MPD Authorization of Agency Regulations

Authorization of Agency (AoA) is a pair of processes at Memphis Police Department and the DA’s office, which are designed to circumvent provisions in the Tennessee criminal trespass law, TCA § 39-14-405.  AoA is designed to enhance public safety by controlling unwanted citizens who access private business property.

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An Authorization of Agency form MPD AA 0306, part of the City Blacklist as received by the Media via FOIA.

We have written extensively about one AoA process, the MPD’s form AA 0306, which is summarized in the most recent blog.   We provide links to our blogs and other documents at the end of this piece.  We have not previously written about the second process, which is based on signage located mostly in apartment complexes, but we describe the second process here.

We recently discovered, via Open Records Request, the regulatory device used by MPD for AoA.   It is section 52 of the Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure, page 35.  

Uniform Patrol Station SOP AoA Regulations

We provide the text of the FOIA we received from MPD below, with section headers inserted by us.  It is the Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure.

AoA UPSSOP Section 1: Definition of AoA

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AoA UPSSOP Section 2: Advising the Target of AoA

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POPO_GRAPHIC
Graphic: Pixabay.com

AoA UPSSOP Section 3: LEO Witness and Complainant signature

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AoA UPSSOP Section 4:  Filing of AoA

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AoA UPSSOP Section 5: AoA Verification for Arrest

 

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AoA UPSSOP Section 6: Arrests and File maintenance

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AoA UPSSOP Section 7: Appendices, omitted from FOIA.

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About the AoA SOP.

We see numerous problems with the current implementation of AoA.  As examples, section 1 confines AoA complainants to businesses only, and there were 112 AoAs (6.6%) for residence owners who were private individuals in our 2018 FOIA.

In section 2, the business owner must advise the AoA target, in the presence of an MPD witness, of the imposition of AoA.   There is one alternative procedure provided involving the posting of a notarized affidavit.   We received notification, in response to a FOIA request, that there are no such affidavits on file at MPD.

In Section 3, the business owner and the witnessing officer must sign and complete the AoA form at the local police station.  The combination of sections 2 and 3 require one three-way meeting which must include the AoA target, which can be anywhere but is assumed to be at the alleged trespass location, and a second meeting and filing which must include the complainant and the original witnessing police officer, and must take place at the local MPD precinct.

We have an email from MPD Colonel Worthy, commander of Ridgeway precinct, emphasizing this inflexible procedure.

“Sir, you will have to give the a verbal order to the individual to not be on the property in the presence of an officer. Then we can fill out the form. You have to have the name of the officer and his IBM number. Then the form is to be completed at the station. If the form is completed before that step it is not valid…”

Of the 45 cases we have sampled, this procedure was not followed in a single instance.   We are following up on interviewing additional AoA targeted individuals.

Section 3 also lists a number of data points which must be on the AoA.   The majority of the 2,200 AoAs we have seen do not have all these data points, or the officers IBM# as required in the Colonel’s email.

The SOP contains numerous other requirements which are not followed, among them the requirement for annual purging of year-old AoAs.   When we obtained 1677 AoAs via FOIA in mid-2018 with readable dates, 358 of them (6.6%) were dated 2016 or earlier and must have been more than a year old, and the 584 FOIAs for 2017 looked like the entire year’s worth of FOIAs.

We also have an email interchange between an attorney for an AoA targetted individual, from February 2017, who had to escalate to Bruce McMullen, City Attorney and City PR Ursula Madden in order to get an erroneous AoA removed.   The procedure in the UPSSOP for correcting erroneous AoAs was apparently not applied or did not work, possibly because no-one was aware the procedure existed.  This AoA target had to pay an attorney for redress, something not available to everyone.

In summary, it looks like the majority of AoAs on file are invalid because of defective procedures, and we would not be surprised if every AoA on file is defective in some way.

The other type of Authorization of Agency

Anti-Trespass-photo
Authorization of Agency No-Trespass Notice.  Photo Shelby Co. DA.

The MPD AoA form AA0306 is clearly labeled Authorization of Agency and this matches the verbiage in the UPSSOP.   The DA’s office frequently refers to another AoA mechanism.   This is manifested in the form of signs frequently posted in apartment complexes, which state that the property is posted against trespass by anyone who is not a tenant or their guest. Here’s a Youtube video of Amy Weirich (2:46 minutes) describing these signs as AoA and conflating with the AA0306 forms.

These signs purport to allow the police to arrest an alleged offender without the notice required in the Tennessee criminal trespass law, TCA § 39-14-405.

In order for a premises to be posted under TCA § 39-14-405, the property must be entered in the No Trespass Public Notice List at the Tennessee Secretary of State.  We have viewed this page repeatedly between 2017 and the date of writing, 12/1/2019, and have never seen a Memphis address posted in this database.  Therefore we assume that all these AoA no trespass signs contravene the State trespass law and are invalid.

We have not yet received data on the use of both flavors of AoA in actual trespass arrests, but we are told, anecdotally, that hundreds of such arrests have been seen, and will post that information when we receive it.

Why was AoA under the radar for ten years?

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Secret police processes, The Watchmen.  Photo: Tvseriesfinale.com

We could find no public mention of AoA between 2007, when a blogger mentioned it, to 2017 when our FOIA produced the City blacklist, including 43 people on AoAs.   We believe, anecdotally, that hundreds of trespass arrests were made, using both forms of AoA.

