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Why Did Commissioner Turn Suicide Attempt Into Crime?

Why Did Commissioner Turn Suicide Attempt Into Crime?

By Phil Williams. CREATED Nov 5, 2013

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- A bizarre case involving a Rutherford County commissioner -- and allegations of torture -- took an even more bizarre turn.

Now, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has uncovered questions about a story that the commissioner told that put a man behind bars.

Our investigation first revealed how Matt Young and two associates are facing a criminal investigation after accusations that they tortured that inmate over a business deal gone bad.

But one leading expert questioned how that man's suicide attempt later became a crime.

It all began in December 2012 with an early-morning call to 911 from the Kentucky welcome center, just across the state line from Clarksville.

"I was riding with my roommate up here from Tennessee, from Murfreesboro -- and he's suicidal," Young told the 911 dispatcher.

"He claims that he's going to go kill himself and his mom."

The commissioner, who is also a Murfreesboro firefighter, said his roommate was sitting in the back of Young's Impala, threatening to shoot himself.

"The son of a b***h pulled a damn gun on me -- my gun -- and then told me to leave because he was going to shoot himself in the car -- and told me to walk away," Young continued. 

"I said, 'You are not going to shoot yourself in my car.'"

Kenneth Cooper was the roommate who -- according to a statement made by Young -- had been "talking to an imaginary person" during the drive to Kentucky.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Cooper, "Did you pull a gun on him?"

"I don't remember what happened that day," he insisted.

"The officer told me you're not under arrest, we just wanna get you help.  And they directly took me to a hospital where I seen a psychiatrist and took me to a mental hospital."

But while Cooper sat in the mental hospital, the Rutherford County commissioner returned to Kentucky four days later to swear out a warrant, charging his former roommate with 1st degree robbery.

He said that Cooper had attempted to steal his car so that he could go kill his mother and himself.

It's a crime that carries a possible 20 years in prison.

We tried to ask Young why he decided to turn the call about a suicidal friend into a criminal case, but he refused to talk, running away from our cameras.

"It doesn't sound like any robbery I've ever heard of before," said former prosecutor David Raybin.

Raybin listened to the 911 calls where Young told the dispatcher that Cooper was "bipolar and he's mentally ill, as well."

He questioned how Young went from being concerned about his roommate messing up his car to essentially accusing him of car-jacking.

"The man, if in fact he wanted to kill himself, was trying to get the so-called victim to leave," Raybin said, after listening to Young's own description.

"And the guy was more interested in making sure there wasn't any blood inside of his car or that something would happen inside his car."

The county commissioner told the 911 dispatcher that after Cooper threatened to shoot himself inside the car, "I said, "You don't even have a gun.' He said, 'Yes, I do.' I said, 'No, you don't' -- and I didn't think he did. And he pulled out my gun. And that's when I damn wrestled that son of a bitch away from him."

Young's affidavit claimed that Cooper pulled out the gun when the commissioner refused to get out of the car and leave the keys.

"The relationship between these two people is very strange," Raybin observed.

And the 911 dispatcher also seemed suspicious.

"I guess here is my question, what are you doing in Kentucky?" he asked Young.

"Supposed to come up here to meet somebody to get paid that he had sold tickets to," Young answered.

In fact, Nashville police tell NewsChannel 5 Investigates that, at the time of this incident, the county commissioner himself was under investigation for his involvement with Cooper in a fraudulent scheme involving tickets for concerts and sporting events.

That investigation is continuing.

And video shows where Cooper hinted to a Rutherford County detective several months earlier about being tortured by Young and two associates over some counterfeit tickets he had sold them.

"If he had tortured this man, that's a highly relevant consideration," Raybin said.

"It raises a question about whether he's really a victim?" we asked.

"Absolutely."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Cooper why Young wanted so badly for him to be charged with a crime.

"He realized he wasn't gonna get any more money off the tickets thing right there," he claimed.

"So you think this was revenge in a part?" we asked.

"Absolutely."

We met up with Cooper for the second time right after he was brought to court to accept a plea bargain.

He told us he could not take the risk of going to prison for two decades. Under the deal, he could get eight years, with the possibility of parole sometime next year.

"I pled guilty because I really don't know what took place that day," Cooper said. "I wish I did know what took place that day."

As for Matt Young's story, Cooper's attorney tells NewsChannel 5 that he never listened to the 911 calls. 

Even the prosecutor told us that she did not think that Young ever really feared for his life.

"Something's wrong with this whole situation," Raybin said.

That's why Raybin said that he's got lots of questions -- questions that Matt Young won't answer.

At the hospital, Matt Young did tell Kentucky state police that Cooper wanted him to get out of the car and leave the keys -- but he never gave that specific detail during in his lengthy 911 call.

And it's important to note that police did not seize the gun as evidence in a crime.

Instead, they let Matt Young take it home with them.

Cooper was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, but -- as a result of all these questions -- his lawyer asked the judge for more time to investigate the case.

And, in a highly unusual move, prosecutors agreed. They told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that they want to make sure that what they are doing in this case is justice.

 
Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.