Maureen Spain is a busy soccer mom and a nurse who finds time to engage in local issues. We encountered Ms Spain several times before. She was arrested at the Greensward on Memorial Day 2016, by Richard Rouse who was looking for brownie points for promotion to sergeant. The day following her arrest, she was placed on an Authorization of Agency by the vengeful Zoo, even though she had not set foot on Zoo property that day. She took the case of her arrest to CLERB.
Ms Spain was recently detained, cuffed, physically abused and transported by cops who told her, during the abuse session, that they “love the Zoo”. We have full details of this incident, but first some background.
We previously documented the City’s use of AoA as a tool for political harassment. Among the over 2100 MPD victims of this irregular procedure, we highlighted five AoAs which were clearly part of ongoing political harassment at MPD, continued brazenly even while the Court Monitor is examining such issues. The most recent political AoA was Rodney Fisher’s from July 25th 2019, well after Monitor’s appointment.
* Author’s note: I was arrested with Ms. Spain and am also named on the same AoAs as she.
Authorization of Agency as political harassment
Ms. Spain has the distinction of being on the first political AoA that we know about. She was also on the AoA for the December 19th 2016 die-in protest at the Mayor’s house, which resulted in the City Blacklist. More than forty people were on this AoA, even though it was well known that no more than a dozen people participated in the Die-In. The majority of those blacklisted were there as political opponents of Mayor Strickland’s regime. The abuse of AoAs continued with another Zoo AoA, Dan Rosson’s at Memphis Animal Shelter and the aforementioned Rodney Fisher AoA with video.
We have documented AoA as a means of harassing those suffering lack of housing and other disenfranchised citizens. AoA remained unreported for at least ten years before its 2017 exposure with the City Blacklist. AoA as a secret police weapon seemed ideal when the City was mulling retaliation against the Greensward prisoners, so it is not surprising that MPD would add it to its arsenal of unconstitutional attack tools.
AoA is not the only harassment method used by MPD. Hunter Demster, Antonio Blair, Keedran Franklin and many others have been surveilled or arrested in recent years. Ms Spain herself, with numerous other activists, was featured in Joint Intelligence Bulletins as documented in the Kendrick trial documents.
Ms Spain, whose most recent political involvement was “just a day in the park”, was dialed in to Detective Tim Reynold’s paranoid conspiracy theory centered on Saul Alinsky’s book. This is part of a pattern of harassment which continued from May 2016 to August 2019, even while the Court Monitor was watching.
August 30th 2019 at Paradiso Cinema
On August 30th, Maureen Spain organized a birthday outing for her son and some of his early teen friends. She had a slight buzz on from a two glasses of wine earlier that day, and used a rideshare instead of driving to the Paradiso. At the theater, after a discussion with staff over their policy of not allowing children access to the movie, security guard Ray Daughtry dialed 911 and at least seven MPD officers responded: David Osborne, Martin Nolan, Lenette Otis, James Dolan, Chase Bates, Breana Johnson and Ryan Walker. Osborne and Nolan identified themselves to Ms Spain and the others are listed in the 911 Call Log (PDF) of the event. Audio of the 911 call is here. (WAV file).
According to the 911 log Ms Spain was detained at 8:28 PM, placed in custody at 8:51 PM, and she was transported at 9:25. As Ms Spain was never arrested, she was detained, cuffed and locked in the back of a cruiser at the Paradiso for a total of 57 minutes, and a further thirteen minutes while being transported. Normal police procedures require that detention at a location should be resolved within “about” 20 minutes, by release, transportation for further detention or arrest.
Ms Spain was jumped by Malco Paradiso security guard Ray Daughtry, who detained her and handcuffed one wrist. Officers Nolan and Osborne made the scene, placed handcuffs on Ms. Spain very tightly behind her back and sat her in the back of their cruiser. MPD’s Peerless-brand police handcuffs have a pawl and ratchet mechanism which allows the cuffs to get tighter with movement, but never looser. Being forced to sit on a pair of cuffs in an enclosed space in the back of a car is very uncomfortable, and every movement makes the cuffs tighter. If the police are being nice, they can insert a key and lock the ratchet so that the cuffs stay in place and don’t get tighter. These cops were not being nice that evening.
The two detaining officers videoed Ms Spain’s writhing in agony and made video of her through the opening in the partition. At one point, one of the officers said that he “loved the zoo”, tying the incident to the MPD harassment of Ms Spain, which had been ongoing for more than three years. At another point, one of the officers offered to loosen her cuffs, but took them off and replaced them even tighter, savagely twisting them and her wrists.