Only a small population knew about AoA, the AoA complainants, people to whom AoA had been marketed as possible complainants, some of the AoA targets, some MPD police, of which less than 10% actually created AoA forms, prosecutors and public defenders.

When you have secret police processes, you get secret police.

Public Defenders and AoA.

There are about 45 politically targeted individuals, who generally had private attorneys when they interacted with the criminal justice system.

All other instances of arrest for trespass with either flavor of AoA that we know of went through the Public Defender’s office.    Sadly, the combined actions of the DA’s office and MPD have severely hampered the PD’s ability to defend AoA arrests.

PD’s workflow for AoA arrests.

Bear with us as we outline the PD’s workflow.   When a person is arrested for criminal trespass, they are brought to 201 Poplar or Jail East and booked.   Some time afterwards, during bankers’ hours, the defendant will be arraigned.  At that time, if the defendant does not have funds for a lawyer, a public defender is appointed.   The PD receives the jacket, containing various documents, including an affidavit of complaint and an arrest ticket from MPD, a bond recommendation, criminal history and others.

At this point, the PD may see a small photograph of the AoA document on the affidavit of complaint, which is reproduced at quarter size and can’t be read.   So the PD knows there’s an AoA or a posted location but can’t see details.  In order to get the AoA form, the PD would have to walk the couple of blocks to MPD HQ at 170 N. Main, go through security and wait at the public records counter on the 7th floor.   PDs, who often have up to thirty cases per day, are limited to three police records per day.  Restrictions on the data practically available to PDs has been progressively tightened over the years, not least when the MPD records counter moved from 201 Poplar to North Main.

If the PD is to take 45 minutes from their busy schedule, they’ll probably wait until the end of the day and do all the day’s AoAs together.   There is not enough time in the day to get MPD records for every case.   In most cases, as the defendant probably needs to be released to get to work, cases are settled for time served awaiting trial before the end of the day.   First time defendants often accept a misdemeanor record to get back to their daily schedule.   This is a problem if they get arrested again, as the trespass offense is taken into account when bail, diversion and sentence recommendations are decided.   This is a slippery slope into a possible criminal career.  AoA is a gateway into mass incarceration for many.

Hopefully PDs can use some of the information here to question the imposition of AoA in more cases.   In the meantime, considering the workload on PDs, it is not surprising that they did not investigate and publicize the nature of AoA while it was under the radar.

Our current interest in AoA stemmed from its use in the City blacklist and the information we developed required hundreds of hours of research.   Without the publicity generated by the Blacklist and the ensuing ACLU court case, the public might still be in the dark about AoA.

Summary

AoA has been an almost secret police process at MPD and the DA’s office since at least 2007.   It has the appearance of having been heavily marketed by various public safety interests in the interim, resulting in heavy usage.

The availability of this secret tool was apparently attractive to the City, MPD and the Zoo when they desired to punish and harass political activists, after which law enforcement lost the advantage of this secret police process.

We believe that the 2,200 AoA targets include about 45 political actors and over 2,100 regular folks, who generally have been unable to mount a criminal defense against the numerous irregularities we outline here.

We are appending a links section as a resource.   Anybody who is on an AoA, who has been notified they are not allowed at a certain location, or who has been arrested for criminal trespass where “authorization of agency”, AoA, no trespass signage, or “being on a list” should contact us.    We will share your information with some attorneys we are working with, but with otherwise keep your information completely confidential and protected.   You can also use our confidential contact option if you have AoA information but wish to be anonymous.

AoA Resource Links

All the information here is publicly available.

On our FTP server.

http://www.fnolan.com/A/A-List.pdf:  A-list containing FOIA with, 43 political AoAs.

http://www.fnolan.com/AOA/files/AoA_analysis_spreadsheet_links_20180911_v02.xlsx:  Indexed spreadsheet with about 1700 AoAs.

http://www.fnolan.com/AOA/ Directory listing for the raw files in the above spreadsheet.

http://www.fnolan.com/AO2/Publ_AoAs_20191010.xlsx:  Indexed spreadsheet with 473 additional AoAs received in 2019

http://www.fnolan.com/AO2/ Directory listing for the raw files in the above spreadsheet.

Lagniappe

Finally, Shelby Co. Sheriff’s Office has announced it will shortly be starting its own AoA process.

Blogs.

Some of the information in the earlier blogs is inaccurate and was corrected in later blogs.  E.g. I wrote that there was no MPD P&P for AoA in 2018, now we know from the current article that it is covered in UPSSOP.

https://memphistruth.org/2019/10/11/authorization-of-agency-update/ Blog about the recent 473 AoAs obtained in 2019.

https://memphistruth.org/2018/09/06/authorization-of-agency-mpd-invention/ Blog with the 1690+ AoAs obtained in the 2018 FOIA.

https://memphistruth.org/2018/09/11/authorization-of-agency-initial-analysis/ Additional analysis of the 2018 FOIA.

https://memphistruth.org/2018/02/26/blacklists-from-a-to-z-new-zoo-z-list/  Hunter Demster and Fergus Nolan receive an AoA at the Zoo.

https://memphistruth.org/2019/07/30/dan-rosson-placed-on-aoa-by-city/  Dan Rosson, animal rights activist, placed on AoA at Memphis Animal Shelter.

https://memphistruth.org/2019/07/26/rodney-fisher-fired-by-mpd-via-aoa/ Rodney Fisher takes video of ab MPD cop informing him he is on an AoA at his job at NIKE.

https://www.facebook.com/100005058287008/videos/1256158231229441/  Rodney’s video.

https://memphistruth.org/2017/02/08/mpd-has-activist-list/  A-list breaking news with 43 political AoAs.

http://www.paulryburn.com/blog/2007/07/18/authorization-of-agency/  2007 first public AoA mention by blogger Paul Ryburn in 2007.

