Recently we got documents from Memphis Police Department using “Authorization of Agency” as a search key, and we obtained an excerpt of MPD’s “Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure”. The extract was very helpful as it outlined the procedures for Authorization of Agency, which we wrote up in our blog.
Authorization of Agency (AoA) is a pair of processes at Memphis Police Department and the DA’s office, which are designed to circumvent provisions in the Tennessee criminal trespass law, TCA § 39-14-405. AoA is designed to enhance public safety by controlling unwanted citizens who access private business property.
We have written extensively about one AoA process, the MPD’s form AA 0306, which is summarized in the most recent blog. We provide links to our blogs and other documents at the end of this piece. We have not previously written about the second process, which is based on signage located mostly in apartment complexes, but we describe the second process here.
We recently discovered, via Open Records Request, the regulatory device used by MPD for AoA. It is section 52 of the Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure, page 35.
Uniform Patrol Station SOP AoA Regulations
We provide the text of the FOIA we received from MPD below, with section headers inserted by us. It is the Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure.
AoA UPSSOP Section 1: Definition of AoA
AoA UPSSOP Section 2: Advising the Target of AoA
AoA UPSSOP Section 3: LEO Witness and Complainant signature
AoA UPSSOP Section 4: Filing of AoA
AoA UPSSOP Section 5: AoA Verification for Arrest
AoA UPSSOP Section 6: Arrests and File maintenance
AoA UPSSOP Section 7: Appendices, omitted from FOIA.
About the AoA SOP.
We see numerous problems with the current implementation of AoA. As examples, section 1 confines AoA complainants to businesses only, and there were 112 AoAs (6.6%) for residence owners who were private individuals in our 2018 FOIA.
In section 2, the business owner must advise the AoA target, in the presence of an MPD witness, of the imposition of AoA. There is one alternative procedure provided involving the posting of a notarized affidavit. We received notification, in response to a FOIA request, that there are no such affidavits on file at MPD.
In Section 3, the business owner and the witnessing officer must sign and complete the AoA form at the local police station. The combination of sections 2 and 3 require one three-way meeting which must include the AoA target, which can be anywhere but is assumed to be at the alleged trespass location, and a second meeting and filing which must include the complainant and the original witnessing police officer, and must take place at the local MPD precinct.
We have an email from MPD Colonel Worthy, commander of Ridgeway precinct, emphasizing this inflexible procedure.
“Sir, you will have to give the a verbal order to the individual to not be on the property in the presence of an officer. Then we can fill out the form. You have to have the name of the officer and his IBM number. Then the form is to be completed at the station. If the form is completed before that step it is not valid…”
Of the 45 cases we have sampled, this procedure was not followed in a single instance. We are following up on interviewing additional AoA targeted individuals.
Section 3 also lists a number of data points which must be on the AoA. The majority of the 2,200 AoAs we have seen do not have all these data points, or the officers IBM# as required in the Colonel’s email.
The SOP contains numerous other requirements which are not followed, among them the requirement for annual purging of year-old AoAs. When we obtained 1677 AoAs via FOIA in mid-2018 with readable dates, 358 of them (6.6%) were dated 2016 or earlier and must have been more than a year old, and the 584 FOIAs for 2017 looked like the entire year’s worth of FOIAs.
We also have an email interchange between an attorney for an AoA targetted individual, from February 2017, who had to escalate to Bruce McMullen, City Attorney and City PR Ursula Madden in order to get an erroneous AoA removed. The procedure in the UPSSOP for correcting erroneous AoAs was apparently not applied or did not work, possibly because no-one was aware the procedure existed. This AoA target had to pay an attorney for redress, something not available to everyone.
In summary, it looks like the majority of AoAs on file are invalid because of defective procedures, and we would not be surprised if every AoA on file is defective in some way.
The other type of Authorization of Agency
The MPD AoA form AA0306 is clearly labeled Authorization of Agency and this matches the verbiage in the UPSSOP. The DA’s office frequently refers to another AoA mechanism. This is manifested in the form of signs frequently posted in apartment complexes, which state that the property is posted against trespass by anyone who is not a tenant or their guest. Here’s a Youtube video of Amy Weirich (2:46 minutes) describing these signs as AoA and conflating with the AA0306 forms.
