We now enter a truly bizarre world of cover-ups, conspiracy and corruption. In our “Prosecutor!!!” series, we picked up on the first Sheriff Dept. cover-up, where Earley Story’s evidence of jail conditions, as provided to the FBI, is discredited by a bogus prosecution. The evidence in his case was created by confidential informant #2282, Alfredo Shaw at the behest of deputies and prosecutors. Twenty years later, convicted death row inmate Tony Carruthers gets evidence about Shaw in discovery and sends it to Mr. Story, who, decades after his conviction, is still fighting to prove his innocence. We looked into Shaw and found that he has apparently given testimony in up to fourteen other cases.
We looked for the other cases where Shaw might have helped fabricate evidence for prosecutors. We found two jailer deputies, Bernard Kimmons and Victor Campbell, who were arrested with Earley Story on January 31st 1997. They were prosecuted by the same team of deputies, prosecutors, judges, undercover officer and confidential informant Alfredo Shaw. We found at least four alleged weed buys by Shaw that were not documented in the CI ledger which Carruthers provided. So we looked into this and talked to dozens of witnesses. Bernard Kimmons would not comment, and we have not found Victor Campbell yet.
We examined the evidence provided at the trial of Roderick Cobb and found that it had been fabricated. Evidence had been planted, including a pair of handcuffs of the wrong type, and the gun that did the killing. The since-discredited Deputy Medical Examiner OC Smith, the one who gagged himself with barbed wire, hung a bomb around his neck, lied to the FBI and was convicted and fired, created testimony. He moved a bullet wound and concocted a bizarre story of how Cobb was supposed to have drawn a twice-searched-for gun, while handcuffed in the rear, and shot the deputy. In addition, the GSR (gunshot residue) tests had a focused concentration at the driver’s seat, while, to comply with Smith’s proposed evidence, it should have been around the passenger seat and rear of the car, in the inverse of the actual pattern.
We were struck by the fact that people connected to the case had had their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, threatened to remain quiet, and no-one would go on the record. So, from the hard evidence of the Alfredo Shaw cover-up and the many discrepancies in the official case against
Roderick Cobb, we concurred with the general opinion of our sources that Cobb had been convicted to cover up the fact that a deputy did the killing. The Kimmons and Campbell framing, in conjunction with the Earley Story cover-up proves they were also being silenced and covered up. The planted evidence could only have been laid by someone who is part of the investigation. So we wrote it up as a triple cover-up. We concluded that Kimmons and Campbell had been targeted in cover up #2 because they had connected the dots in the cover-up of the Goodman murder while they were Cobb’s custodians.
We did not know why Deputy Goodman has been assassinated, but soon our informants started talking about why. Goodman was linked to yet another FBI inquiry, the one into the jobs for cash scandal. She was said to be a cooperating witness. At this point our story takes a bizarre leap into the territory of fact being stranger than fiction.
Another unknown in our previous installment was why the cover-up of Goodman’s murder mattered to the crew who engineered the framing of the three deputies. We know they were working for the same top level of SCSO management, because of Earlie Story’s involvement. What connected Goodman’s assassination with top SCSO management?
People connected with the deputies’ cases and the Goodman case, and their families, are still being threatened with reprisals for talking, more than twenty years after the events. The statute of limitations has expired for every possible offense, except murder.
Normally we don’t publish anything that is not provable by documentary or on-the-record witness statements. We have publishing guidelines. In this case, because of the evident threats to witnesses and their families, which are very credible, and because of an effort to conceal official records and court documents, we are making a departure from these guidelines.
We are scientists by training and we will use the scientific method of documenting a theory to proceed
The Sheriff Dept. Jobs for Cash Scandal.
This happened over twenty years ago and many won’t remember the details. Phil Campbell of the Flyer gave a cogent account in September 1998. The story starts in 1991, with a conspiracy in the Sheriff’s department, for which Alton Ray Mills and Stephen Toarmina were convicted years later. Applicants paid amounts up to $3,930 as bribes to obtain jobs in the Sheriff’s Dept. There were unindicted co-conspirators, including Cliff Avent and unidentified victims including Robert Wilson together with six identified victims, including Derick Feathers who were named in the case, but not identified in the case documents .
