Recently we got documents from Memphis Police Department using “Authorization of Agency” as a search key, and we obtained an excerpt of MPD’s “Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure”. The extract was very helpful as it outlined the procedures for Authorization of Agency, which we wrote up in our blog.
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.
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
AoA UPSSOP Section 2: Advising the Target of AoA
AoA UPSSOP Section 3: LEO Witness and Complainant signature
AoA UPSSOP Section 4: Filing of AoA
AoA UPSSOP Section 5: AoA Verification for Arrest
AoA UPSSOP Section 6: Arrests and File maintenance
AoA UPSSOP Section 7: Appendices, omitted from FOIA.
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
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?
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.
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.
Finally, Shelby Co. Sheriff’s Office has announced it will shortly be starting its own AoA process.
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://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.
Various public sites and reference material
TCA 39-14-405: Tennessee Criminal Trespass Law
No Trespass Public Notice List at Tennessee Secretary of State
— concluded —
The Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU) is a mysterious multi-disciplinary police and prosecutor unit sponsored by the Shelby County (State District 30) District Attorney.
Click here for a PDF download of the above link.
According to the DA’s website, MGU was started in 2011 and absorbed the Crime Strategies Prosecution Unit (CSPU), “incorporating and expanding the work of the Organized Crime Unit, Project Safe Neighborhood/Gundone, GunStat, the Safe Streets Task Force and the Violent Crime Unit”. It was formerly known as the DA’s Multi-Agency Gang Prosecution Unit, originally formed in 1996 as the Gang & Narcotics Prosecution Unit. Sorry about the aphabet soup, it is a direct quote from the DA’s page.
The MGU’s operating manifesto in contained in their Memorandum of Understanding signed in July 2012. An updated MOU was signed on September 12th 2016, but we have been unable to get a copy of the most recent MOU to date. We’d also like to see the minutes of recent quarterly MGU Board of Directors meetings.
“The MGU is a joint effort of six (6) primary law enforcement agencies:
- The United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation
- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
- The Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office
- The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office
- The Memphis Police Department”
On the streets, MGU operatives often wear black BDU trousers, dark t-shirts with ballistic jackets, their personal choice of shoes, and an MGU patch. MPD members of MGU also have an MPD shield on the front of their vests, and drive characteristic white Dodge Chargers with police equipment but no livery. A small number of MGU operatives have no MPD shield and drive black or white SUVs with police equipment, and these are thought to be mostly sheriffs deputies, though some may be from Federal or State LE agencies. MGU headcount was recently quoted as 26 MPD officers and 21 SCSD deputies.
There is a related group known as the Organized Crime Unit. OCU’s chain of command is within MPD, but OCU works closely with MGU and other law enforcement agencies. OCU officers often wear civilian clothing and drive confiscated civilian cars. We take up the issue of MGU’s and OCU’s command structure later.
On the streets, when MGU and OCU operatives appear together in paramilitary uniforms, the main visual difference is that the OCU operatives wear their MPD shields in the same way they are worn while in plain clothes, sometimes on chains or lanyards around their necks and sometimes clipped to random spots on their ballistic jackets. The OCU ballistic vests tend to be more advanced plate carriers with steel or ceramic inserts fitted with tactical AR-15 magazine pouches, rather than the less-capable Kevlar worn by most MGU operatives. MGU operatives usually have their shields and MGU patches affixed to chest and belly area of their ballistic jackets. We have clocked regular MGU and OCU officers working together under the same command on various occasions.
The DA says that the role of MGU is totally gang-related including investigation of gang leaders and hard core members. “As a specialized unit, the MGU uses various investigative techniques and methods to conduct long term investigations.” The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) lists seven specific areas of operation, and all of there are gang-related. There is no provision in the 2012 version of the MOU for political policing or protest-related operations.
One of the less publicized roles of MGU is to maintain a database of alleged gang members, who are not necessarily convicted of crimes. “On September 23, 2013, MGU successfully petitioned Shelby County General Sessions Court obtaining the first ever gang injunction.” This legal tool purportedly bans suspected gang members from being at designated locations. This database is thought to include 1,700 names.
Expansion of MGU and OCU’s political role.
The earliest appearance of MGU / OCU at political events was probably the Black Lives Matter protest on Hernando de Soto Bridge on July 10th, 2016. In the Commercial Appeal photo to the left, the helmeted policeman in the left of the photo has an MGU patch on his chest, while the officer second from left has the OCU favored style of ballistic vest.