These signs purport to allow the police to arrest an alleged offender without the notice required in the Tennessee criminal trespass law, TCA § 39-14-405.
In order for a premises to be posted under TCA § 39-14-405, the property must be entered in the No Trespass Public Notice List at the Tennessee Secretary of State. We have viewed this page repeatedly between 2017 and the date of writing, 12/1/2019, and have never seen a Memphis address posted in this database. Therefore we assume that all these AoA no trespass signs contravene the State trespass law and are invalid.
We have not yet received data on the use of both flavors of AoA in actual trespass arrests, but we are told, anecdotally, that hundreds of such arrests have been seen, and will post that information when we receive it.
Why was AoA under the radar for ten years?
We could find no public mention of AoA between 2007, when a blogger mentioned it, to 2017 when our FOIA produced the City blacklist, including 43 people on AoAs. We believe, anecdotally, that hundreds of trespass arrests were made, using both forms of AoA.
Only a small population knew about AoA, the AoA complainants, people to whom AoA had been marketed as possible complainants, some of the AoA targets, some MPD police, of which less than 10% actually created AoA forms, prosecutors and public defenders.
When you have secret police processes, you get secret police.
Public Defenders and AoA.
There are about 45 politically targeted individuals, who generally had private attorneys when they interacted with the criminal justice system.
All other instances of arrest for trespass with either flavor of AoA that we know of went through the Public Defender’s office. Sadly, the combined actions of the DA’s office and MPD have severely hampered the PD’s ability to defend AoA arrests.
PD’s workflow for AoA arrests.
Bear with us as we outline the PD’s workflow. When a person is arrested for criminal trespass, they are brought to 201 Poplar or Jail East and booked. Some time afterwards, during bankers’ hours, the defendant will be arraigned. At that time, if the defendant does not have funds for a lawyer, a public defender is appointed. The PD receives the jacket, containing various documents, including an affidavit of complaint and an arrest ticket from MPD, a bond recommendation, criminal history and others.
At this point, the PD may see a small photograph of the AoA document on the affidavit of complaint, which is reproduced at quarter size and can’t be read. So the PD knows there’s an AoA or a posted location but can’t see details. In order to get the AoA form, the PD would have to walk the couple of blocks to MPD HQ at 170 N. Main, go through security and wait at the public records counter on the 7th floor. PDs, who often have up to thirty cases per day, are limited to three police records per day. Restrictions on the data practically available to PDs has been progressively tightened over the years, not least when the MPD records counter moved from 201 Poplar to North Main.
If the PD is to take 45 minutes from their busy schedule, they’ll probably wait until the end of the day and do all the day’s AoAs together. There is not enough time in the day to get MPD records for every case. In most cases, as the defendant probably needs to be released to get to work, cases are settled for time served awaiting trial before the end of the day. First time defendants often accept a misdemeanor record to get back to their daily schedule. This is a problem if they get arrested again, as the trespass offense is taken into account when bail, diversion and sentence recommendations are decided. This is a slippery slope into a possible criminal career. AoA is a gateway into mass incarceration for many.
Hopefully PDs can use some of the information here to question the imposition of AoA in more cases. In the meantime, considering the workload on PDs, it is not surprising that they did not investigate and publicize the nature of AoA while it was under the radar.
Our current interest in AoA stemmed from its use in the City blacklist and the information we developed required hundreds of hours of research. Without the publicity generated by the Blacklist and the ensuing ACLU court case, the public might still be in the dark about AoA.
AoA has been an almost secret police process at MPD and the DA’s office since at least 2007. It has the appearance of having been heavily marketed by various public safety interests in the interim, resulting in heavy usage.
The availability of this secret tool was apparently attractive to the City, MPD and the Zoo when they desired to punish and harass political activists, after which law enforcement lost the advantage of this secret police process.
We believe that the 2,200 AoA targets include about 45 political actors and over 2,100 regular folks, who generally have been unable to mount a criminal defense against the numerous irregularities we outline here.
