County Commissioner, Others Face Investigation Over Alleged Torture
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Stunning claims of torture now have a county commissioner and two other men facing a criminal investigation.
Murfreesboro police confirmed that they're investigating an inmate's bizarre claims of a business deal gone bad.
That man, Kenneth Cooper, has a history of mental illness.
But, while the men insisted that it's one big lie, NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered video that could back up Cooper's incredible claims about what happened to him in July of last year.
"They confronted me and put a dog collar behind my neck and repeatedly burned me with cigarettes," he told NewsChannel 5 in an exclusive interview.
Cooper is, by his own admission, a man whose gambling addiction led him to rip off some of his closest friends.
His nickname: Slim Shady.
Now, he sits in a Hopkinsville jail awaiting sentencing for pulling a gun on Rutherford County commissioner and Murfreesboro firefighter Matt Young.
Cooper once lived with Young, who invested in a ticket-scalping venture with Cooper, along with Murfreesboro businessman Bubba Hutson and former Biloxi, Mississippi, pawn shop operator Harvey Felsher.
"I did give them some counterfeit tickets," he admitted. "They invested, I would say, fifteen to twenty thousand dollars -- and they were looking for big returns and things like that, and they wasn't getting money."
That's what led to a violent assault inside Hutson's historic house in downtown Murfreesboro, where Cooper had spent the night, according to a handwritten statement that Cooper sent to the local district attorney.
Cooper said the county commissioner made the first move.
"Matt Young came behind me with a dog collar," he added. "He repeatedly started choking me with it. One of the men said, 'Stop, he's turning purple.'"
That's when Bubba Hutson, according to Cooper's complaint, confronted him "with a gun in his hand."
"I don't think the gun was loaded that he had in his hand, but he had a gun," the inmate told NewsChannel 5. "He slapped me in the head with his hand, and they were repeatedly asking when they were going to get money back."
His answer: "soon."
"And they didn't believe me at first right there and they kept on slapping me upside my head and one of them burned me with a cigarette on my hand and said, 'You're going to tell us when or it's going to get worser.'"
The man with the cigarette, according to Cooper, was Harvey Felsher -- the Mississippi man who, according to the complaint, hit Cooper in the head with "a huge ring" he was wearing, drawing blood.
"I was in shock at first of what they were doing to me," he said. "I never would've dreamed that they would've did something like this to me."
That's when, in another strange turn, Young and Hutson apparently called their friend, Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold.
According to notes from a Rutherford County detective, the men told the sheriff that Cooper had confessed to selling them counterfeit tickets -- and they wanted him picked up.
But, because they didn't have a warrant for his arrest, the detective refused.
Still, interrogation video, obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, shows Cooper after Young and Hutson personally brought him into the sheriff's office for questioning.
"I just want to make sure that you understand that you are free to leave here -- Bubba can't make you stay, Matthew can't make you stay, and I'm not going to make you stay," the detective told Cooper.
Cooper recalled, "It kind of surprised me that they took me to the sheriff's department because I still had blood on me."
The interrogation video shows Cooper discussing his injuries with the detective:
Cooper: "You see my face, don't you. You see my neck, don't you?"
Detective: "I was fixing to ask you about that."
Cooper: "You see the burned cigarette on my hand, don't you."
Cooper: "So you can imagine the torture that was put to me over at that damn house."
The detective even noticed the blood.
We asked Cooper, "So why would they take you to the sheriff's department?"
"I would say they were trying to use their influence or something like that to try to scare me to make sure they would be getting their money back," he answered.
Cooper claimed that Bubba Hutson was blunt about his connections.
"He came out with the reply, 'This is my county. You don't have the kind of connections here. You're going to see very quickly today,'" he recalled.
"So you think they took you there just to intimidate you?" we asked.
"I think it was 100 percent they took me there to intimidate me."
But the interrogation video shows that the detective expressed concern for Cooper's safety.
Detective: "You want to go back out to where Bubba and them are?"
Detective: "Are you safe because I get the feeling that something else may have been going on that you've not let me know."
Cooper: "I'd just rather not talk about it."
Cooper left with the men because, he told the DA, he would have been homeless if he turned against them.
Young and Hutson later told the detective they did not want to prosecute Cooper for the counterfeit tickets either.
Still, Cooper claimed, his life has forever changed.
"I feared for these guys. I never knew what they were going to do next."
NewsChannel 5 Investigates reached out to all three men and -- while they did not want to go on camera to tell their side -- they insisted that Cooper is a well-practiced con artist who made up this incredible tale to cover up his own crimes.
Harvey Felsher said, by phone, that Cooper is taking a minor incident and blowing it out of proportion.
As for what they were doing with Cooper, Hutson and Felsher both said that they basically got conned.
Murfreesboro police told NewsChannel 5 that they are close to wrapping up their investigation.