A previous major protest, the Greensward sit-down of May 30th, 2016, did not have any recognizable MGU or OCU officers present. We are not sure if OCU or MGU operatives were at the two Graceland protests in the summer of 2016.
The Bridge protest was near the one-year anniversary of Darrius Stewart’s death at the hands of MPD cop Connor Schilling and was accompanied by a lot of chatter from the Fusion Centers.
In 2017, we noticed MGU appearing at numerous political events. On January 16th 2017, Martin Luther King Day, MGU and OCU police made arrests during a protest at Valero oil refinery, and those arrested were added to the City blacklist.
On Mayday, 2017, operatives with MGU belly patches performed traffic duties at the Immigration March. See photo at right.
On April 3rd, 2018, MGU and OCU officers appeared at the 201 Poplar stop of the “Rolling Block Party”. On-scene commanders designated protest leaders for arrest, and several were arrested in snatch squad operations, including journalist Manuel Duran who is thought to have been fingered by ICE for arrest. Most of the officers were wearing MPD shields but none had body cameras as required by MPD regulations. The officer who arrested Manuel Duran described himself as OCU on the arrest affidavit, and several of the operatives were wearing MGU patches. There was also an SUV with an MGU decal present, which is considered unusual as most MGU vehicles are unmarked but with obvious police equipment.
MGU and OCU officers, including at least one OCU operative, undercover in plain clothes, were seen at TakeEmDown901 protests in 2017 and 2018 and participated in arrests.
On the evening of Friday 6th July, 2018, Keedran Franklin was arrested by Organized Crime Unit detectives.
On September 19th, 2018, the day after Martavious Banks was critically wounded by MPD police, MGU operatives arrested most of the six people charged. The arresting officers identified themselves as “Task Force” in court. One protester, Hunter Demster, was pointed out for “snatch squad” style arrest by a scene commander.
The foregoing proves that MGU and OCU have been increasingly involved in aggressive policing of protests and planned snatch squad arrests.
Photographing participants are political events is forbidden by the Consent Decree and in MPD policies and procedures manual. MPD claims they don’t work with ICE, but apparently MGU does. Daniel Connolly of the Commercial Appeal documents an MGU operative who identified himself as an ICE officer. MGU is also a means for MPD to deceive the public on its policies. In this 2017 Channel 5 article, Mike Rallings claims that they don’t work with ICE except when called to an incident. MPD and ICE operatives were operating jointly in MGU at the time Rallings made this statement.
MGU is headed by Amy Weirich in her capacity as MGU Board of Directors Chair, and she is addressed and referred to as General Weirich in MGU documents. This suggests that the MPD officers in MGU are outside the MPD chain of command.
The Board also includes ex-officio the heads of the six agencies listed in the MOU.
MGU Operational Commander is MPD Major Darren M. Goods, who earns over $81K.
Other identified MGU members include: ATF SAC Chris Rogers, MPD’s Detective Dennis Evans Jr. ($60K), SCSO Detective David McGriff Jr., ADA Chris Scruggs, Detective A. Taylor, MPD Lieut. Michael Juan Rosario ($71K), MPD Sgt. Mahajj Abdul-Baaqee ($65K), MPD Clarence Muhammad ($60K), MPD Sgt. Brian Alan Beasley (65K), Det. Doty, Det. Fernandez, Det. Stewart, ADA Paul Hagerman, Amy Weirich’s deputy, David Biggers Jr. of the Tenn. Western District federal prosecutors office, D. Michael Dunavant (US Prosecutor), Ed Stanton Jr (clocked in 2016 when he was Federal Prosecutor and who has a conflict of interest in the current context), Neal Oldham (US Prosecutor), ADA Colin Campbell and ADA Ray Lepone, who have been clocked at MGU functions in recent years.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, “MGU is led by Resident Agent in Charge Marcos Bess of the ATF along with Lieutenant Kenny Roberson of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and Major Darren Goods of the Memphis Police Department.”
Consent Decree Section I
I: Restriction on Joint Operations
The defendants and the City of Memphis shall not encourage, cooperate with, delegate, employ or contract with, or act at the behest of, any local, state, federal or private agency, or any person, to plan or conduct any investigation, activity or conduct prohibited by this Decree.