We are appending a links section as a resource. Anybody who is on an AoA, who has been notified they are not allowed at a certain location, or who has been arrested for criminal trespass where “authorization of agency”, AoA, no trespass signage, or “being on a list” should contact us. We will share your information with some attorneys we are working with, but with otherwise keep your information completely confidential and protected. You can also use our confidential contact option if you have AoA information but wish to be anonymous.
AoA Resource Links
All the information here is publicly available.
On our FTP server.
http://www.fnolan.com/A/A-List.pdf: A-list containing FOIA with, 43 political AoAs.
http://www.fnolan.com/AOA/files/AoA_analysis_spreadsheet_links_20180911_v02.xlsx: Indexed spreadsheet with about 1700 AoAs.
http://www.fnolan.com/AOA/ Directory listing for the raw files in the above spreadsheet.
http://www.fnolan.com/AO2/Publ_AoAs_20191010.xlsx: Indexed spreadsheet with 473 additional AoAs received in 2019
http://www.fnolan.com/AO2/ Directory listing for the raw files in the above spreadsheet.
Finally, Shelby Co. Sheriff’s Office has announced it will shortly be starting its own AoA process.
Some of the information in the earlier blogs is inaccurate and was corrected in later blogs. E.g. I wrote that there was no MPD P&P for AoA in 2018, now we know from the current article that it is covered in UPSSOP.
https://memphistruth.org/2019/10/11/authorization-of-agency-update/ Blog about the recent 473 AoAs obtained in 2019.
https://memphistruth.org/2018/09/06/authorization-of-agency-mpd-invention/ Blog with the 1690+ AoAs obtained in the 2018 FOIA.
https://memphistruth.org/2018/09/11/authorization-of-agency-initial-analysis/ Additional analysis of the 2018 FOIA.
https://memphistruth.org/2018/02/26/blacklists-from-a-to-z-new-zoo-z-list/ Hunter Demster and Fergus Nolan receive an AoA at the Zoo.
https://memphistruth.org/2019/07/30/dan-rosson-placed-on-aoa-by-city/ Dan Rosson, animal rights activist, placed on AoA at Memphis Animal Shelter.
https://memphistruth.org/2019/07/26/rodney-fisher-fired-by-mpd-via-aoa/ Rodney Fisher takes video of ab MPD cop informing him he is on an AoA at his job at NIKE.
https://memphistruth.org/2017/02/08/mpd-has-activist-list/ A-list breaking news with 43 political AoAs.
http://www.paulryburn.com/blog/2007/07/18/authorization-of-agency/ 2007 first public AoA mention by blogger Paul Ryburn in 2007.
Various public sites and reference material
TCA 39-14-405: Tennessee Criminal Trespass Law
No Trespass Public Notice List at Tennessee Secretary of State
— concluded —
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.
Tami Sawyer, in her Shelby County Commission role, moved two motions on December 3rd, 2018, to secure a Lenco Bearcat armored truck for the Shelby County sheriff’s department.
We received the following documents from the County via Open Records request.
Motion moved by Tami Sawyer (PDF) to accept $196,038 from FEMA towards the purchase of the armored vehicle.
Motion moved by Tami Sawyer (PDF) to spend $261,384 on the LENCO. This includes the FEMA grant above and an additional $65,346 in taxpayer funds.
County Mayor Lee Harris signed off (PDF) on this purchase on December 10th.
MPD Armored Vehicles.
The County has no armored vehicles. MPD has two, a Bear, also made by LENCO, owned by the TACT unit and a military surplus MRAP. We were able to find only one incident where the MRAP was used for a forcible entry. The TACT team prefers to use a dark green walk-thru van for forcible entries.
All other deployments of MPD armored vehicles have been for the intimidation of protesters, twice at Gracelend in Summer of 2016, at least once in 2017 against #TakEmDown protesters, and three times at Overton Park in April and May of 2016.
Ferguson, BLM and the use of armored vehicles.
The events of 2014 in Ferguson, following the police killing of Michael Brown, featured police armored vehicles and advanced weapons. This stirred reaction, from groups including Black Lives Matter and ACLU, about the abuse of armored vehicles.
