The Grayson County Sheriff’s Deputy who took guns from the office’s evidence locker and pawned them at area shops received a four-year prison sentence Friday, almost one year after the crimes came to light.
As his mother cried inconsolably, Errin Luton, a former small town police officer who had risen to a supervisor in the narcotics division at the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office, was led off into another room by jailers.
Judge Rayburn “Rim” Nall Jr. sentenced Luton after listening to more than an hour of testimony from various witnesses. Those witnesses included Luton’s wife, his doctor and his preacher.
Luton’s former boss, Sheriff Keith Gary, said, “Its one of those things, you hate when a family is hurt by the actions of someone. We had a lot of people hurt by the actions of one individual.” Gary said said the sentence showed, in his opinion, the seriousness of Luton’s actions.
A large portion of the evidence presented by Luton’s attorney Scott Smith had to do with a medication that Luton was taking for Parkinson’s disease. He had been prescribed a drug called Requip. His doctor, Shilpa Chitnis testified that the drug has been known to cause some people to suffer from impulse control problems. In a letter Scott supplied to the Court, Chitnis told her client, “This letter is to document that you were not responsible for your conduct and this was a consequence of medication-related side effect.”
She said around 13 percent of the patients put on the drug experience some sort of impulse control problem and doctors caution the patients about the need to watch out for those types of problems. She explained that young men, like Luton, are more likely to suffer those side effects than other patients.
Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Kerye Ashmore asked the doctor why, if there is medical proof that this drug can cause people to gamble, be promiscuous, drink or over-eat, would a doctor ever prescribe it.
“This is an FDA-approved drug,” Chitnis said. She then added that only a small percentage of the people who are on the drug experience the side effects, and the side effects from other Parkinson’s treatments are so much more severe that doctors prescribe other medications, like Requip, first and for as long as possible.
Chitnis said that patients who do experience the impulse control side effects of Requip and drugs like it are not good at self reporting their problems with the drug because they might not even realize they are “under the influence” until it is too late.
When asked about the medical evidence, Gary said he is not a medical doctor, but he tried to keep up with what the doctor was saying. He said he the testimony did not change his mind about Luton’s culpability for his actions.
“I didn’t quite agree with some of the things that she said,” Gary said, and he added that if Luton were experiencing impulse control problems, he could have asked for help. Gary said the department did know that Luton had Parkinson’s. “This just shook our whole agency. We would have never dreamed of him doing something like this,” Gary said.
Another person who was shook to the core by the things Luton did was his wife of 16 years who testified that she has now taken complete control of the family’s finances. She stoically recalled the things lost to her husband’s gambling and the pay day and title loans he took out to sustain it.
Gary said his office has undergone changes as well as a result of Luton’s actions. “We have moved on. We have tightened up the evidence room. It now takes a minimum of two of us (to move evidence in and out of the room). We have taken just about as tight a measure as we can and still make the room functional.”
GCSO spokesperson Ricky Wheeler said all of the restitution that was owed in the case has now been paid. Ironically, that is probably due to the fact that Luton won a significant amount of money just months after being arrested on the theft charges.That restitution included more than $8,000 that was paid to the Salvation Army because Luton gambled away money his fellow officers raised to help his family after a house fire. Wheeler said the officers figured someone should get the benefit of the money that they had meant to help Luton’s family.
The fact that Luton was still gambling after being arrested, Ashmore said in court, was troubling.
Ashmore’s boss, Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown said no one takes any joy in what happened Friday.
“The public’s trust in the criminal justice system is critical, and what Mr. Luton did violated that trust. It was a violation of the trust Sheriff Gary had placed with him as well. He hurt law enforcement as a whole, and he hurt those guys he worked with whose reputations were damaged because of what he did. I am sure the judge took that into consideration. No one takes any joy in it, but it was the consequence for a bad decision.”
Wheeler said he hopes the public sees from the Luton case that when law enforcement officers step out of the lines and get into trouble they are treated the same as anyone else. He said he also hopes people don’t judge all law enforcement officers by the Luton’s actions.
Sheriff Gary turned the investigation of the case over to Texas Ranger Brad Oliver back when the allegations first came to light, and Friday, Gary praised Oliver’s handling of the case.