On 11/13/2019, the Court issued two orders, one to release the transcript of the August 27, 2019 in-camera conference, and the second to deny the City’s motion to rescind some of the restrictions in Section I. The actual transcript has not been released on PACER, the Federal Court docket system, as of the time of writing. These orders are taken as the Court’s re-affirmation of Section I and the Consent Decree as a whole.
The MGU has its own database, independent of MPD’s regular database. This database has the capability of tracking political intel. MGU operatives are instructed to create an index number for the MGU database and a separate number for their own agency database, for all reports. MPD members, while seconded to the MGU, do not have to follow MPD’s body camera regulations and do not follow MPD’s regulations in regard to the Consent Decree.
The Marshall Project recently wrote about six local police departments, including Atlanta’s, which have pulled out of joint Task Forces, because the task forces are not bound by local police regulations.
MGU is secretive in nature and has sophisticated intelligence gathering tools and an independent database outside MPD’s control. As long as MPD is part of the MGU/OCU it will be impossible to obtain or confirm compliance with the Consent Decree, regulations on photographing police or other MPD rules.
Organized Crime Unit (OCU)
The MGU as previously described have an occluded chain of command. In the MGU, officers report to General Amy Weirich through the MGU hierarchy, they are deputized to a Federal agency and they also report to their own agency. FBI rules mandate that all task force members are deputized to a Federal agency specifically to comply with FBI rules forbidding body cams, and to avoid other local LE regulations, including consent decrees.
MGU’s headquarters is at 3657 Old Getwell. They have also scheduled meetings at 994 South Bellevue, a mysterious industrial bunker-like building owned by the County.
OCU, on the other hand, has a clear chain of command at MPD. OCU is run by Precinct Commander Colonel Marcus Worthy who reports to MPD Deputy Chief of Special Ops Michael Hardy. The Special Ops division includes the TACT squad and the Real Time Crime Center.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, OCU is a part of MGU.
OCU’s headquarters is at 225 Channel 3 Drive, and, unlike MGU headquarters, the address is not secret. They even publish their phone number: (901) 528-2338.
According to local lore, OCU officers are bumped a rank on entry and there are no operational officers below the rank of sergeant. Supervisory level OCU staff are lieutenants or above.
OCU has a siilar role at political events as MGU, and the two units have been observed to work closely together at political events. In court, both OCU and MGU officers tend to give their unit as “Task Force”, which is vague.
“The Organized Crime Unit of the Memphis Police Department is assigned the primary responsibility for investigative and control of organized crime, vice, and narcotics related offenses within the Department’s jurisdiction. The Unit is multi-faceted and actively participates in multijurisdictional task forces to coordinate the attack on illegal activities at the local, state, and federal levels.” (MPD 2014 Annual Report)
This statement is misleading. OCU does not have primary responsibility for those areas due to the mission overlap with MGU. OCU’s role on the MPD website does not include the policing of political events or the snatch-squad, politically directed, arrests of dissidents. The multijurisdictional task force mention appears to include both their joint operations and integration with MGU and also working with Federal LE agencies, who routinely deputize local LE personnel for the reasons outlined above.
It is clear, like when MPD officers are deputized to the MGU, the role of OCU in MGU or any other task forces that include Federal deputization require them to ignore MPD regulations, including the Consent Decree where they conflict with Federal guidelines.
MPD cannot participate in MGU, under the leadership of General Weirich, and while deputized to Federal agencies, and be compliant with Section I. Their recent history demonstrates frequent non-compliance with the Consent Decree. General Weirich is a State employee and not subject to the Consent Decree.
OCU could come into compliance with Section I, because it has a clear chain of command within MPD, but only insofar as it does not engage in the MGU or any task force which requires its members to be deputized to Federal agencies. Its commanders and members need to be trained in how to comply with Section I of the Consent Decree and its other requirements.
The City will say that not being able to engage in task forces will cramp its style, but the Marshall report shows that six cities have managed to achieve this, and the sky did not fall.
To be continued.
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.
As 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.
MPD categorizes everyone by race. Only eleven AoAs, less than three percent of the total, did not track the subject by race.
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.
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.
#: 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.
City councilman Berlin Boyd was fast tracked into public office as a result of two prior appointments before getting elected to serve a full four-year term in 2015 as the city council representative for District 7.