As Wikipedia relates: “In a 2013 piece in the newsletter of the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), COPS Senior Policy Analyst Karl Bickel warned that police militarization could seriously impair community-oriented policing. Bickel wrote that accelerating militarization was likely to alienate police relationship with the community, and pointed to a variety of factors that contribute to militarization…”.
In other words, even the police themselves claim that the militarization of police is the exact opposite to community policing. And a rejection of police militarization is almost universal among supporters of ACLU and BLM, who form a large part of Tami Sawyer’s #TakeEmDown901 base.
In Tami Sawyer’s platform, “Tami’s Criminal Justice Priorities:
Hire a trauma-informed Memphis Police Director, with the people of Memphis’s input, who a) has a track-record of implementing community policing tactics,…”.
This position is what is expected from someone who led an August 2017 protest at Health Sciences Park in which police attacked a peaceful protest and arrested several of her supporters. Tami was also one of the first activists “friended” by “Bob Smith” aka Sgt. Tim Reynolds as early as the summer of 2015. This was documented in the 2018 “Kendrick” case which the ACLU won against the City. Tami Sawyer should know about militarized policing from her direct experience.
Tami’s vote to increase the militarization of the Sheriff’s Department to the next level is the exact opposite of what she said about policing over the years. Militarization of SCSD is also the exact, polar opposite of her Mayoral community policing platform.
Tami Sawyer transitioned from police prey to pro-police predator in the space of three months from taking office on the County Commission. The cognitive dissonance is acute.
Her support of SCSD militarization is a slap in the face to her core supporters.
— concluded —
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.
— concluded —
Readers of our City Council Election blog may have noticed that, instead of writing about Thurston Smith, I inserted a legal disclaimer. Now I can reveal the full story.
On the fifth of July I was served with a temporary Order of Protection (PDF) filed by Thurston Smith. The order is a tissue of lies, but my attorney advised me not to post anything, and I don’t keep a dog and bark myself. The protection order was lifted (PDF) and expunged (JPG) yesterday (July 29th 2019) and now I am free to post without the threat of jail time.
The provisions of the order were savage, with confiscation of weapons, compulsory anger management courses, payment of court costs and more.
Updated 8/4/2019. I received an email from a friendly lawyer.
Wasn’t obtaining the Order of Protection the equivalent of a SLAPP suit?
A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
Wasn’t it also an abuse of process?
The first lie on the form is my height. Smith peggged me at 5′ 7″. The tallest I’ve ever been is 5′ 5 1/2″ and advancing age has reduced me to under 5′ 3″.
The big lie here was that the February 24th event was private. In fact, his announcement of candidacy for District 7 was clearly a public event.
The Facebook event, which was posted on the public page MRYE: Memphis Raise your Expectations!!!, was marked “Public” and was widely circulated. I replied “Going” as above, turned up at the door, signed in and was admitted.
Other lies: “Petitioner stated that Fergus Nolan then located him through social media”. In fact, Thurston located me through social media, sent a friend request and contacted me through Facebook Personal Messengerin December 2018. I still have records of this conversation.
He later called me, which is how I got his number. I did not call him until June 28th.
Made Flyers. Untrue. I have not made a flyer since 2016. If I want to make a flyer, I do one page with QR codes to reduce litter and paper wastage, and let people scan the QR with their phones.
I did not say “police hag”. It would have been “Pighag” which is a movie starring Anna T. Schlegel.
“Began peeping through windows”. Untrue. I did not cross the zero lot line which is about 12 feet from the windows.
Pacing back and forth. Not true. I am mobility impaired and am economical with my movements.
Left after 20 minutes. Not true. I arrived at 4:40 PM, made a phone call at 4:45 and left at 4:47. Seven minutes, confirmed by the timestamps on the photos I took.
“Petitioner is in fear for his life”. At the announcement event, there were over 40 of his friends present, and I was unarmed and alone. At his house, he was safely inside and I was again unarmed and alone. He is not in fear for his life. He is in fear of being exposed. Smith knows that his police buddies like to make this claim to violate people’s fourth amendment rights against search and seizure.
The June 28th Visit to Thurston’s House
On June 27th, I noticed that, although Smith owns a nice house he bought for $200,000 in Arlington, from the address on his Appointment of Campaign Treasurer, he appeared to be living in a dilapidated house bought from a bank in 2009, for less than $25,000, by his campaign Communications Director, Lloyd Brown. The documents are here (PDF). This piqued my interest enough for a reconnaissance.