During the 57 minutes of Ms. Spain’s torture, her son and his friends waited on the curb until one of the other parents came to pick them up, so the kids were forced to see their mother’s mistreatment.
Ms Spain Transported.
Maureen Spain was transported at 9:29 and arrived at the MMHI Crisis Center at 9.42. The transporting officers were given as Lenette Otis, Chase Bates and James Dolan. She was finally uncuffed at 9:52 and released from the Crisis Center after a couple of hours. Although the 911 log ends with an indicated arrest, she was never charged in relation to the incident and no court records were filed.
As Ms Spain had previously been targeted as a political figure, the investigation was one likely to result in political intelligence being revealed, but we do not believe that the detaining officers had permission from the Police Director to conduct this investigation.
Maureen Spain’s injuries.
The above photos show bruising on Maureen Spain’s shoulder area and fingerprint bruises on her upper right arm, and her wrist swollen, welted, bruised and abraded by the handcuffs. Photos taken Sept 1st 2019.
She also had a very large bruise on her upper arm, which came up later, this photo taken on Sept 4th.
Ms. Spain also suffered nerve damage to her hands and wrists.
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.
The 2018 lawsuit which ACLU fought and won has produced tens of thousands of pages of documents.
“On March 2, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee intervened in Blanchard v. City of Memphis, a lawsuit challenging the City of Memphis’ creation of a list of people, including multiple members of the Black Lives Matter movement and other local political activists and organizers, who require a police escort while visiting City Hall.”
ACLU won the case and a court monitor was tasked with supervising changes at MPD. Documents from the case can be found on the ACLU website, the Court Monitor website, and on the City site. PACER contains all the publicly available documents from the case. It requires a free registration and they will bill you after 150 pages in a quarter. There are more documents here.
All those documents
We viewed the wealth of documents produced by the trial as the added bonus, over and above the effects of the judgement. The documents offer a new and unique insight into the corrupt nature and practices at MPD. But who had time to download and read through tens of thousands of pages of dry legalese?
To provide a narrative, and to avoid further torment to people already maligned in the police material, I provide a personalized romp through the papers focused on what they say about me. The other people mentioned have given permission to use their mugshots.
The Saul Alinsky Thread
From Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 177. This is from a section titled “Blue Suede Shoes Post-Investigation Follow-up”, about the August 2016 Graceland police riot. I was not at Graceland for either of the two protests that July and August.
And I never read the Alinsky book. But facts are not a requirement for a Joint Intelligence Bulletin.
These JIBs were circulated daily to law enforcement and to commercial firms in the Memphis area. They have resulted in all sorts of problems to the people featured, including difficulty in finding employment.
From Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 186. This is from a section about the July 2016 Bridge protest. I wasn’t at this protest either. I was out on bail, with a long court date, from the Memorial Day Greensward arrest and I was avoiding protests on the advice of my attorney. I have never met Dana Asbury, and I knew Spencer Kaaz and Maureen Spain casually from that Greensward protest. We did not embarrass MPD and pit them against the citizens of Memphis. MPD did that to themselves.
Paul Garner’s Book Review
This post by Paul Garner of Mid South Peace and Justice Center was featured in an email by Det. Tim Reynolds AKA Bob Smith. It is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 213. Garner posted a book review, 58 people “liked” it and Reynolds included the Facebook avatars and names of all 58 in a JIB. JIBs were widely circulated among law enforcement and a list of Memphis businesses.
This sheds light on the previous two images, both showing quotes from the Alinsky book. The thing is, I have never read the book. I ordered the book in August 2018 just before the trial, when I saw the above material. While in the witness room during the ACLU trial, I made a point of carrying it around. But I was never able to finish it. The writing is poor and the insights trivial.
As this article in Vox, by Dylan Matthews explains, Alinsky was literally demonized by the far-right. “(Ben) Carson explained (erroneously), Alinsky dedicated his book Rules for Radicals to none other than … Satan himself!”. The book was dedicates to Alinsky’s mother. Because Hillary Clinton wrote a thesis about Alinsky, and because Rudy Giuliani attacked Barack Obama for being “educated in the Saul Alinsky methods.” Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Andrew Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, Monica Crowley and Bill O’Reilly repeatedly ranted about Alinsky.
Bob Smith AKA Tim Reynolds is using coded far right ideology when they invoke Alinsky. Never mind it was just a few people reading a book review, as protected by the First Amendment.
The truth of the matter is that Saul Alinsky was an old, non violent white man and we old, non violent white men are harmless and impotent.