Like some, I hoped he’d rise to the occasion. His early ambition to move forward on the Mow to Own initiative and the marijuana legislation were encouraging. Unfortunately, it was short lived as his personal character was illuminated and quickly became the subject of recurring conversations among various religious, business, political, and social circles as well as social media platforms. Neither his professional nor personal conduct, particularly his actions during his tenure in office, is evidence that the councilman has risen to the mantle of the office to which he is seeking to be re-elected. Sadly, Mr. Boyd has not done anything noteworthy to advance the livelihood of the indigent in his district; instead he has profited off the poor while in office. Hence, you should find it very irresponsible that he is asking for our vote with no tangible accomplishments to which he can point. The best he can offer the citizenry is the vague generalities he has prominently displayed on his campaign website. For example, he wrote: “Encourages and supports a more responsive government, greater citizen participation, and community empowerment.” What does that mean? It means nothing. As a seasoned councilman seeking a second term, we should demand proof of a harvest from the seeds he supposedly has sown. Even more
revealing is his inability to have specifics to draw from, after being on the city council for four years, of which two were as council chairman. In reality, if Councilman Boyd had to list his accomplishments, the only one that comes to mind isn’t highlighted on his campaign website. Ironically, this is the dog park on affluent Mud Island. Boyd does, however, point out that he singlehandedly sponsored legislation to rename Lindon Avenue to Dr. M.L. King Jr. Avenue. This too is inaccurate. Public records show Mr. Boyd was a co-sponsor, along with former City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr., and others in the community, to whom he intentionally seems to forget to give credit. Nonetheless, this was legislation that came to fruition years prior to his being
elected to the city council. A number of community leaders in District 7 are troubled by Councilman Boyd’s claims of being the architect who advanced discussions on the library in Frayser. This narrative, too, is false; his efforts were fruitless because they were non-existent. Here is the truth, many residents will corroborate that he flat
out refused their invitations to show up and be engaged with those in the poorest areas of the district who look like him. Boyd’s association with developers has prevented him from being an authentic public servant for all. Self-enrichment has repeatedly taken precedence over the best interests of the citizens. He is taking credit for moving the Frayser Library forward and helping with development in North Memphis, which is just another example of Boyd being disingenuous. He ignored Frayser residents. And, because he would not return their calls or emails, they decided to self-organize with the assistance of former City Councilman Joe Brown.
These are only a few of Boyd’s exaggerated untruth and lies. Nonetheless all speaks to Mr. Boyd’s character. Time and time again his personal character and conflict of interests were on full display to all. So, no, Councilman Boyd, we are not all “haters”. We are onlookers ashamed of your representation. I have lost count of the number of times Councilman Boyd has “forgotten” to recuse himself from votes he has taken, that directly serve his business partners and personal interest, on major development
deals. Boyd once said publicly, from the council dais, that he wasn’t going to jail for no one. From the optics he is on a slippery slope. Of course, the business community will stand beside Councilman Boyd, because his time in office has benefited them for generations to come. It has served them well. As a voter, ask yourself what generational examples has this person, who has represented District 7, left for
the generations coming up after us? Except for the fact that he is a public figure, his personal affairs (pun intended) wouldn’t be of importance to the taxpayers. I tend to believe that a person’s character privately has a direct correlation to their public integrity. Let me provide you with an example. Public records show that the only income Berlin Boyd reported to juvenile court was his $31,000 annual city council salary, when he appeared in court on two separate occasions for three of his four children, who were conceived during his current term in office. It has recently been discovered that his council salary is not the only compensation he was receiving, and continues to receive, at this time. Mr. Boyd is employed by FedEx, according to his revised financial disclosure and self-admission to a Commercial Appeal reporter, after he was caught dishonestly avoiding payment of child support for children he allegedly has denied publicly. Furthermore, a City Hall source, intimately involved with personnel matters, stated that his Council income is garnished to pay his monthly child support and arrears. The question is, why should taxpayers be left with paying his financial obligation to the mothers of his children? It is a personal responsibility that should be paid for out of income he earns from his private employer or from the kickbacks he receives from helping developers. Are you following the pattern of deception? Imagine the harm Boyd would do if we weren’t watching. Councilman Boyd: The trajectory