After an abortive visit on the 27th, where I did not find the right house, I hung my media ID around my neck and drove to his house on Friday June 28th with the aid of a GPS. I noticed a white Cadillac with a VA parking decal parked outside and later posted that he seemed to be present. I also took several photos of the exterior of the residence, with peeling paint and rotted woodwork and window jambs. I thought this was interesting in case Smith later talked about blight. In order to allay any worries about who was at the door, I called him and he did not pick up.
If Thurston Smith had done the same at my house, or called me, this would have been canvassing. I think of this as reverse canvassing.
Why did Smith take out an Order of Protection?
It is interesting that Thurston’s first thought, when challenged by a voter in his district, is to resort to lying and intimidation. On Sunday June 30th, Detective Raymond Jones called me saying that Smith and Lloyd Brown had complained that I had been stalking and harassing them. I have not heard more. Presumably MPD would have just as hard a time proving these allegations as Smith had in court. Hopefully Detective Jones had permission from Director Rallings to undertake an “investigation” that had obvious potential for revealing political information.
Broadcaster Thadeus Matthews claimed, in this broadcast (at hour 1 minute 20) from July 1st, and again on the 15th, that Thurston Smith had been forced to retire early from his job at the VA. According to Matthews, this was allegedly related to alleged claims that Smith had allegedly sexually harassed another employee. Matthews said he would have the victim as a guest on his broadcast. We will not reveal the name of this employee, who is still at the VA, because it is our policy not to expose the names or particulars of alleged victims of alleged sexual crime. We also can’t name our informants at the VA because the case of Sean Higgins proves that whistle blowers are savagely treated at the VA. We would also point out that Mathews is also saying that Smith does not live in the district, which we don’t believe. Matthews was shaking Smith down for “advertising” money at the time.
Asking Smith questions about the circumstances of his departure from the VA prompted him to reach out to me via Personal Message, by phone and caused him to be visibly angry at his campaign announcement event. He attempted intimidation via law enforcement and the Temporary Protection Order.
Smith clearly has no regard for constitutional values, truth or transparency. Without the material in the protection order, I would not have had much to write. How he imagined that his dubious maneuver would silence me is unclear. His lack of judgement alone disqualifies him from office.
Thurston Smith and the Police.
This is Thurston Smith’s Community Outreach Program ID. He shamelessly posted it on his Facebook page.
COP is an organization of police sympathizers and snitches. They attend special training at Memphis Police Academy, where they are trained to spy on citizens and spread police propaganda. We obtained emails to COP members around the time of the April 3rd, 2018 Rolling Block Party police riot, where police brass asked COP members to try to prevent their congregations from joining the protest, in which Manuel Duran and others were arrested by paramilitary Organized Crime Unit (OCU) police thugs.
At a time when candidates like Tami Sawyer and John Marek are calling for the firing of Mike Rallings and his replacement by a Director who understands community policing, Smith holds the view that MPD is fine as is and should be supported in their campaign of mass incarceration. Evidence to the contrary includes: The ACLU “Kendrick” court victory and court monitor, Darrius Stewart’s murder and cover-up, the attempted murder, cover-up and incarceration of Martavious Banks, the police riot after the killing of Brandon Webber, turning off of body- and dash- cams, the Graceland discrimination case, the FightFor$15 case, numerous letters from CLERB which were stonewalled by Mike Rallings, spying by police at an actual Court Monitor public meeting, Authorization of Agency and other incidents of police malpractice and brutality too numerous to mention.
Thurston Smith is a pro-police dinosaur at a time when District 7 and the entire city is crying out for police reform.
Incidentally, Smith’s posture strengthens the Caissa Dog Whistle, which supports white control of the City.
I consider it an honor to be singled out for retribution by Thurston Smith.
— concluded —
We have another Authorization of Agency case to share, this time that of Dan Rosson, against whom Memphis Animal Services, in collaboration with City Chief Operating Officer Doug McEwen, have created an AoA. Once again, the City has used AoA to silence a political opponent.
