MultiAgency Gang Unit (MGU)

The Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU) is a mysterious multi-disciplinary police and prosecutor unit sponsored by the Shelby County (State District 30) District Attorney.
Click here for a PDF download of the above link.

gang_unit_patchAccording to the DA’s website, MGU was started in 2011 and absorbed the Crime Strategies Prosecution Unit (CSPU), “incorporating and expanding the work of the Organized Crime Unit, Project Safe Neighborhood/Gundone, GunStat, the Safe Streets Task Force and the Violent Crime Unit”.  It was formerly known as the DA’s Multi-Agency Gang Prosecution Unit, originally formed in 1996 as the Gang & Narcotics Prosecution Unit.  Sorry about the aphabet soup, it is a direct quote from the DA’s page.

The MGU’s operating manifesto in contained in their Memorandum of Understanding signed in July 2012.  An updated MOU was signed on September 12th 2016, but we have been unable to get a copy of the most recent MOU to date.  We’d also like to see the minutes of recent quarterly MGU Board of Directors meetings.

“The MGU is a joint effort of six (6) primary law enforcement agencies:

  • The United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  • The Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office
  • The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office
  • The Memphis Police Department”

On the streets, MGU operatives often wear black BDU trousers, dark t-shirts with ballistic jackets, their personal choice of shoes, and an MGU patch.   MPD members of MGU also have an MPD shield on the front of their vests, and drive characteristic white Dodge Chargers with police equipment but no livery.   A small number of MGU operatives have no MPD shield and drive black or white SUVs with police equipment, and these are thought to be mostly sheriffs deputies, though some may be from Federal or State LE agencies.  MGU headcount was recently quoted as 26 MPD officers and 21 SCSD deputies.

There is a related group known as the Organized Crime Unit.  OCU’s chain of command is within MPD, but OCU works closely with MGU and other law enforcement agencies.   OCU officers often wear civilian clothing and drive confiscated civilian cars.    We take up the issue of MGU’s and OCU’s command structure later.

On the streets, when MGU and OCU operatives appear together in paramilitary uniforms, the main visual difference is that the OCU operatives wear their MPD shields in the same way they are worn while in plain clothes, sometimes on chains or lanyards around their necks and sometimes clipped to random spots on their ballistic jackets.  The OCU ballistic vests tend to be more advanced plate carriers with steel or ceramic inserts fitted with tactical AR-15 magazine pouches, rather than the less-capable Kevlar worn by most MGU operatives.    MGU operatives usually have their shields and MGU patches affixed to chest and belly area of their ballistic jackets.    We have clocked regular MGU and OCU officers working together under the same command on various occasions.

MGU’s Role

The DA says that the role of MGU is totally gang-related including  investigation of gang leaders and hard core members.  “As a specialized unit, the MGU uses various investigative techniques and methods to conduct long term investigations.”   The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) lists seven specific areas of operation, and all of there are gang-related.   There is no provision in the 2012 version of the MOU for political policing or protest-related operations.

One of the less publicized roles of MGU is to maintain a database of alleged gang members, who are not necessarily convicted of crimes.   “On September 23, 2013, MGU successfully petitioned Shelby County General Sessions Court obtaining the first ever gang injunction.”  This legal tool purportedly bans suspected gang members from being at designated locations.      This database is thought to include 1,700 names.

Expansion of MGU and OCU’s political role.

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Cops at the Bridge, 7/10/2016 photo: Commercial Appeal

The earliest appearance of MGU / OCU at political events was probably the Black Lives Matter protest on Hernando de Soto Bridge on July 10th, 2016.   In the Commercial Appeal photo to the left, the helmeted policeman in the left of the photo has an MGU patch on his chest, while the officer second from left has the OCU favored style of ballistic vest.

A previous major protest, the Greensward sit-down of May 30th, 2016, did not have any recognizable MGU or OCU officers present.  We are not sure if OCU or MGU operatives were at the two Graceland protests in the summer of 2016.

The Bridge protest was near the one-year anniversary of Darrius Stewart’s death at the hands of MPD cop Connor Schilling and was accompanied by a lot of chatter from the Fusion Centers.