Other

Various public sites and reference material

TCA 39-14-405:  Tennessee Criminal Trespass Law

No Trespass Public Notice List at Tennessee Secretary of State

MPD Policy and Procedures Manual

DA’s Anti-Trespassing Program

Safeways Apartment AoA scheme.

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— concluded —

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authorization of Agency Update

We wrote about Authorization of Agency (AoA) last year, providing source data, collations and some analysis of almost 1,700 Authorization of Agency reports, obtained by public records request from Memphis Police Department (Est 1827).

We recently received another 473 AoA forms covering July 2018 to July 2019.   We collated the data in a spreadsheet, which is available on Google Docs, or downloadable as Open Office or MS Excel formats.   Each row of these files contain a link to a .PDF document containing a scanned copy of the original AoA and the page number to look in this .PDF.  The entire corpus may be downloaded here.

These data are provided for free under the GNU open source agreement.  Please let us know of any errors or bad links.

What is AoA?

Authorization of Agency is an off-the-books system carried in 3-ring binders in the cruisers attached to a given ward, as copies of the original form.   A ward is a subdivision of an MPD precinct.  It violates Tennessee trespass law, has no due process, entraps children as young as eleven, and is unsupported by MPD’s policy and procedures manual, the MPD Academy curriculum or the official computer systems at MPD.

Because the process is off the books, there are no systemic checks for typos, accuracy, completeness or readability.   All records are maintained in the original, handwritten state as photocopies or faxes.

We have found a mention of AoA as early as 2007.  Our original AoA report traces rapid increases in the use of AoA from around 2011, the start of Amy Weirich’s tenure at the DA’s office.  The use of AoA reached a peak of almost 600 in 2017 and has remained high since.     The rise, from just a few in 2011 to the 2017 high suggests that a marketing campaign, spearheaded by the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission and the DA’s office, was in place throughout Weirich’s time as prosecutor.

AoA as political weapon.

AoA, as an off-the-books system of sanctions, was used for years as a method of rousting “undesirables” from business premises.  As such, the poor and disenfranchised victims had little recourse.

MPD started using AoA as a political weapon when two Greensward protesters were secretly placed on an AoA by the Zoo in summer of 2016.

Then, following a “die-in” protest at the Mayor’s house, 43 politically active individuals were placed on an AoA, for an event which had at most a dozen attendees.   This was the basis of the City blacklist and subsequent Federal case.

Later, in 2017, an additional AoA at the Zoo listed two individuals and resulted in a confrontation with police, but no arrests.   Neither of the two Zoo AoAs were notified to the listed individuals, in violation of the procedure specified on the AoA form.   In addition, a forgery was committed as proven by a form which had a second subject added over the same signature.   This addition of subjects happened in several AoAs in the 2018 corpus.

In 2019, an animal welfare activist, Dan Rosson, was placed on an AoA after incurring the wrath of City COO, Doug McGowan and officials at the Animal Shelter.

Later, in the summer of 2019, industrial activist Rodney Fisher, was functionally fired from his contract logistics job by an MPD officer sent to his house.  Fisher captured video of the event, implicating a senior MPD officer in the process.

With the addition of two new politically-motivated AoAs in 2019, a clear pattern of the abuse of this off-the-books system as reprisals for political actions emerges.

First look at the AoAs.

MPD have started writing a new version of the AoA form, still titled AA0306, but containing much more data and appearing to be the result of a booking-style process, with fingerprints and photographs.   We saw one outlier in April and several starting in June 2019.

sample_new_aoa_redactedAs you can see from the sample pictured, which is redacted, the new form records police report and booking numbers, drivers license, address, date of birth.  Before, it was just name and physical characteristics.

This form has the appearance of something that was produced by a booking process.  The legality of police fingerprinting and photographing a person who is not being booked for a crime is questionable, and holding sensitive information in a file which is public record may also be a HIPPA issue.

We redacted personally identifying information for this illustration, although that information is in the database as released by MPD as public records.

Race Analysis

MPD categorizes everyone by race.  Only eleven AoAs, less than three percent of the total, did not track the subject by race.
race_pie_chart

So we went ahead and graphed it.  83% of respondents were African American, two percent fewer than the 2018 report.

Whites represented 14% of the total, up two percent from last time.

There were a total of 12 Asian, LatinX and Other individuals.

In view of the over-representation of African Americans in the AoAs, this may provide evidence of MPD’s racial profiling.