AoA and the City Blacklist.
Authorization of Agency first came to public attention when the City’s Blacklist was published on half a dozen AoA forms. Placement on Jim Strickland’s AoA was purportedly in retaliation for a December 19th Die-In action at Strickland’s, but it contained over forty activists’ names, far more than the ten or so protesters at that action. The list was correctly interpreted as a City action against a list of activists which MPD was managing in contravention of the 1978 Kendrick Consent Decree. The ACLU took the City and MPD to court and won.
AoA used against Zoo critics.
We publish some research on Authorization of Agency, compiling almost 1,700 AoA records obtained from MPD via Open Records Request. While 84.9% of the AoA victims were African Americans victims of police racism, a few, featuring Hunter Demster, Maureen Spain and myself were clearly in retaliation by the Zoo and MPD for harmless political speech. In my case, I was on two AoAs, one issued days after my 2016 arrest at the Zoo, which was judged by the courts to be a wrongful arrest, dismissed and expunged. My second Zoo AoA was illegally created by forging my name to an existing, pre-signed AoA with Hunter Demster, after we uneventfully visited the Zoo. Again, this was an act of political retaliation, supported by MPD files collected in violation of Kendrick.
MPD working for private employer with AoA.
Last week, we wrote about Rodney Fisher’s AoA at DHL/Nike. In this case, Mr. Fisher’s employer used MPD to inform him that he had been fired, in retaliation for political speech at his place of employment. The MPD Lieutentant Colonel who ordered the patrolman to inform Mr. Fisher was quoted as saying he had been targeted for non-existent “threats” made via social media, indicating that Mr. Fisher’s first amendment speech on political subjects had been investigated, and that a social media search had been performed by MPD.
New: Dan Rosson’s AoA
Now, we have a new AoA of concern, against animal activist and dog rescue volunteer, Dan Rosson. In this case, city employees at Memphis Animal Shelter and City Chief Operating Officer, Doug McGowan, were behind the retaliatory use of AoA.
Dan Rosson was a long-time volunteer at Memphis Animal Services. He was a dog foster, caring for shelter dogs at his home, and performing various tasks at the shelter. He photographed dogs and helped document their temperaments among other valuable services that saved money for the City and the lives of many dogs scheduled for euthanasia.
Mr Rosson recounts an incident at a Collierville vet, when a dog, which had been secretly labeled as potentially vicious by MAS. attacked another dog. Rosson subsequently, at an April 2018 MAS advisory board meeting, called for volunteers to be warned about dogs labeled as problematic. Mr Rosson, in the following months, also shared a long list of administrative issues at MAS that he wanted addressed.
On February 13th 2019 Mr Rosson posted on Facebook about some critically ill pups who needed urgent veterinary treatment. He had been banned from transporting animals and no-one else was available to drive the pups to the vet.
Mr Rosson, as a proponent of the humane treatment of animals, was upset at the unnecessary suffering caused by the delay in the treatment of the canines.
On February 14th, Mr Rosson circulated a petition to volunteers and others, and engaged in first amendment protected speech critical of the City administration of MAS. The petition asked the City to promote due process and prevent First Amendment abuse by MAS officials, naming MAS director Alexis Pugh.
On February 18th, Mr Rosson posted that City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowan had allegedly called Rosson’s former employer, University of Tennessee. Mr Rosson is retired from UT but had availed of the customary policy of allowing retirees to continue using their UT email. UT canceled Mr Rosson’s email account with resultant chilling effect on his ability to engage in free speech on this issue.
On the 20th, Mr Rosson received some Open Records Requests information from the City attempting to clarify the MAS policies on administering volunteers and asking for records on his own case, and the petition was delivered to the Mayor and City Council. That was the day the AoA was signed by Alexis Pugh.
On February 21st Mr Rosson was informed that he would be arrested if he set foot at MAS and was informed of other charges made by Pugh against him. These additional charges might constitute illegal acts but were not recorded (as sometimes happens) as marginal notes on the AoA. This suggests that MPD was maintaining other documents relating to Mr Rosson. This implies the existence of an investigation, which, being likely to uncover political information relating to Mr Rosson’s communications with the City and MAS, should have been approved by Police Director Rallings pursuant to the Kendrick Consent Decree, which had been well aired in Federal court by this time.
