to trust the police and if they are in need to come to them. Finding this out I’m worried. How is my 15-year-old supposed to trust a police officer if you can go out and solicit from a child?” said Paveglio.
Mother of four Felicia Richardson says she monitors her girls’ internet use.
“They are not allowed on the internet unless I, or their father, are with them at all times,” said Richardson.
Paveglio says she keeps an eye on her teenage daughter’s social media activity.
A review of Patty’s personnel file showed he had been previously fired and deemed not eligible for rehire in February 2007 after having been suspended for three days without pay. While the record doesn’t say exactly why he was suspended, it does say he had “internal problems” that needed to be sorted out. He was also encouraged to review the Code of Conduct, specifically the sections on insubordination, unbecoming conduct, unsatisfactory performance, ridicule or criticism of the sheriff’s office, and general conduct.
Patty was rehired by the Blount County Sheriff’s Office in 2011.