Ridgely couple wins civil suit against TBI agents

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Tennessee Bureau of Investigation special agents Jeff Jackson and Mark Reynolds were ordered by a jury to pay $100,000 in compensatory damages and $15,000 in punitive damages to Fred and Marilyn Wortman.

The decision came after a three-day civil trial last week following a July 2015 incident in which Jackson and Reynolds forcibly entered the Wortmans’ home without a search warrant.

Dyersburg attorney, Charles “Bubba” Agee, represented the Wortmans.

TBI agents were looking for valuables the Wortmans’ son, Fred Auston Wortman III, told an inmate he may use to pay someone to have his wife killed.

When agents arrived to conduct the search of the Lake County property, Wortman reportedly told the agents to leave the property until they had a search warrant. When Wortman attempted to close his door on the agents, they rammed through and entered the home.

Since the 2015 incident, TBI Director David Rausch has claimed the agents treated the Wortmans with care and respect during the incident.

In a video released on TBI’s Facebook page in 2018, Rausch said executing a search without a search warrant is not unusual.

“Many citizens don’t have a problem with officers searching their property for evidence of a violent crime,” he said in the video.

Agee says the agents verbally threatened the Wortmans, even telling Fred Wortman they could have shot or killed him. When the agents later served a search warrant on the Wortmans’ daughter, they told her they had almost killed her father.

“The Wortmans felt intimidated and threatened from the moment the agents came through the door,” Agee said in a phone interview with Lake County Banner staff.

According to Agee, the Wortmans hoped the outcome of the suit would send a clear message.

“Nobody is above the law,” he said. “[The verdict] sends a clear message.”

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