The accusations made by MAS management, if they could be substantiated, should have resulted in a police investigation. Mr Rosson has not been charged with any offense relating to alleged incidents at MAS.
We believe that Mr Rosson’s case is an clear example of AoA being used by MPD to harass political opponents of the City, which is a pattern we have been seeing lot of.
Note on Authorization of Agency.
If you are told, by MPD or property management, that you will be arrested if you set foot on a given property, ask if you are on an AoA.
If you are on an AoA, you can get the document for free via the City Open Records portal. You need to specify a date range, which should be a few days before and after the date you are informed. You need the address of the premised, and also the MPD precinct and ward in which it is located, which you can look up in the link.
Sometimes AoAs are placed without informing the victim. In this case you find out about it at some later point, when you visit the premises. In that case, figure out when the AoA was placed and straddle that date in your open records request.
Share your AoA adventures with us. If you feel that the AoA is the result of an MPD investigation not approved by the Director, or if its deficient due process is being used to threaten or intimidate you, or to impede your constitutional rights, contact the MPD Court Monitor. Read our AoA information. If you are arrested for trespass on an unposted location without being given notice to depart, share this information with your attorney.
— concluded —
The DA’s office, long before Amy Weirich’s regime, has owned the Hammer Award. We’ll be awarding our Hammer Award to judges as well as prosecutors.
Our June award winner is Judge Chris Craft, Shelby Criminal Court Division VIII. We outline his bio towards the end of this piece, but right now we’re going to jump into why Craft gets the Hammer Award.
Craft’s Crowning Achievement: Nuora Jackson
Chris Craft played a leading role in the false imprisonment of Nuora Jackson. Emily Bazelon, in her book “Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration” spends six chapters examining Jackson’s agonizing journey through the legal system. Amy Weirich was the prosecutor in her 2009 trial, and hid exculpatory evidence in a Brady violation
During her closing argument, Weirich said “Just tell us where you were, that’s all we are asking, Nuora”. This was a reference to an unexplained hour in the timeline of the night of the murder, and the fact that Nuora had not taken the stand during the trial. Jackson’s attorney, Valerie Corder, objected on the basis that the prosecution is not allowed to use a defendant’s constitutional right not to testify as a sign of guilt.
Judge Chris Craft refused a mistrial. In Nuora’s 2013 Supreme Court appeal, Corder played a five second video of Weirich charging across the courtroom at Jackson with her demand for testimony, and the supreme court justices wanted to see it again. This, and a note which was “disappeared” from the evidence, formed the basis for Jackson’s eventual retrial. Chris Craft bent over backwards to allow Weirich’s obvious malpractice. Weirich eventually received a “private reprimand” from the Board for Professional Responsibility for her malpractice in this case.
In the Tennessee Supreme Court’s judgement, “Given that the impropriety of any comment upon a defendant’s exercise of the Fifth Amendment right not to testify is so well settled as to require little discussion, it is not at all clear why any prosecutor would venture into this forbidden territory”.
It is also not clear why any judge would allow it.
The Earley Story case.
Earley Story is a former Shelby County Deputy Sergeant jailer who was framed for the sale of marijuana on the basis of evidence by a paid confidential informant, in reprisal for blowing the whistle on conditions at the 201 Poplar jail. After his 1998 conviction, Story, though he served no time, has constantly tried to assert his innocence.
Earley Story has a motion for a writ of “Error Coram Nobis” currently in Chris Craft’s Division VIII. He filed a motion for Judge Craft to recuse himself. The Post and Email blog details Story’s grounds for recusal. “In February, Story was granted a hearing in Division VIII, where Judge Chris Craft presides. In 2004, Craft denied Story’s post-conviction appeal; he also sentenced Story to ten days in jail after finding him in “contempt of court” for allegedly interrupting him in the courtroom. Story has questioned not only Craft’s neutrality, but also why his recent request for a case review was not assigned to Division III, in accordance with Tennessee law, rather than in Division VIII.