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OCU, MGU and regular MPD police at Valero, Jan 16th 2019.  Photo: The Commercial Appeal

In 2017, we noticed MGU appearing at numerous political events.   On January 16th 2017, Martin Luther King Day, MGU and OCU police made arrests during a protest at Valero oil refinery, and those arrested were added to the City blacklist.

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MGU operative and unmarked cruiser at Immigration March, 5/1/2017.  Photo: Nolan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Mayday, 2017, operatives with MGU belly patches performed traffic duties at the Immigration March.   See photo at right.

On April 3rd, 2018, MGU and OCU officers appeared at the 201 Poplar stop of the “Rolling Block Party”. On-scene commanders designated protest leaders for arrest, and several were arrested in snatch squad operations, including journalist Manuel Duran who is thought to have been fingered by ICE for arrest.   Most of the officers were wearing MPD shields but none had body cameras as required by MPD regulations.  The officer who arrested Manuel Duran described himself as OCU on the arrest affidavit, and several of the operatives were wearing MGU patches.   There was also an SUV with an MGU decal present, which is considered unusual as most MGU vehicles are unmarked but with obvious police equipment.

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MGU and OCU operatives on Poplar, April 3rd, 2018 prior to making arrests.  Photo:  Moore Media.
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MGU and OCU operatives with a variety of police shields arrest a #TakEmDwn901 protester on 8/18/17 Photo: Commercial Appeal

MGU and OCU officers, including at least one OCU operative, undercover in plain clothes, were seen at TakeEmDown901 protests in 2017 and 2018 and participated in arrests.

 

On the evening of Friday 6th July, 2018, Keedran Franklin was arrested by Organized Crime Unit detectives.

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Barbara Buress is chased by MGU operatives, recognizable by their non-regulation footwear, 9/19/2018.  Photo:  Commercial Appeal

On September 19th, 2018, the day after Martavious Banks was critically wounded by MPD police, MGU operatives arrested most of the six people charged.   The arresting officers identified themselves as “Task Force” in court.   One protester, Hunter Demster, was pointed out for “snatch squad” style arrest by a scene commander.

 

 

The foregoing proves that MGU and OCU have been increasingly involved in aggressive policing of protests and planned snatch squad arrests.

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April 3rd 2018: two MGU cops photograph protesters in front of 201 Poplar.  Photo: Moore Media

Photographing participants are political events is forbidden by the Consent Decree and in MPD policies and procedures manual.  MPD claims they don’t work with ICE, but apparently MGU does.  Daniel Connolly of the Commercial Appeal documents an MGU operative who identified himself as an ICE officer.  MGU is also a means for MPD to deceive the public on its policies.  In this 2017 Channel 5 article, Mike Rallings claims that they don’t work with ICE except when called to an incident.    MPD and ICE operatives were operating jointly in MGU at the time Rallings made this statement.

Personnel

MGU is headed by Amy Weirich in her capacity as MGU Board of Directors Chair, and she is addressed and referred to as General Weirich in MGU documents.   This suggests that the MPD officers in MGU are outside the MPD chain of command.

The Board also includes ex-officio the heads of the six agencies listed in the MOU.

MGU Operational Commander is MPD Major Darren M. Goods, who earns over $81K.

Other identified MGU members include: ATF SAC Chris Rogers, MPD’s Detective Dennis Evans Jr. ($60K), SCSO Detective David McGriff Jr., ADA Chris Scruggs,  Detective A. Taylor,  MPD Lieut.  Michael Juan Rosario ($71K), MPD Sgt. Mahajj Abdul-Baaqee ($65K), MPD Clarence Muhammad ($60K), MPD Sgt.  Brian Alan Beasley (65K), Det. Doty, Det. Fernandez, Det. Stewart, ADA Paul Hagerman, Amy Weirich’s deputy,  David Biggers Jr. of the Tenn. Western District federal prosecutors office,  D. Michael Dunavant (US Prosecutor), Ed Stanton Jr (clocked in 2016 when he was Federal Prosecutor and who has a conflict of interest in the current context),  Neal Oldham (US Prosecutor), ADA Colin Campbell and ADA Ray Lepone, who have been clocked at MGU functions in recent years.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, “MGU is led by Resident Agent in Charge Marcos Bess of the ATF along with Lieutenant Kenny Roberson of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and Major Darren Goods of the Memphis Police Department.”

