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Ex-deputy Guthrie case: The rest of the story

By TERENCE CORRIGAN - Special to the T-G
Posted 11/19/22

Prosecutors said former Bedford County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joseph Mathew Guthrie violently raped a registered nurse at his home on Nov. 1, 2019.  

The victim, a 2016 MTSU graduate, …

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Ex-deputy Guthrie case: The rest of the story


Prosecutors said former Bedford County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joseph Mathew Guthrie violently raped a registered nurse at his home on Nov. 1, 2019.  

The victim, a 2016 MTSU graduate, who grew up in Murfreesboro, has since moved out of state.  

In the June 2020 indictment of Guthrie for aggravated rape, it was stated that Guthrie did “intentionally; knowingly or recklessly engage in unlawful sexual penetration” of the victim causing her “bodily injury.”  

In a plea deal, on March 26, 2021, Guthrie agreed to plead guilty to a substantially lesser offense, aggravated assault and was sentenced to 3 years of probation, of which he must complete a minimum of 30%, about a year. He was not fined and he won’t be listed on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry.  

Guthrie also agreed to surrender his law enforcement certification (which would have nevertheless been revoked due to his felony conviction.)  

He was ordered to pay $100 a month in court costs and to not contact the victim or her family.  

Guthrie spent no time behind bars. If the case had gone to trial, and Guthrie was found guilty of aggravated rape, a Class A felony, he would have faced a sentence of 15 to 60 years in prison and could have been fined up to $50,000.  

But that didn’t happen.  

When the terms of Guthrie’s sentence were made public in a news article on April 27, 2021, it drew many online complaints, alleging the relatively light sentence was due to a virulent “good old boy” network.  

It goes deeper than that.  


Because Guthrie was a Bedford County law enforcement officer, the sheriff’s department did not conduct the investigation. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) investigated and TBI records are not available to the public according to then state law.  

The law (TCA 10-7- 504) reads: “All investigative records of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation … shall not be open to inspection by members of the public. The information contained in such records shall be disclosed to the public only in compliance with a subpoena or an order of a court of record. The only other people who have access to TBI investigation records are the governor and committees of the Tennessee legislature.”  

Given the secrecy of TBI investigations, the only opportunity for anyone in the public to find out what had allegedly happened in this sheriff deputy’s home on the first day of November 2019 would be at the sentencing hearing.  

If there’s no trial, the last chance to find out what prosecutors think happened in a crime is at the sentencing hearing.  

At sentence hearings, the prosecutors orally present the facts in the case. In this statement, prosecutors say what they believed could have been proven if a case went to a trial.  

Trials and sentencing hearings, such as plea agreements, are normally conducted in Bedford County Circuit Court, that is, in the county where the crime occurred.  

In Bedford County, the Guthrie case had gained notoriety and aroused considerable public interest, as it involved a sheriff’s deputy. Guthrie’s plea agreement hearing was taken to Moore County where there is no routine court coverage by local media.  

As Guthrie’s plea hearing was not listed on the Bedford County Circuit Court docket, no local media was aware of it and no journalists attended the hearing.  

The facts of the case, it seemed, were forever concealed.  

Assistant Attorney General Mike Randles said the decision to move the plea agreement hearing to Moore County was not to hide anything. He described it as an expedient move, striking while the iron was hot.  

He said it was to settle the case with a plea agreement before Guthrie had a chance to change his mind and choose to go to trial.  

The last possibility to find out the facts of the case was to listen to the audio recording. But, until August 2022, audio recordings were kept secret.  


On Nov. 2, 2021, County’s attorney, John T. Bobo, rejected a public records request (a copy of the audio recording of the Guthrie sentencing hearing to the T-G.)  

“The court recording that you have requested is not subject to public records request pursuant by Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 34(2) (c)…. I also contacted the State Counsel for Tennessee Open Records who confirmed this position.”  

But 10 months later, on Aug. 23, 2022, the Tennessee Court of Appeals lifted the veil of secrecy from courtroom audio recordings. 

 Judge Kristi M. Davis (a judge of the Tennessee Court of Appeals Eastern Section) authored the appeals court opinion.  

Honorable Judge Davis stated, “For more than a century, Tennessee Courts have recognized the public’s right to inspect government records.”  

“This right extends to court records …There can be no doubt then, that the audio recordings are public records….”  

Fourteen days after the Appeals Court ruling, county attorney, Bobo approved a second records request for the audio recording. 

The details are appalling, especially given Guthrie’s position in the community.  


According to Assistant DA Randles’ statement of the facts, as presented in Moore County on March 26, 2021, on Oct. 31, 2019, several people had gathered for a cookout at the home of Guthrie and his ‘then wife.’  

The victim and Guthrie’s wife were longtime friends and the victim had stayed in their home previously. “It was not an uncommon occurrence,” Randles said.  

“There was some drinking going on. The party started to wind down. The plan was for the victim to spend the night. She had a room she typically stayed in. There was a bathroom near it but the hot water was not working that night. She (the victim) was going to take a shower late at night so she went to another bathroom. To get to the other bathroom, the victim had to walk across the house, passing through the kitchen. In the kitchen, as she returned to her bedroom, were Guthrie and another man. The victim was reportedly wearing a towel. As she passed the two men, Guthrie reportedly commented on the victim’s breasts . . . .”  

The appalling story continues.  

“Sometime later, perhaps as much as an hour later,” Randles said, “the victim got up to go to the kitchen to ‘get something to drink.’ While she was in the kitchen, the defendant walked up behind her, startled her,” Randles continued, “whispered in her ear.”  

It was then that Guthrie reportedly sexually assaulted the victim. (The documented details of what happened next are sexually graphic.)  

Randles continued with his case. “When the victim got back to her room, she was screaming and crying which awakened a friend she was sharing the room with. She was very upset and emotional. The victim called her boyfriend at the time to come pick her up as she was ‘too intoxicated to drive.’  

Randles said in court that the victim delayed reporting the incident, thinking she would not be believed. This is not uncommon with victims of rape.  

Randles said Guthrie told TBI investigators he had no recollection of the events the night of the incident. He reportedly told investigators he had no memory of the events because he was ‘too intoxicated.’  

This is just one criminal case of which the public needs to be informed. Point being that there were 20 reports of forcible rape in Bedford County in 2021, according to the TBI report “2021 Crime in Tennessee.”  

Who else is going to walk?