Former Death Row inmate Copeland charged with Knoxville rape
From Staff Reports
KNOXVILLE — A former Death Row inmate, who was convicted of first-degree murder in a 1998 Maryville shooting death, has been charged with raping his girlfriend at gunpoint.
Arthur T. “A.C.” Copeland has been charged with two counts of aggravated rape, one count of aggravated assault and one count of especially aggravated kidnapping. He was being held Friday in lieu of bonds totaling $1 million.
Copeland is accused of raping his 30-year-old girlfriend Monday morning on Ridgebrook Lane, said Daryl DeBusk, Knoxville Police Department’s public information officer. The woman told police that he held her at gunpoint and threatened repeatedly to kill her.
Copeland then raped the victim while holding a gun to her head, DeBusk said. She was treated at a hospital for injuries sustained during the alleged attack.
Copeland was arrested Wednesday night on Western Avenue. He was placed into custody without incident and taken to the Knox County Detention Facility.
In July 2000, Copeland was tried and convicted of first-degree murder. A Blount County jury sentenced him to death for the April 7, 1998, slaying of Robert Andre Jackson.
In May 2007, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed Copeland’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The state Supreme Court ruled that the trial court should have allowed the defense to present expert testimony about eyewitness identification.
Jackson’s murder was triggered by a rape that occurred in Alcoa, according to the factual background in a May 2005 Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals decision. An Alcoa woman reported on April 6, 1998, that she had been raped by two unidentified masked men at her residence.
The woman’s boyfriend, Reginald Stacy Sudderth, appeared at Howe Street Park and “publicized to the usual group gathered there” that he was offering a $10,000 bounty on the head of the person who had committed the rape and that “someone is going to die tonight,” the background said.
The proof further established that Copeland learned of the bounty, expressed interest in getting it, and accompanied Sudderth and others to Maryville in search of Jackson after deciding that Jackson and a friend were responsible for the rape.
Copeland went about 2 a.m. April 7 to the Scenic Drive residence in Maryville where Jackson was living with his girlfriend and mother, according to the appellate decision’s background. He got the victim to come outside with him.
The mother heard gunshots minutes later, and Jackson ran back into the house in a hail of bullets, the decision said. He collapsed and died in a bathroom, shot in the chest, collarbone area and groin.
Sudderth was shot and killed Aug. 22, 2009, after an argument in a Knoxville clothing store’s parking lot. Knoxville businessman Troy Whiteside was initially charged with second-degree murder in that case, but a Knox County grand jury later upped the charge to first-degree murder.
Whiteside’s trial is currently scheduled to begin April 21, 2014.
In January 2009, Copeland waived a jury trial and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He received a 14-year sentence.
Copeland, who was given credit for time served, was released March 21, 2011, according to a state Department of Correction spokeswoman. Since his release, he has been arrested four times.
Copeland was arrested Nov. 6, 2011, on charges of driving under the influence and simple possession of a Schedule II substance (crack cocaine). He entered a guilty plea, and a Knox County judge revoked his probation and sentenced him to six months in jail.
Copeland was arrested April 28, 2012, on charges of resisting arrest, evading arrest, criminal impersonation and three counts of vandalism for damaging three sets of handcuffs. He entered a guilty plea on the resisting arrest and evading arrest charges, and the others were dismissed.
Copeland was arrested Nov. 24, 2012, on a gambling charge. He entered a guilty plea and received a 30-day suspended sentence.
Copeland was arrested June 15 on charges of public intoxication and stalking. He entered a guilty plea on the stalking charge and received a suspended sentence of 11 months and 29 days. The public intoxication charge was dismissed per the agreement.