From February 1991 until he was fired, Alton Ray Mills served as Chief Deputy Sheriff of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department in Memphis, Tennessee. By all accounts, Sheriff AC Gilless gave Mills free rein in day-to-day operations.
Stephen Toarmina is a North Memphis grocer, whose convenience store is at 1486 Chelsea. At that time he was a political crony of Sheriff AC Gilless and was appointed as a special advisor in the Sheriff’s office. Toarmina liked to play cops and robbers, rolling around the county in a department cruiser, wearing a deputy’s uniform with a sidearm. He would harass members of the public while impersonating an officer. Toarmina got loans for bribes through his business for five named victims and processed a credit card payment for the sixth, laundering the proceeds through the store accounts.
Harold Hays Discovers Jobs for Cash
From the Flyer: “Between working for the FBI and for the Germantown police, Hays had been (appointed) Sheriff Gilless’ internal-affairs director in 1994. It took only six months for him to get fired. Hays had to report to Mills about his investigations, but after a short while he started getting reports about Mills himself. Hays took advantage of an out-of-town trip by the chief deputy to bring his findings to Gilless. Hays and the sheriff’s legal advisers then presented his evidence to
then-DA John Pierotti. The next day, Mills came back into town and had Hays fired. Gilless approved…”.
Hays had reported the case to the FBI in early 1995, which started an inquiry. The Federal indictment of Mills and Toarmina came down on April 18, 1996.
The Shape of the Cover-ups
We know the first cover-up, that of Earley Story, was a matter of concern to the top levels of management at SCSO.
The second cover-up was related to the Early Story cover-up, as it was carried out by the same team at the same time. As the cover-up of the Goodman murder might just be an operational matter carried out by a member of the investigational team, we need to explain why covering up Goodman’s murder was of concern to the individuals who framed Story, Kimmons and Campbell, unless the murderer had infiltrated the first two cover-ups. Top management, namely Gilless and his immediate reports, surely knew about both matters being covered up.
We are looking for a root cause, that is of concern to the Chief Deputy management level at SCSO.
Probability analysis of a deputy murder at SCSO.
This SCSO fallen officers memorial page lists nine officers who were murdered, all by gunfire, between 1900 and 1999. We left out Deputy Cranford’s 1946 killing as it was a car crash. Deputies Mitchell and McDermott (1904), Goad (1907), Nelson (1917), Reeves and Applebury (1920) and Stelling (1945) all died in the first half of the century. Then there’s a gap of over 53 years between Stelling and the killing of Deadrick Taylor on April 19th, 1996. This is the day after Mills and Toarmina were indicted. 98 days later, Deputy Sherry Hopper was murdered. The gap between Stelling’s killing and Taylor’s was about 200 times the interval between Taylor’s and Goodman’s. You can’t do statistics with numbers this small, but we can say that Goodman’s and Taylor’s killings formed an outlier cluster.
We can calculate some probabilities. The probability of a deputy being killed in any given year, P(A) is 9/100 or 0.9. The probability of a second murder, P(B|A) in a given year is 8/100, because one of the murders is already counted. The probability of two deputy murders in the same year, by Bayes theorem, is (0.9 * 8/100)/(9/100) = 0.0072, less than one in a hundred. Bayes theorem only works if the events are independent, or unrelated to each other, so this result means that two murders happening in the same year are almost certain to be causally related.
We could also say that the probability of being a deputy and getting murdered between 1950 and 1999 are zero, unless you are Deputy Taylor or Deputy Goodman.
We also note a high incidence of deputy deaths by other violent causes around the time, including four reported suicides. The US national rate of suicide was 11 per 100,000 in 2006, and, given 1506 deputies and four suicides, the rate in the Sheriff’s Dept. was 266 per 100,000 – about 24 times the national rate. The most likely occupational group to commit suicide, marine engineers, is said to be 1.89 times the national average, and police and jail workers don’t even make the top 19 occupational groups for suicide risk. 266 suicides per 100K is literally off the scale.
Without having distributions among smaller populations, we can say with certainty that the suicide rate among deputies was well more than ten standard deviations from the normal rate and therefore the probability of this cluster is significantly less than 0.01%. Combining probabilities, we can also say that the probability of four deputy suicides in a year where there were also two deputy murders must be tiny, well less than one per million.