Age

We noticed an individual as young as eleven years of age on an AoA in the 2018 report, so this time we collected age, where it was given in the AoA.  This time, the youngest were two individuals aged 13, two more aged 14, eleven aged 15, fourteen aged 16 and nineteen aged 17.   These 48 individuals were too young to be charged with a crime, and a quasi criminal process like AoA may not be appropriate for juveniles.

Age was not given in 23 cases.   The oldest was one individual aged 78, there were five people over seventy and seventeen in their sixties.

AoAs by Officer

Some were curious about the distribution of AoAs by officer.  We found that the 473 AoAs were distributed by 220 officers, including three postal police, so a little more than 10% of cops use AoAs.   Seventeen AoAs had no police signature, in violation of the procedure outlined on the form itself.

The 49 most prolific officers wrote three or more AoAs for a total of 231, roughly half the total number.  Officer M. Lester wrote eleven, followed by J Holmes with ten, and the leading 17 cops with six or more AoAs wrote a total of  123, more than a quarter of the total.

AoAs as reprisal, harassment or punishment

We wrote in 2018 how the Mayor placed 43 individuals on an AoA for his property in retaliation for a “die-in” protest in which no more than a dozen people participated.  Lieut Bonner of the City Hall detail added a stricture that the “A-list” people were to be escorted while in City Hall.   The rest is history.

We also documented the existence of two AoAs at the Zoo, with Maureen Spain and Fergus Nolan being banned from this public facility a couple of days after their May 2016 arrest at the zoo, against whom no crime was committed.   An additional AoA was issued for Fergus Nolan and Hunter Demster at the Zoo in 2017 on another occasion where no crime was charged.   On these two occasions, the police used the AoA as a political weapon on behalf of themselves or others.   (Author’s note:  I was on all three of the AoAs mentioned above. )

In our new dataset, we include two AoAs of which we had written before:

Dan Rosson was targeted by City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowan and other city and Memphis Animal Services officials after he blew the whistle on conditions at the Pound.  His AoA is page 1 of this file. (PDF).

Rodney Fisher was discussing conditions for contract workers at a logistics warehouse when he was  informed by a cop who came to his house that he was effectively fired via AoA.  His is on page 3 of this file. (PDF).   There is video of the event as captured by Mr. Fisher on his doorstep.

It seems that MPD has a pattern of harassing not only generally disadvantaged individuals with AoA, but there is also a pattern of AoA use by police as a reprisal for political action and views of which they disapprove, and this is tied in to the keeping of files and social media snooping on activists.

Data description

#: is an arbitrary number
Business: Name of the business
Street#, Street: as labeled
Business Catg:  Type of business
Surname, First Name: as labeled
Race:  As described by MPD
Date:  Date of AoA as signed by police
Source file See Page:  Clickable link to the .PDF scan of the AoA
# Pages:  Number of AoA pages in the source file
Page:  The page number of this AoA in the file
Note: There is additional information on the AoA.   This and the following fields are newly added since the 2008 version of the spreadsheet
Count:  it is always 1
Station:   MPD station originating the AoA
Ward:  A ward is a subdivision of a police precinct.  We captured it when available
Officer:  Name and IBM# of the cop who witnesses the AoA, when decipherable
Age: Age of the AoA recipient.

–concluded–

 

Rodney Fisher fired by MPD via AoA

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Rodney Fisher (Photo: Facebook)

Rodney Fisher made video of a visit from an unidentified MPD officer on the evening of July 25th, around 10 PM.   Fisher is admin of the Memphis (Real News) facebook page.

We transcribed the conversation.

Police Officer:  (talking on phone outside front door):  AoAs, all right. Yes, sir. (Hangs up cellphone).

Police Officer:  (talking to Rodney Fisher): Mr Fisher, I guess the lieutenant colonel wanted me to call you regarding the Nike incident or something.  You worked at Nike, correct?

Continue reading “Rodney Fisher fired by MPD via AoA”

The slaying of Brandon Webber

photoLast week we had the tragedy of Brandon Webber, who was killed on June 12th by US Marshals in the driveway of his family’s Frayser home.   His bereaved parents spoke out in a June 14th vigil at the site of the killing, attended by over 600 mourners.   We are saddened by this violence.     Continue reading “The slaying of Brandon Webber”

Earley Story’s Case Dismissed

June 21st 2019: Shelby County District Court Division VIII, Memphis.

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Judge Craft

Judge Chris Craft, recent recipient of our Hammer Award, called Earley Story to the microphone at 09:55.  Mr Story had filed a writ of Error Coram Nobis in an attempt to clear his 1998 conviction.

Tony Carruthers had been subpoenaed to attend as a witness.    He is in State prison and was not transported to the courtroom to testify.    Carruthers’ attorney was in the courtroom.

Carruthers is the death row prisoner who sent Earley Story the Confidential Informant ledger which showed no payments for the day he is supposed to have spent $850 to buy weed from Earley Story.   Ths is evidence that was withheld from Mr Story in his original trial, in an apparent Brady violation.

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Tony Carruthers

Judge: If you want Tony Carruthers to attend, you need to let me know to create an order to direct TDOC to bring him.

Earley Story: I can’t proceed without Tony Carruthers.

Judge:  Have you other witnesses?  He rambled on in an anecdote about missing witnesses.

Judge:  You need to put on whichever witness is available.