of your time in office has been one embarrassment after another. It has also been transactional at the expense of your constituents. In a 2012 Op-Ed piece about politics, the writer, David Brooks eloquently put it this way, as he dissects the movie Lincoln, politics involves personal compromise for the public good and that politics is the best place to develop the highest virtues. Politics also involves such a perilous stream of character test: how low can you stoop to conquers without destroying yourself; when should you be loyal to your team and when should you break from it; how do you wrestle with the temptation of fame – that the people who can practice it and remain intact, like Lincoln, Washington or Churchill, are incredibly impressive. We are in a time where leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province is where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring. You have not mastered the art of character in service and, in case no one has ever told you, to a great degree, the personal character of an individual shapes the public character of the seat they hold. A public servant, in particular, should nspire us and lead by example. They should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity and elevate the people’s agenda and mutual respect. The people aren’t asking for perfection. Honesty, accountability and selflessness is a good starting place. In closing, it is fitting to share the quote below, from Councilman Berlin Boyd’s campaign website: “The only measure of what you believe is what you do. If you want to know what people believe, don’t read what they write, don’t ask them what they believe, just observe what they do.” – Ashley Montagu. One of Councilman Boyd’s council colleagues suggested that it takes four years to learn the job of a councilperson. It is my assessment that Berlin does not have the temperament or leadership qualities we need in those who we want to represent us. You do not deserve four more years to learn how to treat us. We have measured your motives, exactly how you have asked of the voters during the 2015 election, and now again in 2019, we have observed what you have done. I will conclude this Op-Ed with the following Proverb, “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” The citizens of District 7 have had four years to observe Councilman Boyd sharpen the iron of developers above the citizens, his ego and pride above fatherhood and manhood, obtaining perceived power and greed above righteousness, and has destroyed his reputation with the people who he put himself above. Pride comes before the fall, so good luck keeping your balance serving multiple masters.
Readers of our City Council Election blog may have noticed that, instead of writing about Thurston Smith, I inserted a legal disclaimer. Now I can reveal the full story.
On the fifth of July I was served with a temporary Order of Protection (PDF) filed by Thurston Smith. The order is a tissue of lies, but my attorney advised me not to post anything, and I don’t keep a dog and bark myself. The protection order was lifted (PDF) and expunged (JPG) yesterday (July 29th 2019) and now I am free to post without the threat of jail time.
The provisions of the order were savage, with confiscation of weapons, compulsory anger management courses, payment of court costs and more.
Updated 8/4/2019. I received an email from a friendly lawyer.
Wasn’t obtaining the Order of Protection the equivalent of a SLAPP suit?
A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
Wasn’t it also an abuse of process?
The first lie on the form is my height. Smith peggged me at 5′ 7″. The tallest I’ve ever been is 5′ 5 1/2″ and advancing age has reduced me to under 5′ 3″.
The big lie here was that the February 24th event was private. In fact, his announcement of candidacy for District 7 was clearly a public event.
The Facebook event, which was posted on the public page MRYE: Memphis Raise your Expectations!!!, was marked “Public” and was widely circulated. I replied “Going” as above, turned up at the door, signed in and was admitted.
Other lies: “Petitioner stated that Fergus Nolan then located him through social media”. In fact, Thurston located me through social media, sent a friend request and contacted me through Facebook Personal Messengerin December 2018. I still have records of this conversation.
He later called me, which is how I got his number. I did not call him until June 28th.
Made Flyers. Untrue. I have not made a flyer since 2016. If I want to make a flyer, I do one page with QR codes to reduce litter and paper wastage, and let people scan the QR with their phones.
I did not say “police hag”. It would have been “Pighag” which is a movie starring Anna T. Schlegel.
“Began peeping through windows”. Untrue. I did not cross the zero lot line which is about 12 feet from the windows.
Pacing back and forth. Not true. I am mobility impaired and am economical with my movements.
Left after 20 minutes. Not true. I arrived at 4:40 PM, made a phone call at 4:45 and left at 4:47. Seven minutes, confirmed by the timestamps on the photos I took.
“Petitioner is in fear for his life”. At the announcement event, there were over 40 of his friends present, and I was unarmed and alone. At his house, he was safely inside and I was again unarmed and alone. He is not in fear for his life. He is in fear of being exposed. Smith knows that his police buddies like to make this claim to violate people’s fourth amendment rights against search and seizure.
