We have another Authorization of Agency case to share, this time that of Dan Rosson, against whom Memphis Animal Services, in collaboration with City Chief Operating Officer Doug McEwen, have created an AoA. Once again, the City has used AoA to silence a political opponent.
AoA and the City Blacklist.
Authorization of Agency first came to public attention when the City’s Blacklist was published on half a dozen AoA forms. Placement on Jim Strickland’s AoA was purportedly in retaliation for a December 19th Die-In action at Strickland’s, but it contained over forty activists’ names, far more than the ten or so protesters at that action. The list was correctly interpreted as a City action against a list of activists which MPD was managing in contravention of the 1978 Kendrick Consent Decree. The ACLU took the City and MPD to court and won.
AoA used against Zoo critics.
We publish some research on Authorization of Agency, compiling almost 1,700 AoA records obtained from MPD via Open Records Request. While 84.9% of the AoA victims were African Americans victims of police racism, a few, featuring Hunter Demster, Maureen Spain and myself were clearly in retaliation by the Zoo and MPD for harmless political speech. In my case, I was on two AoAs, one issued days after my 2016 arrest at the Zoo, which was judged by the courts to be a wrongful arrest, dismissed and expunged. My second Zoo AoA was illegally created by forging my name to an existing, pre-signed AoA with Hunter Demster, after we uneventfully visited the Zoo. Again, this was an act of political retaliation, supported by MPD files collected in violation of Kendrick.
MPD working for private employer with AoA.
Last week, we wrote about Rodney Fisher’s AoA at DHL/Nike. In this case, Mr. Fisher’s employer used MPD to inform him that he had been fired, in retaliation for political speech at his place of employment. The MPD Lieutentant Colonel who ordered the patrolman to inform Mr. Fisher was quoted as saying he had been targeted for non-existent “threats” made via social media, indicating that Mr. Fisher’s first amendment speech on political subjects had been investigated, and that a social media search had been performed by MPD.
New: Dan Rosson’s AoA
Now, we have a new AoA of concern, against animal activist and dog rescue volunteer, Dan Rosson. In this case, city employees at Memphis Animal Shelter and City Chief Operating Officer, Doug McGowan, were behind the retaliatory use of AoA.
Dan Rosson was a long-time volunteer at Memphis Animal Services. He was a dog foster, caring for shelter dogs at his home, and performing various tasks at the shelter. He photographed dogs and helped document their temperaments among other valuable services that saved money for the City and the lives of many dogs scheduled for euthanasia.
Mr Rosson recounts an incident at a Collierville vet, when a dog, which had been secretly labeled as potentially vicious by MAS. attacked another dog. Rosson subsequently, at an April 2018 MAS advisory board meeting, called for volunteers to be warned about dogs labeled as problematic. Mr Rosson, in the following months, also shared a long list of administrative issues at MAS that he wanted addressed.
On February 13th 2019 Mr Rosson posted on Facebook about some critically ill pups who needed urgent veterinary treatment. He had been banned from transporting animals and no-one else was available to drive the pups to the vet.
Mr Rosson, as a proponent of the humane treatment of animals, was upset at the unnecessary suffering caused by the delay in the treatment of the canines.
On February 14th, Mr Rosson circulated a petition to volunteers and others, and engaged in first amendment protected speech critical of the City administration of MAS. The petition asked the City to promote due process and prevent First Amendment abuse by MAS officials, naming MAS director Alexis Pugh.
On February 18th, Mr Rosson posted that City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowan had allegedly called Rosson’s former employer, University of Tennessee. Mr Rosson is retired from UT but had availed of the customary policy of allowing retirees to continue using their UT email. UT canceled Mr Rosson’s email account with resultant chilling effect on his ability to engage in free speech on this issue.
On the 20th, Mr Rosson received some Open Records Requests information from the City attempting to clarify the MAS policies on administering volunteers and asking for records on his own case, and the petition was delivered to the Mayor and City Council. That was the day the AoA was signed by Alexis Pugh.
On February 21st Mr Rosson was informed that he would be arrested if he set foot at MAS and was informed of other charges made by Pugh against him. These additional charges might constitute illegal acts but were not recorded (as sometimes happens) as marginal notes on the AoA. This suggests that MPD was maintaining other documents relating to Mr Rosson. This implies the existence of an investigation, which, being likely to uncover political information relating to Mr Rosson’s communications with the City and MAS, should have been approved by Police Director Rallings pursuant to the Kendrick Consent Decree, which had been well aired in Federal court by this time.
The accusations made by MAS management, if they could be substantiated, should have resulted in a police investigation. Mr Rosson has not been charged with any offense relating to alleged incidents at MAS.
We believe that Mr Rosson’s case is an clear example of AoA being used by MPD to harass political opponents of the City, which is a pattern we have been seeing lot of.
Note on Authorization of Agency.
If you are told, by MPD or property management, that you will be arrested if you set foot on a given property, ask if you are on an AoA.
If you are on an AoA, you can get the document for free via the City Open Records portal. You need to specify a date range, which should be a few days before and after the date you are informed. You need the address of the premised, and also the MPD precinct and ward in which it is located, which you can look up in the link.
Sometimes AoAs are placed without informing the victim. In this case you find out about it at some later point, when you visit the premises. In that case, figure out when the AoA was placed and straddle that date in your open records request.
Share your AoA adventures with us. If you feel that the AoA is the result of an MPD investigation not approved by the Director, or if its deficient due process is being used to threaten or intimidate you, or to impede your constitutional rights, contact the MPD Court Monitor. Read our AoA information. If you are arrested for trespass on an unposted location without being given notice to depart, share this information with your attorney.
Our identification of the Caissa Seven at the time had predictive value, although we overestimated Kemp Conrad’s Caissa spend at a time when some documents were unavailable at the Election Commission.
We also missed a year-end 2014 contribution of $500 by Caissa Public Strategy to Edmund Ford Jr. We are sorry we missed that, as it would have pointed to his antics around the 2018 referendum. Essentially Ford was another Caissa paeon, voting with the Caissa whip almost all the time especially on public safety issues.
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.
We 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
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
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
Our 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
The 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
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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 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.