At the Greensward.
Bob Smith friended me on Facebook in May 2016, the same month as Spencer Kaaz. Prior to this, Bob Smith friended Tami Sawyer, Paul Garner, Ian Jeffries, Bradley Watkins and Athena Palmer between July and November 2015. This time coincided with the killing of Darrius Stewart, the campaign to restart CLERB and Garner’s false arrest for photographing police at Manna House.
This is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 178, in a section titled “Blue Suede Shoes”, a reference to the Graceland protests, which I did not attend. The only group I was a member of at the time was Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which engages members of Congress on climate change policy. That and the Greensward constituted my ‘radical agenda’.
The “reliable source” was far-right police infiltrator Tim Reynolds AKA Bob Smith.
This is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 179. It contains a lie. I spent the entire morning taking photographs of the protest and the events preceding it. I have 211 photos to prove this. I never sat down or blocked Zoo officials, as the arrest ticket confirms. Photographing police activities is protected by the first amendment and MPD photo policy. At no point did any Greensward protest prevent a single visitor from accessing the Zoo, and Zoo attendance was up in the 2016 fiscal year ending June 30th 2016. In fact, the Free Parking Brigade helped visitors find free parking in the area surrounding the Zoo and probably increased attendance.
This is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 180. I was arrested while I was “at the rear of the police van, attempting to take pictures”. Bizarrely it goes on to say that I was arrested because the crowd started shouting after I was arrested.
In any event, my case was dismissed and expunged so public officials should not be using these records and mugshots for any reason.
MPD used a conspiracy theory inspired by far-right media to imagine I and other dissidents were in some radical organization inspired by the hated Saul Alinsky, using the Zoo protest as a front. They don’t seem to get it that saving a prime and priceless park is a legitimate end in itself.
In fact, contemporary police sources reveal, Maureen’s and my arrests were due to a police error. All our activities on the Greensward were protected by the First Amendment.
Before my arrest, I cared about the environment and a patch of precious City grass. Since being forcibly introduced to the workings of the criminal justice system, I have spent some time exposing its internal workings. I have never been radicalized, as I work within the system and under the protection of the first amendment, but I have gone from a few hours per week in the Park to full time exposing corruption. I did not choose MPD, they picked me. And dozens of innocent people who care about our city.
My role in the Greensward
I was active in the Greensward movement. I worked with the media operations, photographed events at the park; helped analyze the Zoo finances and distances traveled by Zoo visitors; and critique the Zoo’s Economic Impact Study. I organized the Chuck Brady Limerick Competition and various weekend activities to help get crowds to the park in April and May. I am admin of “The Fringe Element” facebook group.
The Greensward arrests.
Certain police sympathizers in the Park Protectors (Greensward) movement objected to comments I made in the social media. I wrote about the massive police presence on April 2nd and 3rd when 75 officers, with armored vehicles, helicopters, horses, three paddy wagons and a command center, threatened peaceful park users at a cost of $38K.
I also wrote about the Latino festival in early May which was attended by TACT officers and their Lenco armored vehicle. I also made other first amendment protected comments about MPD and police in general.
My work in the Greensward protests was only about the Greensward protest.
I have never been a police fan, and the police intimidation on the Greensward did not dispose me more kindly. Growing up in Northside Dublin, we knew that “all pigs are scum” and I repeated this bon mot frequently. After interacting with MPD I now realize that the Garda Siochana of my youth were not so bad.
In 2016, police sympathizers were highly mobilized in reaction to the 2015 City actions on reducing retiree benefits and after MPA president Mike Williams lost his run for Mayor. These cop fans infiltrated the Greensward movement.
Kathy Hurley, a police fan and Mike Williams’ former campaign manager, published a post with my photo and shared it with the MPA facebook page, saying that I intended to attack police at the Memorial Day protest, which was a complete lie. Due to my immigration status I decided not to sit down at the protest and instead spent the morning taking photos. Some cops apparently noticed me photographing the paddy wagon, recognized me from Hurley’s photo, and jumped me six or seven minutes before the end of a notice period that MPD Major Reynolds had given in an ultimatum.
Police fans had organized a “cop stop” for the protest. The idea was to bribe the police at the protest with doughnuts so they would not intervene. This hare-brained idea was countered when the police brass ordered their members not to attend the cop stop. They made an exception by appointing Richard Rouse as “liaison” to the park protectors. Rouse dispensed doughnuts, schmoozed with Park Protectors all morning, reported what he found to police brass and later arrested Maureen Spain. This demonstrates the futility of community members engaging with police, even with doughnuts.