Consent Decree Section I

I: Restriction on  Joint  Operations

The  defendants  and  the  City  of  Memphis  shall  not encourage,  cooperate  with,  delegate,  employ  or contract  with,  or  act  at  the  behest  of,  any  local,  state, federal  or  private  agency,  or  any  person,  to  plan  or conduct  any  investigation,  activity  or  conduct  prohibited  by  this  Decree.

On 11/13/2019, the Court issued two orders, one to release the transcript of the August 27, 2019 in-camera conference, and the second to deny the City’s motion to rescind some of the restrictions in Section I.  The actual transcript has not been released on PACER, the Federal Court docket system, as of the time of writing.   These orders are taken as the Court’s re-affirmation of Section I and the Consent Decree as a whole.

The MGU has its own database, independent of MPD’s regular database.   This database has the capability of tracking political intel.   MGU operatives are instructed to create an index number for the MGU database and a separate number for their own agency database, for all reports.  MPD members, while seconded to the MGU, do not have to follow MPD’s body camera regulations and do not follow MPD’s regulations in regard to the Consent Decree.

The Marshall Project recently wrote about six local police departments, including Atlanta’s, which have pulled out of joint Task Forces, because the task forces are not bound by local police regulations.

MGU is secretive in nature and has sophisticated intelligence gathering tools and an independent database outside MPD’s control.  As long as MPD is part of the MGU/OCU it will be impossible to obtain or confirm compliance with the Consent Decree,  regulations on photographing police or other MPD rules.

Organized Crime Unit (OCU)

The MGU as previously described have an occluded chain of command.  In the MGU, officers report to General Amy Weirich through the MGU hierarchy, they are deputized to a Federal agency and they also report to their own agency.   FBI rules mandate that all task force members are deputized to a Federal agency specifically to comply with FBI rules forbidding body cams, and to avoid other local LE regulations, including consent decrees.

MGU’s headquarters is at 3657 Old Getwell.   They have also scheduled meetings at 994 South Bellevue, a mysterious industrial bunker-like building owned by the County.

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Col. Marcus Worthy OCU

OCU, on the other hand, has a clear chain of command at MPD.   OCU is run by  Precinct Commander Colonel Marcus Worthy who reports to MPD Deputy Chief of Special Ops Michael Hardy.   The Special Ops division includes the TACT squad and the Real Time Crime Center.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, OCU is a part of MGU.

OCU’s headquarters is at 225 Channel 3 Drive, and, unlike MGU headquarters, the address is not secret.   They even publish their phone number:  (901) 528-2338.

According to local lore, OCU officers are bumped a rank on entry and there are no operational officers below the rank of sergeant.   Supervisory level OCU staff are lieutenants or above.

OCU has a siilar role at political events as MGU, and the two units have been observed to work closely together at political events.   In court, both OCU and MGU officers tend to give their unit as “Task Force”, which is vague.

 

“The Organized Crime Unit of the Memphis Police Department is assigned the primary responsibility for investigative and control of organized crime, vice, and  narcotics related offenses within the Department’s jurisdiction. The Unit is multi-faceted and actively participates in multijurisdictional task forces to coordinate the attack on illegal activities at the local, state, and federal levels.” (MPD 2014 Annual Report)

This statement is misleading.   OCU does not have primary responsibility for those areas due to the mission overlap with MGU.   OCU’s role on the MPD website does not include the policing of political events or the snatch-squad, politically directed, arrests of dissidents.  The multijurisdictional task force mention appears to include both their joint operations and integration with MGU and also working with Federal LE agencies, who routinely deputize local LE personnel for the reasons outlined above.

It is clear, like when MPD officers are deputized to the MGU, the role of OCU in MGU or any other task forces that include Federal deputization require them to ignore MPD regulations, including the Consent Decree where they conflict with Federal guidelines.

Conclusion

MPD cannot participate in MGU, under the leadership of General Weirich, and while deputized to Federal agencies, and be compliant with Section I.   Their recent history demonstrates frequent non-compliance with the Consent Decree.  General Weirich is a State employee and not subject to the Consent Decree.

