In April 2019, we wrote about Jason White, who was framed for a pound of meth by Bartlett detectives and ADA Chris Scruggs, recipient of our first Hammer Award for over-zealous prosecution. White was, until recently, serving 60 years at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Lauderdale County.
White was spirited out of state Monday May 20th in a carefully planned operation.
White’s rendition was planned by the Tennessee Bureau of Prisons in conjunction with Amy Weirich’s DA office and the State Corrections Commissioner Tony Parker. Corrections official Doug Stephens has knowledge of the operation.
We first encountered Jason as he was finishing up the last year of an 18 year sentence at West Tennessee State Penitentiary.
He was framed by Bartlett cops, who admitted on the witness stand to re-labeling a package lost in transit and fabricating text messages on the phone of Jason’s girlfriend, Kristina Cole, after they had confiscated her phone during her arrest.
The fabricated case netted White an additional 60 year sentence. Jason will die in prison. Now it looks like it will be a prison far from family and friends. A sentence this long for a pound of meth is unheard of in criminal justice.
Update: 5/25/2019 Kimberly received a call from Jason after we published and he is OK. It was a grueling 4-day van ride but the food is better where he is now.
State Prisoner Rendition.
Interstate prisoner transfer is rare, but it happens, and is hidden in plain sight. In 2006, the US Department of Justice itself knew so little about interstate prisoner transfers that they did a study, which revealed the existence of a national interstate prisoner “compact” involving all the states, and two regional compacts involving groups of states. A “compact” is a form of contract entered into between public entities. This activity was so far under the radar that DOJ had to have a team of researchers ask the states about it!
The 2006 adult prison population was just under 2.2 million in 2006. According to the DOJ study, 2,089 prisoners had been transferred between state prison systems by 2005. Most of these were for reasons of “inmate protection”. 345 were transferred to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and 2,466 were transferred to privately operated prisons located outside the sending state. The private prison transfers were mostly for overcrowding.
Tennessee lists (615) 253-8235 as the departmental number for Interstate Compact Prison Transfer, so Tennessee does enough of these transfers to require a bureaucracy dedicated to it.
In 2006, there were twelve state systems who practiced rendition.
The effects of interstate prisoner transfer
The life of a prison inmate is already precarious. Bad food, poor health care, institutionalization and violence already shortens the life of a long term inmate. Moving an inmate over a thousand miles from family wreaks a further toll. In Jason’s case, he is unlikely to ever again see his father, who is dying of cancer. His father is too ill to travel to Jason’s new location.
According to GrassRootsLeadership.org “Interstate transfer of prisoners, or the practice of transferring incarcerated people to out-of-state prisons, is detrimental criminal justice policy that hurts families. The practice impedes prisoner rehabilitation by diminishing prisoners’ ties to family and community, compromising rather than enhancing the public good.”
So why do states engage in this practice, affecting about one tenth of one percent of prisoners? Specifically, why was Jason White transferred? And has it anything to do with why he was fitted up with an outrageous overcharge of 60 years for a pound of meth that was not his?
How Jason White’s rendition was done.
We interviewed Kimberly White, Jason’s mother, during the week of May 20th to 24th. Jason was removed from the prison system portal on Friday May 17th and was placed in administrative detention. On Monday 20th he was transferred directly to the transportation unit and shipped out, without his kit and the legal paperwork for his ongoing pro-se appeal. He turned up in another state on Thursday 23rd. The phones in his former unit were placed off-line for 36 hours during his transfer.
There was clearly a lot of planning around this move, involving the Shelby DA, the State Correction Commissioner and officials at West Tennessee State Penitentiary, who were sworn to secrecy over the move. Screws in West Tennessee said that they’d lose their jobs if they spoke about the rendition. This has the feel of a standard operating procedure for interstate prisoner transfers.
Kimberly White has been unable to telephone her son in the new location and had not received a call from him.
Why don’t we hear more about renditions?
It seems that, if there are thousands of prisoners who have been transferred to other states, we should hear more about them. The prison system maintains strict secrecy around individual out-of-state transfers, and the reason the DOJ found for most of the transfers to public institutions, was “inmate protection”. Jason had been targeted by at least three prison gangs in West Tennessee Penitentiary, and had recently been twice attacked by other inmates.
Presumably the reason for the secrecy is to try to hide the new location of the prisoner, in which case the rendition would be hidden both from the source and the destination prison population. Both the prison administration and the inmate himself wants to keep him as much under wraps as possible.
When we asked around among people knowledgeable about prisons, we found one other Tennessee inmate, Charles Thompson, who was transferred out about five years ago, and one prisoner from out of state who transferred into the Tennessee system.
Legality of Interstate Prisoner Transfers
West Virginia’s constitution prohibits “banishment” so they don’t do interstate rendition.
The 14th Amendment, Due Process, grants inmates the right to appeal “categorization” changes, and an interstate location change seems similar to a categorization action.
However, the 1983 Supreme Court case “Olim v. Wakinekona” seems to limit due process rights to prisoners who are transferred out of state. We are not attorneys and are not presenting this as a legal opinion.
Why was Jason White transferred.
