Berlin Boyd: The Donald Trump of Lies

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.

Thurston Smith: Liar, Bully and Worse.

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.

SLAPP Suit

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?

Lies

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″.

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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.

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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.

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Peeling paint and rotten woodwork (blight) on an upper-story window at Thurston’s official District 7 residence

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.

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Image  Picsart.com

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.

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Photo: Facebook

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.

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Dan Rosson placed on AoA by City

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.

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Mike Rallings and Jim Strickland’s Blacklist.  Photo, The Commercial Appeal.

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.

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Hunter Demster being cuffed by Officer Dan Adams at the Zoo

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.

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Rodney Fisher (Photo: Facebook)

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.

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.

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Dan Rosson (photo Dan Rosson)

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.

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Memphis City COO Doug McGowan.  Photo: City.   We apologize for the aesthetics

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.

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Alexis Pugh (Photo WKNO)

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.

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Some cute rescue puppies.  We could not leave you with those administrator photos.  

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.

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The slaying of Brandon Webber

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

Hammer Award: Judge Chris Craft

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

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Judge Chris Craft

 

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

 

Craft’s Crowning Achievement:  Nuora Jackson

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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.

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Earley Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Rimmer

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Michael Rimmer

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

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

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

Kendrick Watson

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Kendrick Watson

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

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

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

Charles Thompson

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

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

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

Just City Court Watch Blog describes Craft interaction.

An extract from the Just City Court Watch Blog.

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

Earley Story describes Craft intimidation

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

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

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

Biographical Details

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

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

The Hammer Award.

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

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May 2019 Honoree Judge Chris Craft

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

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

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Tennessee Prisoner Rendition: Jason White

In April 2019, we wrote about Jason White, who was framed for a pound of meth by Bartlett detectives and ADA Chris Scruggs, recipient of our first Hammer Award for over-zealous prosecution.  White was, until recently, serving 60 years at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Lauderdale County.

White was spirited out of state Monday May 20th in a carefully planned operation.

Continue reading “Tennessee Prisoner Rendition: Jason White”

Hammer Award: ADA Chris Scruggs

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

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

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

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

ADA Chris Scruggs

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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

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Celitria Watson (L) and April Malone

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

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

Chris Scruggs and Planted Weed

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

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

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

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

Third Strike:   Jason White’s case

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

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

Chris Scruggs:  Congratulations

hammeraward

 

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

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

 

 

 

–Concluded

 

 

 

 

Bazelon’s book “Charged”: Call to Action

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

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

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Emily Bazelon photo – Nina Subin

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

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

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

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

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Nuora Jackson

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

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

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Kim Foxx, Chicago DA

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

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

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

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

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

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

— concluded —

Jason White framed in Bartlett Meth Case

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Jason White

Jason White was sentenced to 21 years in 1999 for a burglary when he was 18 years old, and, in 2017, was serving the last year of his sentence.

Jason Lamar White was indicted in April, 2016, by the Shelby County grand jury for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine along with his girlfriend, Kristina Cole.   Another Riverbend inmate, Montez Mullins, was added to the indictment a year later.

The case was discussed by The Post and Email, on 10/11/2017, 10/17/2017 and 11/16/2017. These posts include case documentation, an interview with Jason’s mother, Kimberly White and extensive phone follow-up by the Post and Email’s Sharon Rondeau.

Montez Mullins.

In Februry 2016, Montez Mullins admitted to Cole’s first attorney, Mark McDaniel, that he had arranged for the shipment of the contraband package.

Fox 13 News reported: “According to the DA’s Office, Mullins said Cole and White knew nothing about the drug delivery. He claimed a Hispanic man he met in prison gave him an address as a good place to deliver drugs in the Memphis area.

Mullins also said he told Cole that the FedEx package contained jewelry intended for his mother, according to investigators”.

Kristina Cole

Kristina Cole is a mother of three who was 43 at the time of her arrest in February 2016.   Her previous record was pristine.    She is Jason White’s girlfriend.

The Package.

fedex_label004.jpgThe package in this case contained about a pound of crystal methamphetamine and some baby clothes.  It was presented to FedEx as shipment number 808857073374 at a FedEx retail outlet in Visalia, California.  FedEx opened the package and called Detective Collins, who took custody of the package.

The original FedEx label was given in evidence, and  the address, on the  label is  2552 Linwood Road, Bartlett, TN 38134.  It is marked for “Standard Overnight” service, which is FedEx’s next afternoon service.    The label is in the customary format produced by FedEx’s shipping software.