OCU could come into compliance with Section I, because it has a clear chain of command within MPD, but only insofar as it does not engage in the MGU or any task force  which requires its members to be deputized to Federal agencies.    Its commanders and members need to be trained in how to comply with Section I of the Consent Decree and its other requirements.

The City will say that not being able to engage in task forces will cramp its style, but the Marshall report shows that six cities have managed to achieve this, and the sky did not fall.

To be continued.

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.

Earley_Story_H&S
Earley Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Rimmer

Rimmer
Michael Rimmer

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

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

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

Kendrick Watson

kendrick
Kendrick Watson

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

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

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

Charles Thompson

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

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

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

Just City Court Watch Blog describes Craft interaction.

An extract from the Just City Court Watch Blog.

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

Earley Story describes Craft intimidation

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

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

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

Biographical Details

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

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

The Hammer Award.

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

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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.

— concluded —

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Draft DA Candidate Questionnaire

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

weirich_testifies Continue reading “Draft DA Candidate Questionnaire”

Hammer Award: ADA Chris Scruggs

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

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

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

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

ADA Chris Scruggs

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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.

nuora
Nuora Jackson

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

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

KimFoxx
Kim Foxx, Chicago DA

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

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

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

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

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

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

— concluded —

Witnesses to Jobs for Cash conspiracy murdered in Sheriff’s Office Cover-up?

We now enter a truly bizarre world of cover-ups, conspiracy and corruption.   In our “Prosecutor!!!” series, we picked up on the first Sheriff Dept. cover-up, where Earley Story’s evidence of jail conditions, as provided to the FBI, is discredited by a bogus prosecution.   The evidence in his case was created by confidential informant #2282, Alfredo Shaw at the behest of deputies and prosecutors.   Twenty years later, convicted death row inmate Tony Carruthers gets evidence about Shaw in discovery and sends it to Mr. Story, who, decades after his conviction, is still fighting to prove his innocence.  We looked into Shaw and found that he has apparently given testimony in up to fourteen other cases.

ACGilless
Sheriff AC Gilless

We looked for the other cases where Shaw might have helped fabricate evidence for prosecutors.    We found two jailer deputies, Bernard Kimmons and Victor Campbell, who were arrested with Earley Story on January 31st 1997.  They were prosecuted by the same team of deputies, prosecutors, judges, undercover officer and confidential informant Alfredo Shaw.   We found at least four alleged weed buys by Shaw that were not documented in the CI ledger which Carruthers provided.     So we looked into this and talked to dozens of witnesses.   Bernard Kimmons would not comment, and we have not found Victor Campbell yet.

 

Alfredo-Shaw-mugshot-36147747.400x800
CI #2282 Alfredo Shaw

We examined the evidence provided at the trial of Roderick Cobb and found that it had been fabricated.   Evidence had been planted, including a pair of handcuffs of the wrong type, and the gun that did the killing.  The since-discredited Deputy Medical Examiner OC Smith, the one who gagged himself with barbed wire, hung a bomb around his neck, lied to the FBI and was convicted and fired, created testimony.  He moved a bullet wound and concocted a bizarre story of how Cobb was supposed to have drawn a twice-searched-for gun, while handcuffed in the rear, and shot the deputy.   In addition, the GSR (gunshot residue) tests had a focused concentration at the driver’s seat, while, to comply with Smith’s proposed evidence, it should have been around the passenger seat and rear of the car, in the inverse of the actual pattern.

OC_Smith
Former Deputy ME OC Smith

 

 

We were struck by the fact that people connected to the case had had their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, threatened to remain quiet, and no-one would go on the record.   So, from the hard evidence of the Alfredo Shaw cover-up and the many discrepancies in the official case against

SherryHopperGoodman
Deputy Sherry Goodman

Roderick Cobb, we concurred with the general opinion of our sources that Cobb had been convicted to cover up the fact that a deputy did the killing.   The Kimmons and Campbell framing, in conjunction with the Earley Story cover-up proves they were also being silenced and covered up.    The planted evidence could only have been laid by someone who is part of the investigation.   So we wrote it up as a triple cover-up.  We concluded that Kimmons and Campbell had been targeted in cover up #2 because they had connected the dots in the cover-up of the Goodman murder while they were Cobb’s custodians.