We spoke to people knowledgeable about MPD regulations, who said that, if the police suspected I had a weapon, they should have jumped me, patted me down, and cut me loose. Instead, they over-reacted, disobeyed Rudolph’s order to wait out the deadline, and retaliated.
In short, I was arrested because police and their supporters objected to my first amendment protected speech. It is legal to criticize the police.
Bob Smith appears.
Bob Smith friended me in May 2016. After the May 30th arrests, the Park Protector groups were in uproar and many of them wanted more direct action. As admin of “The Fringe Element”, I was worried about some people, including Bob Smith, who were openly advocating more direct action. Not wanting to have people planning things in an open group, I created a secret Facebook group on June 5th entitled “Kessler Associates” and added Bob Smith and about six other people to the group.
It had been standard practice among Park Protectors in April to internally manage any direct action, because we were fighting a PR battle in the media and it took six or seven weeks to get the media mostly favorable to us. We had a group of marshals trained by Mid South Peace and Justice Center and took militants off-line into secret groups to let off steam. This kept the media focused on moms and kids with balloons, and the like.
Kessler Associates discussed some possible actions, and was mainly a way for people to let off steam. The main actions discussed were a possible “slow drive” to jam up traffic already bottlenecked at the Zoo parking lot entrance. These plans require secrecy to stay legal. It is legal to drive up to the Zoo window and count out 500 pennies, but if it is part of a plan to obstruct the entrance to a business, maybe not. A vehicle might break down in traffic and hold things up quite innocently unless it is planned. In the event, this group broke up on June 15th without executing any action, because operational security had been breached and we could not maintain plausible deniability.
Tim Reynolds literally tried to make a Federal case out of an idle comment about hacking the Zoo. I did not say that I had recruited two hackers, because I hadn’t, and. in fact, there were no Federal or any other indictments arising from this group. No crimes were committed during the 10 day lifetime of Kessler Associates, and no protests were organized. No protests were needed because news coverage of the Memorial Day arrests had gone international during this time. Our media operation was fully engaged.
I was aware of three other secret groups at the Greensward, none of which were infiltrated by Bob Smith. Two of these group hosted early discussions about the Memorial Day protests, but the actual logistics were organized in physical meetings. In fact, all three groups were dominated by police sympathizers and I was thrown out of them all more than a week before Memorial Day because I objected to the “Cop Stop” plan on the basis that no good can come from consorting with police.
The A-list discovered
Officer Polk, in the above memo, tried hard, after the fact, to create an offense to justify his action in requiring me to have an escort in City Hall. The conversation I had with George Boyington was about the ineffective security at City Hall and how a determined effort to bring a weapon into the building would defeat the security. The conversation with Boyington was overheard by Ursula Madden, the Mayor’s propagandist, but constituted free speech as no crime was contemplated and no provision of the First Amendment was violated.
There were no previous actions or threats towards the Mayor, and I was on the list because I had been falsely arrested at the Greensward because the police did not like my previous First Amendment speech directed at police.
As I wrote immediately after this notification, I was told I needed an escort because I was “on a list”. When I asked why I was on the list, Lieut. Bonner was summoned and explained it was “because of the Mayor’s house”. When I pointed out that I was not at the December 19th 2016 “Die-In”at the Mayor’s house, Bonner said “Then it was something you wrote on social media”. As everything I wrote on social media was first amendment protected speech, I was listed and was being sanctioned in retaliation for first amendment speech.
I went home and wrote contemporary notes of the interaction, submitted an open records request for the list, notified the media and the rest is history. Bruce Kramer called a meeting of blacklistees in his office, the Nashville office of ACLU became engaged and Blanchard et al, thanks to brilliant litigation by ACLU and a blustering defense by the City legal hacks, gave the people of Memphis the greatest legal win against the City since the original 1978 Kendrick consent decree.
We saw how MPD, inspired by alt-right ideology, decided that literature fans were enemies of the state, created JIBs which slandered individuals and shared them with potential employers, accepted lies from their sycophantic supporters, breached training and discipline to arrest protesters without cause, lied about alleged crimes and escorted political opponents in City Hall in another breach of the First Amendment.
Mike Rallings sent an email to all his members in February 2017 explaining the first amendment. He said that criticizing police is protected by the first amendment. You’d think that the basic constitutional law of the nation would be the first thing they’d teach recruits at the academy.
