Former deputy to serve jail time for violating probation

Published 5:45 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

A former law enforcement officer will serve six months in jail after violating the terms of his probation on an assault case that happened while he was a deputy.

Matthew Ward Ainsworth, 29, of Kingsport, entered a guilty plea to a charge of violation of probation in Criminal Court on Thursday. A Carter County jury found Ainsworth guilty of two counts of aggravated assault in May of 2015 following a two-day trial. In July of 2015, Judge Stacy Street ordered Ainsworth to serve 30 days in jail and three years on probation for those convictions.

The Carter County Sheriff’s Office arrested Ainsworth in October 2013 and charged him with assaulting his former girlfriend, Susan Olive, at her home and her neighbor Dennis Bennett when Bennett attempted to come to Olive’s aid. Both Olive and Bennett required treatment at a hospital for their injuries and Bennett was admitted for further treatment. During the trial Bennett testified he still suffers from issues with his memory as a result of his injuries.

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Ainsworth was a deputy with the Carter County Sheriff’s Office at the time the assaults occurred. He resigned his position following his arrest.

The Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole filed a warrant with Carter County Criminal Court in March of this year alleging that Ainsworth violated the terms of his probation due to being arrested by the Bristol Police Department on a charge of domestic violence. The victim, in that case, was his then-girlfriend Sylvia Bennett. According to court documents, in December 2016, Ainsworth allegedly grabbed Bennett by her hair and shoved her head into a wall and a patio door several times before pushing her down a flight of stairs.

A jury found Ainsworth guilty of domestic assault in that case earlier this year and he was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail in Sullivan County.

In court on Thursday, Ainsworth entered a guilty plea to the charge of violation of probation.

During a sentencing hearing following his plea, Ainsworth took the stand and acknowledged his new conviction but denied the allegations were true.

Ainsworth’s probation officer, Amanda Owens, told the court Ainsworth had complied with all probation orders and had passed all his drug screens. The only issue of not being in compliance with probation was his new conviction, she said.

Street asked the District Attorney’s office what their position would be regarding sentencing.

“The State’s position is for Mr. Ainsworth to serve his sentence,” Assistant District Attorney Ryan Curtis said. “The original measures the court took were unsuccessful in deterring his violent behavior.”

Curtis said Ainsworth has never “accepted responsibility” for his actions, pointing to Ainsworth’s denial of the allegations against him despite being convicted of assaults by two separate juries in two different counties.

Ainsworth’s attorney, Whitney Taylor, asked the court to look at the case and consider several factors, including Ainsworth’s service in the U.S. Army, his diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the fact he has been undergoing counseling through the Vet Center. Taylor said the defense did not feel Ainsworth should be ordered to serve his jail sentence.

Street said the court recognized Ainsworth’s military service and his diagnosis of PTSD. “That carries some weight with this court, Mr. Ainsworth, but it does not give you a license to beat up women,” Street said. “Mr. Ainsworth was jailed for 30 days at the onset of this. Apparently, that didn’t work.”

“I don’t know what you talk to them about at the Vet Center, but if you go back, I suggest you talk to them about why you beat women,” Street continued.

Street then ordered that Ainsworth’s probation be revoked, that he serve six months in jail, that his probation be reinstated, and he starts over on the full three years of probation following his release from jail.

When Ainsworth served his initial 30 days, Street granted a request by him and his family to allow him to serve his time in Johnson County where his family resides. Officials with the Johnson County Detention Center granted Ainsworth trustee status at the jail which allowed him to earn two-for-one credits, so he did not have to serve the full 30 days.

On Thursday, Street said he would deny any request from the defense to allow Ainsworth to serve his time anywhere other than the Carter County Detention Center.

Street warned Ainsworth that should he violate his probation again, he should be prepared to serve the remainder of his sentence.