By Randy Mitchell
ADA — Two men who allegedly kidnapped and beat another man over a business deal gone bad pleaded not guilty in Pontotoc County District Court Thursday.
Rodney Couch, 51, and his son, 28-year-old Clinton Couch, both of Coal County, surrendered to authorities and appeared along with their attorney before Judge Steve Kessinger. The two pleaded not guilty to two counts each of kidnapping, one count each of conspiracy and one count each of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
Kessinger said because of the kidnapping charge he could not grant a request for bond. The Couchs' former business partner, 32-year-old Jason James of Ada, told authorities on Nov. 21, Rodney and Clinton Couch — along with several other men — kidnapped him and beat him severely when a business arrangement went sour.
Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Deputy Will Hayden reached Rodney Couch by phone after the alleged assault was reported. Rodney Couch denies the allegations of kidnapping and assault.
“I asked Rodney if he knew why I was calling him and he stated that he was accused of beating up Jason James, but did not have anything to do with it,” Hayden said in a report. “Rodney said he was never in Ada. Rodney said that Clinton had nothing to do with a physical assault.”
Hayden was called to Valley View Regional Hospital by James after the alleged incident.
“Jason stated that he was in a horse partnership with ... Rodney Couch,” Hayden said. “Jason said their partnership went bad when the lease owner (of the land) that the horses were on, took the horses.”
James told authorities Rodney Couch had been angry with him and threatened him in the past. On the day of the alleged assault, James received a phone call from a stranger (Clinton Couch) who said he needed some repair work done on a vehicle. The stranger said he wanted James to take a ride with him in the vehicle to find out what was wrong with it. James trusted the stranger because he knew some mutual friends and reportedly agreed to meet with him.
“Jason said once he spoke with ‘Clint,’ a second person came out of nowhere and forced him into the vehicle,” Hayden said.
According to James, once in the vehicle Clinton Couch informed him Rodney Couch was his father. James said the second man who forced him into the vehicle was an older man with gray hair and sunken cheeks.
They reportedly drove James to a location three miles south of Allen on State Highway 48 were several men were waiting when they arrived. He was reportedly pulled from the pickup and beaten.
“Jason stated that Rodney was there and struck (him) with wire, and also hit (him) with a piece of landscaping timber to the leg area while saying ‘Now try to run,’” Hayden said. “Jason said all nine of the suspects physically assaulted (him) by using a cattle ‘hot shot’ and a piece of landscaping timber.”
James said he was able to get free and run to a nearby residence where he called his wife. She picked him up and drove him the Valley View Regional Hospital where he was treated for several injuries.
Steve Busby, the owner of the land where the horses were being kept, spoke with Hayden after the alleged assault. He claimed Clinton Couch kidnapped him as well and threatened to kill him if he went to the police.
He said the business partnership began when James offered him a deal to lease the land to house 44 to 47 horses in return for 300 hours of free work and $6,000.
“Steve said he never received one payment,” Hayden said.
Busby said he sent a civil document to Rodney Couch stating he had seven days to pick up the horses and pay him for missed payments or he would sell the horses, keep the amount of the missed payments and give the rest of the money to Rodney Couch.
He said after the alleged assault he received a phone call from a man who was interested in buying the horses. The man identified himself as “Clint” (allegedly Clinton Couch).
The two met and Busby said there was another man with Clinton Couch who he believed is named “Jake.” They drove across the property to survey the horses. On the way back, Clinton Couch allegedly missed the turn to Busby’s house.
“Steve said he told Clint that he passed the turn to which Clint replied, ‘You’re not going home, you’re going with us and if we don’t get things straightened out you may never go home,’” Hayden said.
Busby said he felt “scared for his life.” He said he was driven to a location about three miles south of Allen where they met with eight other men, including Rodney Couch. He said he agreed to give up the horses because he feared for his life after numerous threats were made.