We did not know why Deputy Goodman has been assassinated, but soon our informants started talking about why.   Goodman was linked to yet another FBI inquiry, the one into the jobs for cash scandal.   She was said to be a cooperating witness.    At this point our story takes a bizarre leap into the territory of fact being stranger than fiction.

Another unknown in our previous installment was why the cover-up of Goodman’s murder mattered to the crew who engineered the framing of the three deputies.    We know they were working for the same top level of SCSO management, because of Earlie Story’s involvement.     What connected Goodman’s assassination with top SCSO management?

People connected with the deputies’ cases and the Goodman case, and their families, are still being threatened with reprisals for talking, more than twenty years after the events.    The statute of limitations has expired for every possible offense, except murder.

Editorial Disclaimer

Normally we don’t publish anything that is not provable by documentary or on-the-record witness statements.  We have publishing guidelines.   In this case, because of the evident threats to witnesses and their families, which are very credible, and because of an effort to conceal official records and court documents, we are making a departure from these guidelines.

We are scientists by training and we will use the scientific method of documenting a theory to proceed

The Sheriff Dept. Jobs for Cash Scandal.

PhilCampbell
Phil Campbell, Memphis Flyer reporter

This happened over twenty years ago and many won’t remember the details.   Phil Campbell of the Flyer gave a cogent account in September 1998.    The story starts in 1991, with a conspiracy in the Sheriff’s department, for which Alton Ray Mills and Stephen Toarmina were convicted years later.   Applicants paid amounts up to $3,930 as bribes to obtain jobs in the Sheriff’s Dept.   There were unindicted co-conspirators, including Cliff Avent and unidentified victims including Robert Wilson together with six identified victims, including Derick Feathers who were named in the case, but not identified in the case documents .

 

From February 1991 until he was fired, Alton Ray Mills served as Chief Deputy Sheriff of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department in Memphis, Tennessee.  By all accounts, Sheriff AC Gilless gave Mills free rein in day-to-day operations.

RayMills
Alton Ray Mill

Stephen Toarmina is a North Memphis grocer, whose convenience store is at 1486 Chelsea.   At that time he was a political crony of Sheriff AC Gilless and was appointed as a special advisor in the Sheriff’s office.   Toarmina liked to play cops and robbers, rolling around the county in a department cruiser, wearing a deputy’s uniform with a sidearm.   He would harass members of the public while impersonating an officer.      Toarmina got loans for bribes through his business for five named victims and processed a credit card payment for the sixth, laundering the proceeds through the store accounts.

 

Harold Hays Discovers Jobs for Cash

From the Flyer: “Between working for the FBI and for the Germantown police, Hays had been (appointed)  Sheriff Gilless’ internal-affairs director in 1994. It took only six months for him to get fired. Hays had to report to Mills about his investigations, but after a short while he started getting reports about Mills himself. Hays took advantage of an out-of-town trip by the chief deputy to bring his findings to Gilless.  Hays and the sheriff’s legal advisers then presented his evidence to

toarmina_grocery
Toarmina’s convenience store

then-DA John Pierotti. The next day, Mills came back into town and had Hays fired. Gilless approved…”.

 

Hays had reported the case to the FBI in early 1995, which started an inquiry.  The Federal indictment of Mills and Toarmina came down on April 18, 1996.

The Shape of the Cover-ups

We know the first cover-up, that of Earley Story, was a matter of concern to the top levels of management at SCSO.

Earley_Story_H&S
Earley Story

The second cover-up was related to the Early Story cover-up, as it was carried out by the same team at the same time.   As the cover-up of the Goodman murder might just be an operational matter carried out by a member of the investigational team, we need to explain why covering up Goodman’s murder was of concern to the individuals who framed  Story, Kimmons and Campbell, unless the murderer had infiltrated the first two cover-ups.    Top management, namely Gilless and his immediate reports, surely knew about both matters being covered up.

 

We are looking for a root cause, that is of concern to the Chief Deputy management level at SCSO.