Earley Story: I am not prepared to proceed without Tony Carruthers.

Judge:  This happens all the time.   You can use Rule 106 to authenticate a witness later.   We need to have the hearing.

At 11:10 Mr Story is called to the mic again.

Earley_Story_H&S
Earley Story

Judge: Mr Carruthers is not here because he is in prison.  You can call him at a later date.

Mr Story goes through the gate and sits down at the defense table.

An unidentified prosecutor stands up.  At first she alleged that the State does not know when Mr Story discovered this information concerning Alfredo Shaw.

Earley Story describes how Mr Carruthers sent him the informaton in 2018 and he filed his writ timely.

The prosecutor said that this new information fails to meet the test for a court hearing.  Testimony said that Sheriff Department Agent Butler made the buy, not Alfredo Shaw, and that Shaw did not testify to buying the weed.

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Alfredo Shaw

According to the prosecutor, there is no way Alfredo Shaw’s CI ledger made an impact on the trial.  Mr Story was charged with three sales.   He was acquitted on two of the sales via alibi but he had no alibi for the third date.   Agent Butler was the purchaser, not Confidential Informant Shaw.

Judge:  We are not talking about Tony Carruthers’ evidence.   Shaw is not the one who made the buy.  The State is saying that Agent Butler made the buy, not Shaw.   Carruthers’ evidence would not make a difference to your trial.   We will hear the State’s motion to dismiss.

Mr Story: Shaw said that he gave me the $850 at the trial.  Shaw was threatened.   You can look on Youtube and see…  Mr Story trails away as Judge Craft interrupts.

Judge:   I can’t look on Youtube.   Your argument is absurd.  You are wasting the court’s time.  Stick to the facts.   Respond to the State’s argument.

Mr Story: This is a hostile setting.

Judge:  Respond to the State’s motion (to dismiss).

Mr. Story:  I can’t respond.

Judge:  I find for the State motion to dismiss.   The person who testified was not Alfredo Shaw.   I am granting the State’s motion to dismiss.

The Prosecutor’s Testimony

Today’s prosecutor was not testifying as a witness to the 1997 trial, so presumably she was referring to a transcript of the original trial.   Mr Story has made numerous requests to the DA’s office, during the course of his appeals, for a copy of the court transcript, which has never been produced.

The prosecutor was referring to facts not in evidence, as the transcript was not produced during this hearing.    There’s one or more Brady violations here.

Aldredo Shaw did testify at Mr Early’s original trial.   We blogged in February where Shaw was forced to testify, after recanting his initial statement to the Grand Jury.   The judge actually made him a material witness and issued a warrant for his arrest, which Shaw resisted and was eventually sentenced to 364 days for resisting.    The warrants and dockets are cited in the blog.

This prosecutor was lying.

One more thing

Judge Craft, before the prosecutor spoke, seemed pretty certain that he would not need to call Tony Carruthers.   How could Judge Craft have predicted the specific lies the prosecutor later told the court, given that it would have been unethical for him to discuss the case with the prosecutor outside the courtroom?

Of course, Judge Craft, Hammer Award Winner, would never do anything unethical.

— concluded —

 

 

Hammer Award: Judge Chris Craft

The DA’s office, long before Amy Weirich’s regime, has owned the Hammer Award.   We’ll be awarding our Hammer Award to judges as well as prosecutors.

chris_craft
Judge Chris Craft

 

hammerawardOur June award winner is Judge Chris Craft, Shelby Criminal Court Division VIII.    We outline his bio towards the end of this piece, but right now we’re going to jump into why Craft gets the Hammer Award.

 

Craft’s Crowning Achievement:  Nuora Jackson

nuora
Nuora Jackson

Chris Craft played a leading role in the false imprisonment of Nuora Jackson.  Emily Bazelon, in her book “Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration” spends six chapters examining Jackson’s agonizing journey through the legal system.   Amy Weirich was the prosecutor in her 2009 trial, and hid exculpatory evidence in a Brady violation

During her closing argument, Weirich said “Just tell us where you were, that’s all we are asking, Nuora”.   This was a reference to an unexplained hour in the timeline of the night of the murder, and the fact that Nuora had not taken the stand during the trial.  Jackson’s attorney, Valerie Corder, objected on the basis that the prosecution is not allowed to use a defendant’s constitutional right not to testify as a sign of guilt.

Judge Chris Craft refused a mistrial.   In Nuora’s 2013 Supreme Court appeal, Corder played a five second video of Weirich charging across the courtroom at Jackson with her demand for testimony, and the supreme court justices wanted to see it again.   This, and a note which was “disappeared” from the evidence, formed the basis for Jackson’s eventual retrial.     Chris Craft bent over backwards to allow Weirich’s obvious malpractice.    Weirich eventually received a “private reprimand” from the Board for Professional Responsibility for her malpractice in this case.

In the Tennessee Supreme Court’s judgement, Given that the impropriety of any comment upon a defendant’s exercise of the Fifth Amendment right not to testify is so well settled as to require little discussion, it is not at all clear why any prosecutor would venture into this forbidden territory”.   

It is also not clear why any judge would allow it. 

The Earley Story case.