Another witness was murdered, the juvenile Etienne Harmon, who was arrested with the three deputy jailers in 1997 and was killed in November 1998. We are now very curious about the Deputy Taylor and Harmon killings. Could there have been up to seven murders to cover up the Jobs for Cash scheme?
Deputy Goodman as cover-up target.
We note that Goodman was a four-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Dept, so she was recruited after the Jobs for Cash scheme started in 1991. We don’t know if she was a victim of the jobs scheme. We know that the indictment came in April 1996 so the FBI investigation at the Sheriff’s Department was creating lots of reasons for damage control by the conspirators who were operating at a high level in the department. Combine this cover-up with the jobs for cash scheme, involving AC Gilless’ second in command and his political appointee, Toarmina, the Goodman murder cover-up and we have a fourth conspiracy with the same people in it, and this conspiracy includes a cover-up that silenced Taylor and Goodman.
We have been told by two sources in the system that Deputy Sherry Goodman was cooperating with investigators of the Jobs for Cash scheme and may have been scheduled to testify in the Federal trial, which was heard in August 1998.
Gilless in Cover-up
Campbell writes: The next day, Mills came back into town and had Hays fired. Gilless approved; the sheriff says that Hays was fired because, the day before he would sit down with Gilless, Hays refused to disclose the exact nature of the meeting he requested. This obviously trumped-up trivial excuse for firing Harold Hays suggests that Gilless was part of the cover-up.
Additional coverage from Police One. (The Commercial Appeal is quoted).
The federal documents on the PACER system are very deficient, which is unusual for Federal court documents except where they have been ordered sealed. There’s no discovery, witness depositions, grand jury indictments and most of the judgments are missing. There’s also no motion to seal these documents.
Here are the documents we found in the case. All documents are in PDF format. The PACER case designation is 2:96-cr-20080-BBD USA v. Mills, et al. A logon is required to access PACER but is automatically granted.
- The case docket
- The document inventory Most documents were not downloadable, except these here
- Toarmina judgment
- Mills is indigent.
- Mills transfer of probation
- Toarmina probation
- Toarmina sentence appeal
- Toarmina surrender
The Shelby DA at the time, Bill Gibbons, as a Republican, was a political ally of AC Gilless, the Sheriff, who stood for re-election in August 1998, just days before his deputy and political advisor were tried in Federal court on 8/10/1998. Gilless narrowly won amid the swirling news of the Jobs for Cash scandal.
In Phil Campbell’s Memphis Flyer story, (Federal Judge Jerome) ‘Turner, in fact, stated from the bench that “it’s disappointing” that District Attorney Bill Gibbons hasn’t done anything yet. Gibbons may still act, but so far his lackluster “no comments” suggest that the district attorney is in no hurry to prosecute the former allies and employees of Gilless, a professional colleague and a fellow Republican. There are political as well as legal considerations for Gibbons. If he doesn’t prosecute within the statute of limitations, and if Turner’s ruling survives a federal court appeal, then the DA’s tough-guy “No Deals” reputation could be tarnished’.
Bill Gibbons was Amy Weirich’s mentor at the DA’s office and is now the president of Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, after an unsuccessful stint as State Commissioner for Public Safety.
Sheriff Gilless announced that the deputies who paid for their jobs in the scheme would not face disciplinary action, consistent with a desire to suppress information about the scheme.
Campbell figures twice in our long series on the cover-ups at SCSO. He was remarkably well-informed on the Mills / Toarmina trial, and he also made a tape recording at the Flyer, of CI #2282 Alfredo Shaw withdrawing his allegations against Earley Story. Phil Campbell left the Flyer and Memphis soon after these events and is now in Broolyn, NY, far out of reach of Shelby Co. deputies and prosecutors.
The fourth cover-up in our series is part of a known conspiracy in the Sheriff’s Department, the Jobs for Cash scheme, which extended to Gilless’ political advisor and second-in-command. It includes at least one, and possibly as many as seven murders, of people related to the jobs scheme or the subsequent cover-ups. The murderer or murderers have not be found, and, more than twenty years later, people with knowledge of the case, and their families, are being threatened and intimidated. It explains why the Kimmons and Campbell frame-ups were done by the high-level team that perpetrated them.
We are continuing to look into the Deadrick Taylor murder.
— To be continued