Probability analysis of a deputy murder at SCSO.

taylor150x
Deputy Sgt Deadrick Taylor

This SCSO fallen officers memorial page lists nine officers who were murdered, all by gunfire, between 1900 and 1999.   We left out Deputy Cranford’s 1946 killing as it was a car crash.  Deputies Mitchell and McDermott (1904),  Goad (1907), Nelson (1917), Reeves  and Applebury (1920) and  Stelling (1945) all died in the first half of the century.    Then there’s a gap of over 53 years between Stelling and the killing of Deadrick Taylor on April 19th, 1996.    This is the day after Mills and Toarmina were indicted.   98 days later, Deputy Sherry Hopper was murdered.     The gap between Stelling’s killing and Taylor’s was about 200 times the interval between Taylor’s and Goodman’s.   You can’t do statistics with numbers this small, but we can say that Goodman’s and Taylor’s killings formed an outlier cluster.

 

murder_graphWe can calculate some probabilities.   The probability of a deputy being killed in any given year, P(A) is 9/100 or 0.9.   The probability of a second murder, P(B|A) in a given year is 8/100, because one of the murders is already counted.    The probability of two deputy murders in the same year, by Bayes  theorem, is (0.9 * 8/100)/(9/100)  = 0.0072, less than one in a hundred.     Bayes theorem only works if the events are independent, or unrelated to each other, so this result means that two murders happening in the same year are almost certain to be causally related.

We could also say that the probability of being a deputy and getting murdered between 1950 and 1999 are zero, unless you are Deputy Taylor or Deputy Goodman.

We also note a high incidence of deputy deaths by other violent causes around the time, including four reported suicides.    The US national rate of suicide was 11 per 100,000 in 2006, and, given 1506 deputies and four suicides, the rate in the Sheriff’s Dept. was 266 per 100,000 – about 24 times the national rate.    The most likely occupational group to commit suicide, marine engineers, is said to be 1.89 times the national average, and police and jail workers don’t even make the top 19 occupational groups for suicide risk.   266 suicides per 100K is literally off the scale.

Without having distributions among smaller populations, we can say with certainty that the suicide rate among deputies was well more than ten standard deviations from the normal rate and therefore the probability of this cluster is significantly less than 0.01%.    Combining probabilities, we can also say that the probability of four deputy suicides in a year where there were also two deputy murders must be tiny, well less than one per million.

Another witness was murdered, the juvenile Etienne Harmon, who was arrested with the three deputy jailers in 1997 and was killed in November 1998.   We are now very curious about the Deputy Taylor and Harmon killings.   Could there have been up to seven murders to cover up the Jobs for Cash scheme?

Deputy Goodman as cover-up target.

goodman_shrine
Sherry Goodman Fallen Officer memorial

 

We note that Goodman was a four-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Dept, so she was recruited after the Jobs for Cash scheme started in 1991.  We don’t know if she was a victim of the jobs scheme. We know that the indictment came in April 1996 so the FBI investigation at the Sheriff’s Department was creating lots of reasons for damage control by the conspirators who were operating at a high level in the department.   Combine this cover-up with the jobs for cash scheme, involving AC Gilless’ second in command and his political appointee, Toarmina, the Goodman murder cover-up and we have a fourth conspiracy with the same people in it, and this conspiracy includes a cover-up that silenced Taylor and Goodman.

We have been told by two sources in the system that Deputy Sherry Goodman was cooperating with investigators of the Jobs for Cash scheme and may have been scheduled to testify in the Federal trial, which was heard in August 1998.

Gilless in Cover-up

Campbell writes: The next day, Mills came back into town and had Hays fired. Gilless approved; the sheriff says that Hays was fired because, the day before he would sit down with Gilless, Hays refused to disclose the exact nature of the meeting he requested.   This obviously trumped-up trivial excuse for firing Harold Hays suggests that Gilless was part of the cover-up.

Additional coverage from Police One. (The Commercial Appeal is quoted).

More cover-ups.

The federal documents on the PACER system are very deficient, which is unusual for Federal court documents except where they have been ordered sealed.   There’s no discovery, witness depositions, grand jury indictments and most of the judgments are missing.   There’s also no motion to seal these documents.

Here are the documents we found in the case.   All documents are in PDF format.  The PACER case designation is 2:96-cr-20080-BBD USA v. Mills, et al.  A logon is required to access PACER but is automatically granted.