The June 28th Visit to Thurston’s House
On June 27th, I noticed that, although Smith owns a nice house he bought for $200,000 in Arlington, from the address on his Appointment of Campaign Treasurer, he appeared to be living in a dilapidated house bought from a bank in 2009, for less than $25,000, by his campaign Communications Director, Lloyd Brown. The documents are here (PDF). This piqued my interest enough for a reconnaissance.
After an abortive visit on the 27th, where I did not find the right house, I hung my media ID around my neck and drove to his house on Friday June 28th with the aid of a GPS. I noticed a white Cadillac with a VA parking decal parked outside and later posted that he seemed to be present. I also took several photos of the exterior of the residence, with peeling paint and rotted woodwork and window jambs. I thought this was interesting in case Smith later talked about blight. In order to allay any worries about who was at the door, I called him and he did not pick up.
If Thurston Smith had done the same at my house, or called me, this would have been canvassing. I think of this as reverse canvassing.
Why did Smith take out an Order of Protection?
It is interesting that Thurston’s first thought, when challenged by a voter in his district, is to resort to lying and intimidation. On Sunday June 30th, Detective Raymond Jones called me saying that Smith and Lloyd Brown had complained that I had been stalking and harassing them. I have not heard more. Presumably MPD would have just as hard a time proving these allegations as Smith had in court. Hopefully Detective Jones had permission from Director Rallings to undertake an “investigation” that had obvious potential for revealing political information.
Broadcaster Thadeus Matthews claimed, in this broadcast (at hour 1 minute 20) from July 1st, and again on the 15th, that Thurston Smith had been forced to retire early from his job at the VA. According to Matthews, this was allegedly related to alleged claims that Smith had allegedly sexually harassed another employee. Matthews said he would have the victim as a guest on his broadcast. We will not reveal the name of this employee, who is still at the VA, because it is our policy not to expose the names or particulars of alleged victims of alleged sexual crime. We also can’t name our informants at the VA because the case of Sean Higgins proves that whistle blowers are savagely treated at the VA. We would also point out that Mathews is also saying that Smith does not live in the district, which we don’t believe. Matthews was shaking Smith down for “advertising” money at the time.
Asking Smith questions about the circumstances of his departure from the VA prompted him to reach out to me via Personal Message, by phone and caused him to be visibly angry at his campaign announcement event. He attempted intimidation via law enforcement and the Temporary Protection Order.
Smith clearly has no regard for constitutional values, truth or transparency. Without the material in the protection order, I would not have had much to write. How he imagined that his dubious maneuver would silence me is unclear. His lack of judgement alone disqualifies him from office.
Thurston Smith and the Police.
This is Thurston Smith’s Community Outreach Program ID. He shamelessly posted it on his Facebook page.
COP is an organization of police sympathizers and snitches. They attend special training at Memphis Police Academy, where they are trained to spy on citizens and spread police propaganda. We obtained emails to COP members around the time of the April 3rd, 2018 Rolling Block Party police riot, where police brass asked COP members to try to prevent their congregations from joining the protest, in which Manuel Duran and others were arrested by paramilitary Organized Crime Unit (OCU) police thugs.
At a time when candidates like Tami Sawyer and John Marek are calling for the firing of Mike Rallings and his replacement by a Director who understands community policing, Smith holds the view that MPD is fine as is and should be supported in their campaign of mass incarceration. Evidence to the contrary includes: The ACLU “Kendrick” court victory and court monitor, Darrius Stewart’s murder and cover-up, the attempted murder, cover-up and incarceration of Martavious Banks, the police riot after the killing of Brandon Webber, turning off of body- and dash- cams, the Graceland discrimination case, the FightFor$15 case, numerous letters from CLERB which were stonewalled by Mike Rallings, spying by police at an actual Court Monitor public meeting, Authorization of Agency and other incidents of police malpractice and brutality too numerous to mention.
Thurston Smith is a pro-police dinosaur at a time when District 7 and the entire city is crying out for police reform.
Incidentally, Smith’s posture strengthens the Caissa Dog Whistle, which supports white control of the City.
I consider it an honor to be singled out for retribution by Thurston Smith.
— concluded —
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.
— concluded —
Last 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”
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.
Our 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
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 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 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Updates: Chris Craft dismisses Earley Story’s writ of error coram nobis.
Chris Craft named in article on class action suit against probation business.
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.