Earley_Story_H&S
Earley Story

Earley Story is a former Shelby County Deputy Sergeant jailer who was framed for the sale of marijuana on the basis of evidence by a paid confidential informant, in reprisal for blowing the whistle on conditions at the 201 Poplar jail.  After his 1998 conviction, Story, though he served no time, has constantly tried to assert his innocence.

Earley Story has a motion for a writ of “Error Coram Nobis” currently in Chris Craft’s Division VIII.   He filed a motion for Judge Craft to recuse himself.   The Post and Email blog details Story’s grounds for recusal.  “In February, Story was granted a hearing in Division VIII, where Judge Chris Craft presides.  In 2004, Craft denied Story’s post-conviction appeal; he also sentenced Story to ten days in jail after finding him in “contempt of court” for allegedly interrupting him in the courtroom.   Story has questioned not only Craft’s neutrality, but also why his recent request for a case review was not assigned to Division III, in accordance with Tennessee law, rather than in Division VIII.

Given Craft’s previous involvement, including his misrepresentation of Story as having accepted a guilty plea at a hearing of the private parole board to which Story’s case was sent.   Story has also sued Craft for alleged improprieties in the handling of his probation.

We were in court for Story’s February 11th, 2019 appearance in Craft’s court.   This was their first interaction, from my notes:

Judge Chris Craft: Do you have an attorney?
Earley Story: No
Judge Chris Craft: No What?
Earley Story: No Sir
Judge Chris Craft: No What?
Earley Story: No Sir Your Honor.
Judge Chris Craft: No What? Are you answering “is it raining”.
Earley Story: You asked if I have an attorney.
Judge Chris Craft: Sit down. (mumbles something) I’ll find you in contempt of court.

Considering that Judge Craft had sentenced Earley Story to ten days for contempt in 2004, we are inclined to take this threat at face value.

Michael Rimmer

Rimmer
Michael Rimmer

Michael Rimmer was sentenced to death three times for an alleged 1998 murder.   Chris Craft presided over the 2016 retrial. and third death sentence.

He was granted a new trial in December 2013 because Thomas Henderson, a high-placed, veteran attorney in the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, did not give relevant evidence to Rimmer’s defense attorneys, a Brady violation.  The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Office of Professional Responsibility ordered a public censure of Henderson.

This case was documented in the 2017 Fair Punishment Project report.

Kendrick Watson

kendrick
Kendrick Watson

We saw the story of Kendrick Watson when we wrote about Celitria Watson, his sister, and April Malone, his significant other.   They were co-defendants in one of his cases.   A wiretap report, obtained under a warrant for Kendrick’s phone, was falsified by police and prosecutors.   This resulted in April and Celitria’s cases being severed from Kendricks, and dismissed.   Nonetheless, reports from this wiretap were used against Kendrick, and April and Celitria’s proof of evidence fabrication was not allowed in court.

Kendrick Watson had other issues with the legitimacy of the wiretap warrants, including a warrantless search of the phones of his associates following a traffic stop and some questions relating to a bank report used to obtain the warrant.

Perhaps this is a natural consequence of judges policing each other in a cozy manner, but Chris Craft, as the presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary, rejected Kendrick Watson’s complaint against Judge Lee Coffee, despite Coffee’s acceptance of tainted evidence.

Charles Thompson

Thompson was a shot-caller for the Traveling Vice Lords who was accused of ordering the killing of Deputy Deadrick Taylor in April 1996.   This appears to be part of a spike of deputy killings that happened around the time that a massive Jobs for Cash conspiracy was being revealed by an FBI inquiry and subsequent Federal trial of two of the conspirators.   Thompson was being held on a separate charge in 201 Poplar at the time he is supposed to have ordered the murder of the deputy.

Judge Chris Craft presided over Thompson’s conviction on docket 96 11968-96621546.

Thompson was mysteriously transferred under the Interstate Prisoner Transfer Compact and he is now believed to be in a Federal institution in Arkansas.   Charles Thompson had a close association with Jason White, his deputy in a prison gang.   White, while still in prison under a previous sentence, was framed on a planted meth bust, given an additional 60 year sentence, and, a few weeks ago, spirited away on another interstate prisoner transfer to a distant state.

Just City Court Watch Blog describes Craft interaction.

An extract from the Just City Court Watch Blog.

201_poplar“April 10th, 2019 – An attorney believed to be representing the defendant pointed his finger at her and said, “Keep quiet!” as she was attempting to speak to Judge Craft and request a new attorney. When it came time for her case, the defendant wanted to be heard. After her attorney painted her as mentally incompetent, Judge Craft let her speak. She explained that there had been no communication between her and her attorney, and that she’s being ignored. As you can imagine, this is her only opportunity to advocate for herself — particularly since her attorney wasn’t. She had a difficult time staying quiet, but was never disrespectful in my opinion. After Judge Craft heard her out, there was more she wanted to say. However Judge Craft appeared annoyed at this point and said, “I’ll give you 10 days in jail for every word you say”. The defendant was quiet.”

Earley Story describes Craft intimidation

We previously saw a description of Judge Craft’s interrogation of Earley Story.  In conversation with Mr. Story, he described an interaction with Craft during the case when Craft sentenced Story to ten days for contempt.

