Longtime Sumner County Commissioner Merrol Hyde has been charged with simple assault following an altercation with another county commissioner outside a meeting last month, according to court documents obtained Thursday by the Hendersonville Standard.
The alleged assault occurred during a confrontation the 8th District commissioner had with Paul Goode, who represents the 10th District, in a hallway at the Sumner County Administration Building in Gallatin shortly after midnight on Tuesday, June 18.
During the incident, which was captured on video by a nearby security camera, Goode, 51, said he was “in fear of imminent bodily injury” when the 74-year-old “slapped” his hand away from his glasses and later “shoved” him into a wall, according to a sworn court affidavit dated July 10.
Court documents obtained by the Hendersonville Standard show the disagreement between the two officials stemmed from a debate regarding a controversial sewer line project for the Liberty Creek schools campus on Upper Station Camp Creek Road that had taken place during a lengthy meeting earlier that night.
“I saw (Goode) in the hallway and approached him to say that I could speak for myself and to never speak for me again,” Hyde wrote in statement to Gallatin police dated July 2. “He raised his hand to my face at that time. I was not sure what he intended to do. I grabbed his hand and held it so that he could not be a threat to me.”
Following the contact, Goode said he “waved his hands in the air” as a reaction before being pushed, according to the affidavit.
Court documents also include a written statement from Sumner County 12th District Commissioner Michael Guthrie who heard the altercation, which “sounded and appeared to be aggressive in nature.” Although he did not recall specifically what was said, Guthrie wrote that Hyde stated “I’ll beat the hell out of you” twice to Goode as he walked away.
Hyde initially denied pushing Goode to police, but later said he could not remember the shove after watching a video of the altercation, according to a Gallatin Police Department incident report.
“I was fearful for my personal safety, and continue to be fearful of what additional unprovoked attacks Mr. Hyde is planning next,” Goode wrote in a statement about the encounter that was submitted along with the affidavit.
Hyde did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.
However, the former Sumner County Schools director and past chairman of the Sumner County Commission told police that he was “surprised to be a threat to a young man like Mr. Goode,” according to court documents.
After consulting with Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley, the Gallatin Police Department closed its investigation of the case July 2 and chose not to press charges. Despite the decision, Goode has chosen to pursue a private prosecution for simple assault.
In a statement Wednesday evening to the Hendersonville Standard, Goode said he was “looking forward to our day in court where the full video will be shown as well as numerous witnesses testifying to corroborate the facts.”
"I have consulted many members of the law enforcement community, attorneys, and citizens seeking guidance regarding this issue,” Goode added. “Without exception, all have stated that they would have taken the exact same steps and course of action that I have taken including pressing charges. It saddens me that Mr. Hyde would assault someone to get his way or attempt to win a political discussion. We can all have political disagreements and civil discussions about those differences, but there’s simply no place in our democratic society for this type of behavior from an elected official."
Simple assault is a Class A misdemeanor, according to the Sumner County District Attorney’s Office. A conviction can be punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.
As of Thursday afternoon, a hearing for the case in Sumner County General Sessions Court had not been set.