Package was Intercepted.

Detective Collins picked up the package, contacted the Bartlett police, overpacked it in a UPS box and sent it to Bartlett Police Department.    There, Detective Mark Gaia obtained a search warrant for a different address than was on the original FedEx label.   He used 2552 Jenwood Street, Kristina Cole’s address.

Bartlett detectives then relabeled the package with Cole’s address.

This is confirmed in White’s appeal.

Defects in the Package Chain of Custody

Detective Collins did not testify and so could not be questioned on the origination of the package.

Delivery of the Package.

The package was left on Cole’s porch and the search warrant served after Cole took it in.   The package was found unopened inside the front door and a number of electronic items confiscated in the search, including Kristina Cole’s phones and laptop.

The planted text messages.

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Kristina Cole

The prosecution later asserted that Kristina Cole sent Jason White a text message confirming the arrival of the shipment.   The text messages on her phone were created during the time she was in custody at the Bartlett police station.

From the Post and Email documents, the record of arrest on page 8 shows an arrest time of 3:30 PM.   On page 11, the phone text log shows the “incriminating” text messages going out between 3:38 PM and 4:26 PM.   By that time Kristin Cole and her phones were in custody.

Detective Gaia admitted on the stand, under cross examination by Cole’s attorney, Kortney Simmons, at trial, that he had sent at least some of those text messages.

In addition, the destination of the text messages, (615) 917-3749 was never proven to be a contraband cell phone in the possession of Jason White.   Currently (on 4/15/2019) the number gives an “unavailable” signal.  “A TDOC officer claimed that he saw (Jason) flush a phone in prison, but he showed no evidence during the trial to connect Jason White to the number”.  This is confirmed in White’s appeal.

The TDOC officer in question was later fired for bringing contraband phones into the prison.

Chris Scruggs

Chris Scruggs, the prosecutor, lied during the trial, alleging that he had not heard of Montez Mullins’ involvement in the case until “this year” (2017), even though Cole’s then attorney, Mark McDaniels,  who had talked to Chris Scruggs and told him about Montez Mullins at the discovery point after she was arrested in February 2016.

Scruggs is one of the problem ADAs we have encountered.    He is one of the defendants in April Malone and Celitria Watson’s federal suit alleging that Scruggs participated in the alteration of wiretap evidence and in hiding exculpatory evidence from the defense.   He also recused himself from Thorne Peters’ case after fictional evidence of weed found in the cruiser which transported was added to the case documents more than four months after the arrest.

Scruggs is second only to Amy Weirich herself on MemphisTruth.org’s list of problem prosecutors.

Judge Robert Carter presided over the trial.

Defense Counsel issues.

The defendants had issues with their counsel.
Attorney Claiborne Ferguson, White’s attorney complained that Jason White assaulted him at 201 Poplar on 7/10/2017.   The incident report is in the Post and Email documents, on pages 2 through 14.   The reporting officer said that no-one saw White choking Ferguson, as he had alleged, his clothing was undisturbed and there were not marks of violence.   Deputies concluded that no assault had taken place.    White had just informed Ferguson that he was firing him as attorney.   This is confirmed in White’s appeal.

White attempted to have Ferguson removed as counsel, and act pro-se but the judge would not allow it.   The constitutional right of a defendant to defend himself was violated.  White eventually fired Ferguson at sentencing time.    White’s previous attorneys were Blake Ballon, and Jeff Mueller.

Kristina Cole hired first Mark McDaniel and then Michael Scholls, fired them both and reported them to the Board of Professional Responsibility.    She went to court with Kortney Simmons, hired from Jackson because she could not find a local attorney to take the case.

Other Prosecutorial Midconduct

Prosecutors are not allowed to make derogatory remarks or epithets about defendants at trial.   During Cole’s trial, Chris Scruggs said that Kristina looked like “a pig for the Junk Yard Dog”.    This was a reference to the prison gang, the Junk Yard Dogs, of which Jason White was a leading member in Riverbend prison.

The prison gang was led by Charles Thompson who appeared in our Jobs for Cash story.

Scruggs also referred to Kristina and White as “Bonnie and Clyde” during the trial.

The Verdicts

Kristina Cole was found guilty and given 13 ½ years.

Jason White was found guilty and given a 60 year additional sentence.    He will be over 90 if he is released.

Montez Mullins was found guilty and given 40 years.

Post Conviction

Jason White’s appeal was turned down in February 2019.
Kristina Cole and Montez Mullins’ appeal was turned down in November 2018.

— concluded —