County Commissioner, Two Others Indicted For Alleged Torture
By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Three men -- including a Rutherford County commissioner -- were arrested Thursday morning after being indicted for the alleged torture of a business associate.
Commissioner Matthew Young, Murfreesboro businessman Bubba Hutson and Mississippi resident Harvey Felsher are charged in indictments returned by the Rutherford County Grand Jury with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault and extortion. Young and Hutson are also charged with simple domestic assault.
All three men turned themselves into the Rutherford County Jail at about 10:45 a.m. for booking. They were released on a $100,000 bond.
The indictments stem from an alleged incident, first reported by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, where the men are accused of assaulting ticket scalper Kenneth Cooper of Nashville in July 2012 after he sold them some counterfeit tickets to a Justin Bieber concert at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.
Cooper has claimed that the men had invested tens of thousands of dollars in his ticket-scalping venture.
"They confronted me and put a dog collar behind my neck and repeatedly burned me with cigarettes," Cooper told NewsChannel 5 in an exclusive interview.
He also made those same allegations in a hand-written letter sent to the Rutherford County district attorney. That letter was turned over to the Murfreesboro Police Department, which conducted the criminal investigation.
A video obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates could become a key piece of evidence in the criminal prosecution of Young and Hutson.
It shows Cooper after Young and Hutson took him to the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office after the alleged assault. Records indicate that they had contacted Sheriff Robert Arnold directly, who put them in touch with detectives. The men told detectives that Cooper had confessed to selling them counterfeit tickets and they wanted him picked up. But, because they did not have a warrant, the detective refused.
The video suggests that the detective immediately became suspicious when the men arrived with Cooper.
"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 him.
In addition, the detective noticed blood on Cooper's head.
"You see my face, don't you," Cooper said. "You see my neck, don't you?"
The detective responded, "I was fixing to ask you about that."
Cooper also pointed to what he said were cigarette burns on his hand.
"So you can imagine the torture that was put to me over at that damn house," he added.
Later, when the detective pressed Cooper for more information about what had happened to them, he indicated that he did not want to talk about it.
Hutson and Felsher have previously described Cooper as a con artist who, they say, has fabricated this entire story.
"You have become a victim like us -- being deceived by Mr. Cooper," Felsher told NewsChannel 5 Investigates as he was walking into jail.
Cooper now sits in the Christian County Jail in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on charges that pulled a gun on Young and attempted to steal his car during an apparent suicide attempt in December 2012 at the Kentucky welcome center, just across the state line from Clarksville.
A man with a long history of mental issues, Cooper has claimed that the torture incident pushed him over the edge.
Young originally called police to report the suicide attempt. But, while Cooper sat in a mental hospital, Young returned to Kentucky to swear out a warrant against him for robbery.
Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess told NewsChannel 5 that the county attorney is reviewing whether any action can or should be taken regarding Young's position as a county commissioner and on the commission's public safety committee.
A spokesperson for the Murfreesboro Fire Department said there would be no change in Young's status as a firefighter.