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.
This is confirmed in White’s appeal.
Defects in the Package Chain of Custody
Detective Collins did not testify and so could not be questioned on the origination of the package.
Delivery of the Package.
The package was left on Cole’s porch and the search warrant served after Cole took it in. The package was found unopened inside the front door and a number of electronic items confiscated in the search, including Kristina Cole’s phones and laptop.
The planted text messages.
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.
The prison gang was led by Charles Thompson who appeared in our Jobs for Cash story.
Scruggs also referred to Kristina and White as “Bonnie and Clyde” during the trial.
Kristina Cole was found guilty and given 13 ½ years.
Jason White was found guilty and given a 60 year additional sentence. He will be over 90 if he is released.
Montez Mullins was found guilty and given 40 years.
Jason White’s appeal was turned down in February 2019.
Kristina Cole and Montez Mullins’ appeal was turned down in November 2018.
— concluded —