In Toarmina sentence appeal , he falls out with his co-conspirator and drops the names of unindicted co-conspirator Cliff Avent and unnamed victim, Robert Wilson.
Appeal ruling 1998.

DA Cover-up

bill.Gibbons
Bill Gibbons

The Shelby DA at the time, Bill Gibbons, as a Republican, was a political ally of AC Gilless, the Sheriff, who stood for re-election in August 1998, just days before his deputy and political advisor were tried in Federal court on 8/10/1998.  Gilless narrowly won amid the swirling news of the Jobs for Cash scandal.

In Phil Campbell’s Memphis Flyer story, (Federal Judge Jerome) ‘Turner, in fact, stated from the bench that “it’s disappointing” that District Attorney Bill Gibbons hasn’t done anything yet. Gibbons may still act, but so far his lackluster “no comments” suggest that the district attorney is in no hurry to prosecute the former allies and employees of Gilless, a professional colleague and a fellow Republican. There are political as well as legal considerations for Gibbons. If he doesn’t prosecute within the statute of limitations, and if Turner’s ruling survives a federal court appeal, then the DA’s tough-guy “No Deals” reputation could be tarnished’.

Bill Gibbons was Amy Weirich’s mentor at the DA’s office and is now the president of Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, after an unsuccessful stint as State Commissioner for Public Safety.

Sheriff Gilless announced that the deputies who paid for their jobs in the scheme would not face disciplinary action, consistent with a desire to suppress information about the scheme.

Phil Campbell

Campbell figures twice in our long series on the cover-ups at SCSO.  He was remarkably well-informed on the Mills / Toarmina trial, and he also made a tape recording at the Flyer, of CI #2282 Alfredo Shaw withdrawing his allegations against Earley Story.   Phil Campbell left the Flyer and Memphis soon after these events and is now in Broolyn, NY, far out of reach of Shelby Co. deputies and prosecutors.

Fourth Cover-Up

The fourth cover-up in our series is part of a known conspiracy in the Sheriff’s Department, the Jobs for Cash scheme, which extended to Gilless’ political advisor and second-in-command.   It includes at least one, and possibly as many as seven murders, of people related to the jobs scheme or the subsequent cover-ups.      The murderer or murderers have not be found, and, more than twenty years later, people with knowledge of the case, and their families, are being threatened and intimidated.     It explains why the Kimmons and Campbell frame-ups were done by the high-level team that perpetrated them.

We are continuing to look into the Deadrick Taylor murder.

— To be continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More on snitch retraction and Earley Story

We received additional material on Alfredo Shaw’s TV retraction of his Crimestoppers snitch.   We have a video from a local TV channel and a sworn statement made to Federal court by Alfredo Shaw outlining how he was coerced into giving false witness in Tony Carruthers death penalty case.    We have also had several phone interviews with death row inmate Tony Carruthers.

We also got two more documents in the provenance of the CI ledger which Earley Story is using in his case.  Additional documents from Tony Carruthers attorney requesting the documents, the DA’s denial and a court order demanding the ledger be produced add extra detail.   We also have a better image of the CI ledger document.  Earley Story had another appearance in Division 8 before Judge Chris Craft and we provide notes of this hearing.  The Post and Email blog reports on Mr Story’s case and we have an account of his most recent court appearance last Monday.

We had an interview last week from a confidential source whose story matches the Alfredo Shaw modus operandi, generally confirming Earley Story and Tony Carruthers’ narratives.    We can’t print any more about this at present.

First up, the Alfredo Shaw confessions.

Alfredo Shaw confesses

This document was filed on April 21st 2011 in Western District of the Federal Court.   Shaw swears that Assistant DA Jerry Harris and MPD officers Wilkinson and Roleson briefed him, on or before March 27th 1994, on the Tony Carruthers murder case, showing him the case documents.  Other than media coverage, he had no other information concerning the case and had not, as he later claimed, spoken to Carruthers about the February 1994 case.   Shaw made a false statement to police on March 17th and provided the same witness statement to the Grand Jury soon after.