In Jason’s case, it seems clear that the proximate cause is both gang-related, and also related to the other Tennessee prisoner we know about who was transferred out of state.
Charles “Country” Thompson first gained notoriety as the Traveling Vice Lords shot-caller who, when he was awaiting trial in 201 Poplar in 1996, allegedly ordered a gang assassination of Deputy Deadrick Taylor. We think that this murder, as well as that of Deputy Goodman the same year, were part of a cover-up of the “Jobs for Cash” conspiracy at Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
Numerous people caught in the multi-level cover-ups of these 23-year old murders are still being intimidated to keep them quiet, which only makes sense if there are unconvicted murderers at large. Clearly, whether or not Charles Thompson ordered Taylor’s murder, he knows something about it, and at least three innocent people have been imprisoned as part of the Jobs for Cash cover-up.
Sending Thompson outside the State prison system takes him out of the Tennessee prison rumor mill, and he is reputedly still not allowed to use the prison phone system in his new location. Thompson’s rendition may have been designed to silence him.
Charles “Country” Thompson
Charles Thompson, in the mid-1990s, was the leader of the 500 strong “Traveling Vice Lords” gang based in Memphis. We actually touched on his story, in our multiple-cover-up expose of the Sheriff Department “Jobs for Cash” scandal. Thompson was the 201 Poplar inmate who unbelievably ordered the assassination of Deputy Sgt. Deadrick Taylor in April 1996 over a minor tiff in the jailhouse. He was awaiting trial on another murder at the time.
Our theory is that both Deadrick Taylor and Deputy Sherry Hopper Goodman were killed to prevent them testifying against Jobs for Cash conspirators. We wrote about the dubious trial of Roderick Cobb for the Goodman murder.
Taylor’s trial was presided over by Judge Chris Craft. Craft was the judge that ignored Amy Weirich’s misconduct in the (reversed) Nuora Jackson case, also in the reversed Michael Rimmer case for which senior ADA Thomas Henderson was publicly censured, in the Earley Story case where he mishandled various appeals and hectored the defendant, and in the Kendrick Watson case where he rejected disciplinary action against Judge Lee Coffee. This is already a red flag. Judge Lee Coffee also appears in the April Malone and Celitria Watson case and judged the other murder case 96072028-01 for which Thompson was arrested on 03/12/1996, just prior to the Taylor murder.
The appeal record shows that the case against Thompson was dependent on two co-defendants for whom the required corroborating evidence was a jailhouse snitch named Charles Taylor who provided the only direct confirmation. See the Alfredo Shaw jailhouse snitch story to see how law enforcement and ADAs use jailhouse informants to convict defendants.
Other people in the Jobs for Cash story, and their relatives, have been threatened to stay quiet even 23 years after the murders. The real murderers have not been caught. The statutes of limitations have expired on the other unsolved crimes in the Jobs for Cash conspiracy.
As Charles Thompson was already being prosecuted in 1996 for another murder, sheriff deputies and other officials might have pressured him into ordering the Taylor murder and then renaged on whatever they offered him to order the assassination. “Charles, we can cut you a deal on your murder charge if you do us a little favor”.
Alternatively, the murder might have been done by others or ordered by people in the jail posing as Thompson.
Charles “Country” Thompson and Jason White.
Charles Thompson and Jason White met in Riverbend Prison in Nashville, where Thompson led a prison gang named the Junk Yard Dogs. Jason White became one of his lieutenants and was one of the few people in the prison who had access to him.
The gang was broken up about five years ago when Thompson was moved to another state. We’re not sure if this was an interstate compact transfer, as we hear that Thompson might currently be in a Federal institution in that state, which we won’t name in case it might affect Thompson’s security. He is not allowed to use the phones in that prison.
Jason White’s position, as a caucasian in a mostly African American prison gang, was unusual and had a lot to do with his personal relationship with Charles Thompson. Jason has since been rejected by all the gangs in West Tennessee Pen. and was targeted by three of the gangs. He is considered a traitor by the white supremacist gang in the prison.
Thompson may have shared information about his Deadrick Taylor conviction with Jason during their jailhouse conversations. Which might explain why Thompson and White were moved to another state.
Why did the authorities frame Jason White?
The simple answer is, we don’t know. We doubt it was related to his gang activities. Sentencing White to an additional sixty years does not seem like a good solution for a gangster problem as the subsequent need for rendition shows. This “solution” has created a worse problem for the prison authorities than releasing White at the end of his 1999 sentence.
Sentencing him to another sixty years and transferring him to a distant state is an effective way of silencing him forever.
His relationship with a key figure in the Deadrick Taylor assassination ties him to the Jobs for Cash conspiracy. And, if the Jobs for Cash conspirators are still covering up after twenty three years, it seems that there must be one or more uncharged murderers in positions of influence in the Memphis criminal justice community who are driving the ongoing cover-up.
The involvement of ADA Chris Scruggs and Judge Chris Craft with their combined history of bogus prosecutions and dubious judgements are further red flags.
We need a special prosecutor to investigate corruption in the DA’s office and among Shelby Co. judges, and to reopen the Jobs for Cash inquiry.
— Concluded —