Judge Craft would say something, then pause.   If Mr Story waited for the judge to continue, he was chided for being non-responsive.   If Mr Story spoke during the pause, Judge Craft would continue and accuse Mr Story of interrupting.

This is an excellent way of intimidating pro-se defendants, whether or not this effect is intended.

Biographical Details

Edited from noethics.net with additional details from the Daily News.

Chris Craft received his law license from the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1978 after graduating from Memphis State University.  From 1980 to 1982 he did graduate work at Memphis Theological Seminary in Law and Religion.
From 1978 to 1982 he practiced as a defense lawyer in the family firm.
Beginning in 1982 through 1994, Craft was employed as an assistant prosecutor in the Shelby County DA’s office. In 1994 he was appointed as a judge.
Chris Craft was appointed to Judge of Division VIII of the Shelby County Criminal Court in 1994 and was elected to that position in 1996.   He has been re-elected for eight year terms ever since, most recently in 2014, when he was unopposed.    He is next up for election in 2022.
In August 2011, Judge Craft was elected as the presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary. In a lame attempt at levity in responding to Sen. Beavers’ legislation, Judge Craft said, “It’s kind of hard for laypersons to understand the code of judicial conduct.”
This hyperbolic comment doesn’t pass the involuntary laugh test. Anyone could easily understand the mandates of the code of conduct.
Chris Craft is an elder and Sunday school teacher at Second Presbyterian Church and frequently extols the virtues of faith-based organizations.

The Hammer Award.

Judge Chris Craft, as a former prosecutor, is one of a number of judges who are former prosecutors.    We believe that exposure to the corrupt culture of the Shelby County DA’s office is a red flag.  We are following several other judges in that category.

hammeraward
May 2019 Honoree Judge Chris Craft

Updates:  Chris Craft dismisses Earley Story’s writ of error coram nobis. 

Chris Craft named in article on class action suit against probation business.

— concluded —

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tennessee Prisoner Rendition: Jason White

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.

Continue reading “Tennessee Prisoner Rendition: Jason White”

Draft DA Candidate Questionnaire

Jumping ahead a little, it seems clear that Shelby County is ready for a brand new DA in 2022, one that is committed to dismantling Amy Weirich’s system of mass incarceration.    Let’s suppose there might be an ad-hoc host committee formed to find the best possible candidate and provide her with the most and best campaign resources we can find.

weirich_testifies Continue reading “Draft DA Candidate Questionnaire”

Hammer Award: ADA Chris Scruggs

Daniel Connolly of The Commercial Appeal has recently outed Mike Cross, former Collierville and Shelby prosecutor, and Judge Jim Lammey for racism on social media.

hammerawardWe commend Mr Connolly’s enterprise and, seeing that we have our own research on prosecutorial and other criminal justice misconduct, we decided to follow his lead.

Our criterion for membership of our rogue’s gallery is something an ADA Hammer like Chris Scruggs would appreciate.   Three strikes and you’re in for good.   When we document three perversions of justice, you get our Hammer Award.

Shelby Co. District Attorney’s office has a hammer award, given to prosecutors who break the rules to get convictions.     This is our Hammer Award.

ADA Chris Scruggs

chris_scruggs
Scruggs

The first recipient of our Hammer Award is Chris Scruggs.    He’s a long time prosecutor and has headed up the West Tennessee Drug Task Force, an inter-agency unit, which works with the Multi Agency Gang Unit and its Organized Crime Unit.

Drug prosecutions are especially problematic, as a large part of mass incarceration. There are perverse incentives including civil forfeiture, which engenders corruption, and the imposition of minimum sentencing laws has made this area especially problematic.

Chris Scruggs taken to Federal Court

Celetria_april
Celitria Watson (L) and April Malone

We first encountered Chris Scruggs in the Federal case taken by April Malone and Celitria Watson against three DAs and three MPD police officers.   In this case, Ms Watson had an automated cloud back-up app running on her phone,  She was able to prove that the version of a wiretap log of her text messages had been altered by the prosecution and police to add incriminating statements.    In addition, a bogus bank Suspicious Activity Report was used to obtain the wiretap warrant.    The prosecution team was aware of the fabricated evidence.

Ms Malone and Ms. Watson were able to prove their innocence and their cases were severed and dismissed, but Kendrick Watson, Celitria’s brother and April’s significant other, was given and additional nine years on his sentence using the same fabricated evidence.  April’s mother, Patricia Malone, took a misdemeanor plea for time served.

Chris Scruggs and Planted Weed

thorne_peters_portraitcropOur piece on Thorne Peters‘ bust at Imbiblio’s night club describes how Chris Scruggs had to recuse himself from a second trial of Peters and others because of his misconduct in the first case.

In the initial December 2008 raid, some weed which had been thrown down in commonly accessible areas was found, but this was not allowed as evidence because there was no search warrant.   The arrest affidavit was altered months later to add a small baggie of weed supposedly found in the cruiser used to transport Peters, and the case was dismissed.

In addition to the evidence tampering, this case showed the abuse of bail.   Peters was held on $400K bail and ended up serving 19 months on a charge which had a maximum penalty of less than one year.  Peters’ insistence on his day in court called the DA’s bluff.    The DA’s expected to plead out, which would make the weakness of their case moot.