Given Craft’s previous involvement, including his misrepresentation of Story as having accepted a guilty plea at a hearing of the private parole board to which Story’s case was sent. Story has also sued Craft for alleged improprieties in the handling of his probation.
We were in court for Story’s February 11th, 2019 appearance in Craft’s court. This was their first interaction, from my notes:
Judge Chris Craft: Do you have an attorney?
Earley Story: No
Judge Chris Craft: No What?
Earley Story: No Sir
Judge Chris Craft: No What?
Earley Story: No Sir Your Honor.
Judge Chris Craft: No What? Are you answering “is it raining”.
Earley Story: You asked if I have an attorney.
Judge Chris Craft: Sit down. (mumbles something) I’ll find you in contempt of court.
Considering that Judge Craft had sentenced Earley Story to ten days for contempt in 2004, we are inclined to take this threat at face value.
Michael Rimmer was sentenced to death three times for an alleged 1998 murder. Chris Craft presided over the 2016 retrial. and third death sentence.
He was granted a new trial in December 2013 because Thomas Henderson, a high-placed, veteran attorney in the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, did not give relevant evidence to Rimmer’s defense attorneys, a Brady violation. The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Office of Professional Responsibility ordered a public censure of Henderson.
This case was documented in the 2017 Fair Punishment Project report.
We saw the story of Kendrick Watson when we wrote about Celitria Watson, his sister, and April Malone, his significant other. They were co-defendants in one of his cases. A wiretap report, obtained under a warrant for Kendrick’s phone, was falsified by police and prosecutors. This resulted in April and Celitria’s cases being severed from Kendricks, and dismissed. Nonetheless, reports from this wiretap were used against Kendrick, and April and Celitria’s proof of evidence fabrication was not allowed in court.
Kendrick Watson had other issues with the legitimacy of the wiretap warrants, including a warrantless search of the phones of his associates following a traffic stop and some questions relating to a bank report used to obtain the warrant.
Perhaps this is a natural consequence of judges policing each other in a cozy manner, but Chris Craft, as the presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary, rejected Kendrick Watson’s complaint against Judge Lee Coffee, despite Coffee’s acceptance of tainted evidence.
Thompson was a shot-caller for the Traveling Vice Lords who was accused of ordering the killing of Deputy Deadrick Taylor in April 1996. This appears to be part of a spike of deputy killings that happened around the time that a massive Jobs for Cash conspiracy was being revealed by an FBI inquiry and subsequent Federal trial of two of the conspirators. Thompson was being held on a separate charge in 201 Poplar at the time he is supposed to have ordered the murder of the deputy.
Judge Chris Craft presided over Thompson’s conviction on docket 96 11968-96621546.
Thompson was mysteriously transferred under the Interstate Prisoner Transfer Compact and he is now believed to be in a Federal institution in Arkansas. Charles Thompson had a close association with Jason White, his deputy in a prison gang. White, while still in prison under a previous sentence, was framed on a planted meth bust, given an additional 60 year sentence, and, a few weeks ago, spirited away on another interstate prisoner transfer to a distant state.
Just City Court Watch Blog describes Craft interaction.
An extract from the Just City Court Watch Blog.
“April 10th, 2019 – An attorney believed to be representing the defendant pointed his finger at her and said, “Keep quiet!” as she was attempting to speak to Judge Craft and request a new attorney. When it came time for her case, the defendant wanted to be heard. After her attorney painted her as mentally incompetent, Judge Craft let her speak. She explained that there had been no communication between her and her attorney, and that she’s being ignored. As you can imagine, this is her only opportunity to advocate for herself — particularly since her attorney wasn’t. She had a difficult time staying quiet, but was never disrespectful in my opinion. After Judge Craft heard her out, there was more she wanted to say. However Judge Craft appeared annoyed at this point and said, “I’ll give you 10 days in jail for every word you say”. The defendant was quiet.”
Earley Story describes Craft intimidation
We previously saw a description of Judge Craft’s interrogation of Earley Story. In conversation with Mr. Story, he described an interaction with Craft during the case when Craft sentenced Story to ten days for contempt.
Judge Craft would say something, then pause. If Mr Story waited for the judge to continue, he was chided for being non-responsive. If Mr Story spoke during the pause, