AP: Affidavit may help chief in ‘cinnamon prank’

Published 12:32 am Sunday, March 18, 2012

A mentally disabled man who appeared on a video purportedly showing a Mississippi city’s employees encouraging him to eat a mouthful of cinnamon as a prank has signed a sworn statement saying the police chief fired over the incident assisted him by directing him to water.

Tutwiler Police Chief Terry Tyler and four other city officials were fired Feb. 14 after 18-year-old Ted Martin ate the spice without water.

The affidavit “goes to show that Mr. Martin realizes the chief tried to help him,” said Tyler’s attorney, Carlos Moore on Friday. “He deserves his job back.”

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Tyler appealed his firing. A hearing is scheduled for Monday

The “Cinnamon Challenge” is a prank in which people try to swallow the spice without water. It dries the mouth and usually causes them to cough and spit. There are thousands of videos online showing people trying the challenge.

Martin’s attorney, Ellis Pittman, said Friday that the investigation will determine if Tyler was involved in any wrongdoing. He said the affidavit is “just stating the facts” shown in the video that the chief directed his client to water.

“They were going to subpoena Ted to testify at the hearing and there was no way I was going to let that happen,” Pittman said.

The video shows a woman pouring cinnamon into Martin’s mouth while people cheered. Martin held the cinnamon in his mouth for a few seconds before he coughed out a plume of the spice and ran to a water fountain and then a restroom, apparently gagging. The video was taken at City Hall by one of the officers and posted on YouTube, though it has since been taken down.

Tyler’s attorney has insisted that the former chief walked into the room at Tutwiler City Hall after the prank was already underway and that he was trying to help.

Moore has said Tyler had been in the building earlier in the day and heard his police officers talking about taking the challenge themselves and Martin volunteered to do it. Tyler left to handle police business and when he returned, Martin had already put the cinnamon in his mouth, Moore said.

Pittman said there were other videos that he’s trying to get, including one that allegedly showed Martin being shocked with a stun gun and boxing matches between an officer and Martin.

“Tyler was not present at the boxing matches or the tazing,” the affidavit said.

The cinnamon prank video was taken while Martin was assigned to Tutwiler City Hall to work off fines from a minor criminal charge, Pittman has said.

Tallahatchie County Sheriff William Brewer has said he reported the incident to the FBI and that a joint investigation is underway.

Tutwiler is small town of about 1,300 people in Tallahatchie County in the Mississippi Delta. The area is known mostly for farming and several prisons and jails that employ many of its residents.