Peters was again arrested in July 2009 on the evidence of a confidential informant, Ashley Egan, who was paid $2000 for her testimony.   Egan was later sentenced to several terms of imprisonment, was described by her SCSO handlers as a junkie and was a client of the mental health court, which usually requires mental health treatment for its defendants.      Chris Scruggs, who had been cited for his role in the 2008 bust, recused himself from this case in October 2010, after the snitch testimony had been given.

Third Strike:   Jason White’s case

jason_white_cropThe 2016 cases of Jason White, Kristina Cole and Montez Mullins is especially egregious.   Bartlett police intercepted a package containing a pound of meth, relabeled it with Kristina Cole’s address, got a dubious warrant for the altered address, and busted her.   They confiscated her phone and sent some text messages to a phone they thought, but never proved, belonged to her incarcerated boyfriend, Jason White.  They subsequently added Montez Mullins, who admitted to organizing the shipment, to the docket.    The defendants were sentenced to  a total of 113 1/2 years.

The arresting officer testified to the changing of the destination address and the bogus text messages on the stand, so Scruggs, as the prosecutor, would have known these facts while being briefed on the case before trial.   Cole and White were innocent bystanders to Mullins’ prison meth distribution scheme.

Chris Scruggs:  Congratulations

hammeraward

 

Chris Scruggs is a deserving recipient of our first Hammer Award.

We will be awarding future Hammer Awards to prosecutors, judges, law enforcement and individuals who get three strikes for overzealous enforcement of mass incarceration.

 

 

 

–Concluded

 

 

 

 

Bazelon’s book “Charged”: Call to Action

Updated 5/17/2019:  We took the appendix of this book and showed how it could be a questionnaire that a hypothetical selection committee could put to candidates to gauge how committed they are to prosecutorial reform. 

Prosecutors wield extraordinary power in the criminal legal system. How they exercise their power can be the difference between fairness and inequality, justice and corruption, and a community with faith in its justice system or one that feels betrayed by it.”

Emily-Bazelon.jpg
Emily Bazelon photo – Nina Subin

We don’t usually do book reviews, but Emily Bazelon’s book “Charged.  The new movement to transform American prosecution and end mass incarceration” is a phenomenon we can’t ignore.   It is a textbook and a case study of how to replace Amy Weirich.

Local DAs are the officials with the most influence over mass incarceration.

We previously reported on the Fair Punishment Project’s report “The Recidivists: New Report on Rates of Prosecutorial Misconduct“.   One of the four DAs profiled in the book was Amy Weirich, with an account of six of her cases which had been reversed by appeals courts.   Weirich was nailed for repeat Brady violations and due process violations.    Amy Weirich was, in 2017, fast becoming the poster child for prosecutorial misconduct.

weirich_testifies“Charged” confirms Amy Weirich as the most corrupt champion of mass incarceration in the country.   The book is structured as two case histories, one of Amy’s persecution of Nuora Jackson for murdering her mother, and the other following a young Black man, pseudonymously named Kevin, as he wends its way through a diversion program in the Brooklyn office of DA Eric Gonzales, who has slashed mass incarceration since his election.

nuora
Nuora Jackson

This is the most complete account of the Nuora Jackson case, and Weirich doubles down on vicious and illegal tactics throughout the case.   Jackson eventually took an alford plea after the Tennessee Supreme Court vacated her conviction.   Weirich did not have the grace to release Nuora on bail, and, rather than releasing her after ten years, forced her to accept a plea deal to avoid further incarceration.   Bazelon forged a close relationship with Nuora Jackson and paints an intimate portrait of a soul in Amy’s hell.

In the midst of alternating through six chapters each on Kevin and Nuora’s cases, Bazelon adds organizational chapters.

KimFoxx
Kim Foxx, Chicago DA

Chapter 5 is an account of a national movement to replace bad prosecutors with reformist DAs.   Groups such as the Illinois Safety and Justice PAC, funded by George Soros, helped Kim Foxx get elected in Chicago.  The Civic Participation Action Fund, the ACLU campaign for Smart Justice, the Open Society Foundation, Texas Organizing Project and others supported fourteen DA reform candidates in 2016-2018.   Most of them won. Even the Koch brothers supported DA reform on the basis of waste.  It is a bipartisan issue.

Chapter 8 is a survey of the new reformist DAs, including Kim Foxx in Chicago, Eric Gonzales in Brooklyn, Mark Dupree in Kansas City, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Tori Verber Salazar in San Joaquin Co, CA, Aramis Ayala in Orlando and many others.   Organizations like NYC Court Watch and Fair and Just Prosecution weighed in.   We have a court watch in Memphis now.

The final chapter is a survey of the issues faced by some of the new reform prosecutors and how they were tackled.   It’s a troubleshooting guide for reform DAs.

Possibly the most valuable resource in the book is the appendix, a list of 21 principles for Twenty First Century Prosecutors, grouped under the objectives of reducing mass incarceration and increasing fairness in the system.  This is a great starting point for a questionnaire for new DA candidates.

charged-book-emily-bazelon-1This book is a gift to criminal justice advocated in Memphis.   It contains a motivational story, potential national sources of support, accounts of the pioneer reform DAs who are already elected and helpful organizational principles.

Amy Weirich is the Public Enemy Number One for national reform advocates, who are well funded.

— concluded —