Shaw on TV

Alfredo-Shaw-mugshot-36147747.400x800
Alfredo Shaw

Around February 28th 1996, Shaw gave this interview to Channel 13.   He described how he contacted MPD Homicide, was approached by prosecutor Jerry Harris and offered $2000 and dismissal of charges to testify as instructed.  He talks about police and ADAs coaching him with “bits and pieces” for his Grand Jury testimony.  A prosecutor talks about Shaw’s other crimes, how he lied on this case and others and how Carruthers and other defendants should be protected from Shaw.   The fact that Shaw’s testimony was used again on Earley Story in his 1997 – 1999 case, and upwards of ten other defendants, tends to deflate this argument.

 

Shaw threatened by prosecutor

tony_carruthers_tennessee
Tony Carruthers

Shaw was visited and threatened in the jail by Harris, Wilkinson and Roleson just after the Channel 13 report aired, who threatened and intimidated him and said they’d go after him if he did not revert to the original, concocted story.  Later, Harris said that they would not call him as a trial witness for the prosecution, but Carruthers called him as a defense witness. Harris told Shaw before his appearance that he would prosecute Shaw for perjury unless he want back to the agreed testimony.   He did so, recounting conversations with Carruthers which never occurred.  Subsequently Harris’ promises of time served on a number of felonies were carried out.   Shaw still feared retaliation from the prosecutor’s office at the time he gave this statement.

Earley Story in Court March 4th 2019

We saw Earley Story as he started his attempt to clear his record.   Earley Story was also framed with the help of testimony from Alfredo Shaw, who withdrew his testimony in an interview with Phil Campbell of the Memphis Flyer, and was forced by prosecutors to revert to his original bogus story at court.

Here’s our notes from March 4th, Shelby Co. Criminal Court Division 8, Judge Chris Craft.   I am not a shorthander so the quotes only are literal.

09:42 AM.  Earley Story requests records from the previous hearings to be added to the file.
Judge Craft:  Are you going to call witnesses?
Earley Story: No
Judge Craft: Do you know which prosecutor is handling the case?
An unidentified prosecutor stands up.  He does not know who is handling the case.  The case records were destroyed.
The judge told Mr Story to sit down.

12:50 PM.  Earley Story says that the prosecutor’s office filed a response denying all charges.

About 3:00 PM
Earley Story is called to the mic and says he would like a default judgment per his motion.
Earley Story:  On October 29th, when I received this information concerning my innocence, I filed on time and I received no information until January 15th 2019 when I receieved a letter.
Judge Craft: From me.  Where did you get thirty days to respond?
Earley Story:  Tennessee law.
Judge Craft: There is no such limit.
Earley Story:  I believe my motion should have been heard more timely.
Judge Craft:  We have not heard a motion yet.  We need to stay focused on the topic of this motion for default judgment.   Do you understand the process?  I am asking what law says thirty days.   When I ask a question I require an answer.
Earley Story:  55.01 Tennessee Rules for Civil Procedure.  When a party fails to respond within thirty days judgment is by default.   Does that mean you are denying a hearing?
Unidentified Prosecutor:  That rule does not apply in criminal court.   The state denies all allegations.  We supplied Earley Story a copy.  This is hearsay about Alfredo Shaw.   Today we are asking for the motion for default judgment to be dismissed.
Earley Storey mentions his motion for Judge Craft to recuse himself.
Judge Craft:  We don’t change the subject.  We are not supposed to help (pro se litigants).   The state says they filed a response.
Earley Storey:  The response was not timely.   29th October to March is not timely.
Judge Craft:  I am ruling that the writ is defective because there is no certificate of service.  I wrote Earley Storey to come to court February 11th to set the attorney.   Mr Story said he would represent himself pro-se.    I am denying the motion.   Any other motion?
Earley Storey:  Motion for the judge to recuse himself.
Judge Craft: The motion to recuse is not in the jacket.   (Clerk hands him a document).   We can fix that today.
Earley Storey:  I want a response to the motion I filed in the clerk’s office.
Judge Craft: I want to make sure your rights are preserved.   I can’t set a date for a hearing until a motion is in the jacket.
Earley Storey:  I filed a motion for Judge Craft to be disqualified.   Maybe it is in the wrong jacket.
Judge Craft:  I am setting a date of March 21st for report because a motion is not filed.

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