I was lucky. I was able to insulate myself against MPD slander by retiring a little early, but in the years following, dozens of City political opponents were followed, surveilled, arrested and slandered in JIBs circulated to potential employers. Their worst “crimes” were using the First Amendment to assemble, march and speak out against injustice. Harm was done to many young lives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Jumping ahead a little, it seems clear that Shelby County is ready for a brand new DA in 2022, one that is committed to dismantling Amy Weirich’s system of mass incarceration. Let’s suppose there might be an ad-hoc host committee formed to find the best possible candidate and provide her with the most and best campaign resources we can find.
Daniel Connolly of The Commercial Appeal has recently outed Mike Cross, former Collierville and Shelby prosecutor, and Judge Jim Lammey for racism on social media.
We commend Mr Connolly’s enterprise and, seeing that we have our own research on prosecutorial and other criminal justice misconduct, we decided to follow his lead.
Our criterion for membership of our rogue’s gallery is something an ADA Hammer like Chris Scruggs would appreciate. Three strikes and you’re in for good. When we document three perversions of justice, you get our Hammer Award.
Shelby Co. District Attorney’s office has a hammer award, given to prosecutors who break the rules to get convictions. This is our Hammer Award.
ADA Chris Scruggs
The first recipient of our Hammer Award is Chris Scruggs. He’s a long time prosecutor and has headed up the West Tennessee Drug Task Force, an inter-agency unit, which works with the Multi Agency Gang Unit and its Organized Crime Unit.
Drug prosecutions are especially problematic, as a large part of mass incarceration. There are perverse incentives including civil forfeiture, which engenders corruption, and the imposition of minimum sentencing laws has made this area especially problematic.
Chris Scruggs taken to Federal Court
We first encountered Chris Scruggs in the Federal case taken by April Malone and Celitria Watson against three DAs and three MPD police officers. In this case, Ms Watson had an automated cloud back-up app running on her phone, She was able to prove that the version of a wiretap log of her text messages had been altered by the prosecution and police to add incriminating statements. In addition, a bogus bank Suspicious Activity Report was used to obtain the wiretap warrant. The prosecution team was aware of the fabricated evidence.
Ms Malone and Ms. Watson were able to prove their innocence and their cases were severed and dismissed, but Kendrick Watson, Celitria’s brother and April’s significant other, was given and additional nine years on his sentence using the same fabricated evidence. April’s mother, Patricia Malone, took a misdemeanor plea for time served.
Chris Scruggs and Planted Weed
Our piece on Thorne Peters‘ bust at Imbiblio’s night club describes how Chris Scruggs had to recuse himself from a second trial of Peters and others because of his misconduct in the first case.
In the initial December 2008 raid, some weed which had been thrown down in commonly accessible areas was found, but this was not allowed as evidence because there was no search warrant. The arrest affidavit was altered months later to add a small baggie of weed supposedly found in the cruiser used to transport Peters, and the case was dismissed.
In addition to the evidence tampering, this case showed the abuse of bail. Peters was held on $400K bail and ended up serving 19 months on a charge which had a maximum penalty of less than one year. Peters’ insistence on his day in court called the DA’s bluff. The DA’s expected to plead out, which would make the weakness of their case moot.
Peters was again arrested in July 2009 on the evidence of a confidential informant, Ashley Egan, who was paid $2000 for her testimony. Egan was later sentenced to several terms of imprisonment, was described by her SCSO handlers as a junkie and was a client of the mental health court, which usually requires mental health treatment for its defendants. Chris Scruggs, who had been cited for his role in the 2008 bust, recused himself from this case in October 2010, after the snitch testimony had been given.
Third Strike: Jason White’s case
The 2016 cases of Jason White, Kristina Cole and Montez Mullins is especially egregious. Bartlett police intercepted a package containing a pound of meth, relabeled it with Kristina Cole’s address, got a dubious warrant for the altered address, and busted her. They confiscated her phone and sent some text messages to a phone they thought, but never proved, belonged to her incarcerated boyfriend, Jason White. They subsequently added Montez Mullins, who admitted to organizing the shipment, to the docket. The defendants were sentenced to a total of 113 1/2 years.
The arresting officer testified to the changing of the destination address and the bogus text messages on the stand, so Scruggs, as the prosecutor, would have known these facts while being briefed on the case before trial. Cole and White were innocent bystanders to Mullins’ prison meth distribution scheme.
Chris Scruggs: Congratulations
Chris Scruggs is a deserving recipient of our first Hammer Award.
We will be awarding future Hammer Awards to prosecutors, judges, law enforcement and individuals who get three strikes for overzealous enforcement of mass incarceration.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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, 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.