SAO: No probable cause in allegations of incident at Cypress Spring

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The State Attorney’s Office has determined probable cause does not exist to file criminal charges regarding an altercation at Cypress Springs that was brought to the forefront at a recent meeting of the Washington County Board of County Commissioners.

Resident Beth Sheffield addressed commissioners at the August session, stating Commissioner Wesley Griffin, and others harassed her son, 19-year-old Raymond Sheffield, and his friends during the incident, which official reports say included a physical altercation between Griffin’s friend, Josh Peel and Sheffield’s friend, Connor Morris.

While it is not uncommon for deputies to respond to altercations, the August 6 incident became a much-discussed issue in the community, largely because of Sheffield’s address to the Board of Commissioners and the alleged involvement of Commissioner Griffin.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office requested the State Attorney’s Office review the case, specifically to determine whether a battery took place between Peel and Morris.

“Law enforcement was called by Morris, but ultimately, he decided he did not want to file a report prior to law enforcement coming on scene, because in his words, it had ‘deescalated and was a freak situation’ as heard on the 911 call,†stated Assistant State Attorney Megan Ford in a letter of her official findings. Ford went on to call the lack of an immediate report “unfortunate,†stating this resulted in the absence of a full investigation with timely interviews of witnesses not connected to either party.

“The state is left to evaluate the statements of parties with connections and biases to both sides, nearly a week after the events,†said Ford. “It is clear from the statements that alcohol was being consumed by some of the parties, and foul language may have been used by some or all of the parties.†

Ford said that is where similarities in the case end.

“One issue is what caused the [first] fight between the parties,†Ford continued. “… A second disagreement between the parties involved the reckless operation of a boat driven by Connor Morris. It is clear that a verbal altercation occurred between some or all of the parties, though the cause is unclear,†she continued. 

Ford went on to state the parties separated, and the incident had ended, but that after some time, Morris took his boat back to reapproach the parties, at which time Peel is alleged to have grabbed him.

“Not all parties were witness to this altercation, and those that saw the altercation are inconsistent,†said Ford. “First, some of the parties allege that the reckless nature of Morris’ boat driving is what then caused Mr. Peel to stop the dangerous behavior from occurring. Others say Peel grabbed his shirt or his throat or with one hand or with two hands. Some alleged that this was done after Morris made a sudden movement. Peel said he grabbed his shirt, and that appears consistent with the photo of Morris’ neck,†she added. “While the state can prove that Mr. Peel did in fact touch the shirt of Connor Morris, it is unclear if this act was in defense of self or others.â€

Ford went on to note that the behavior of all parties presented additional complications to the case.

“Statements regarding alcohol consumption, cursing, and other acts of incivility were made by all witnesses,†she said. “Unfortunately, no single version is consistent with another. This hinders the state in proving the underlying charges because of general inconsistencies in the stories. Because the state lacks unbiased witnesses that corroborate one version or another, the state is unable to meet the burden of proving these events occurred beyond a reasonable doubt.â€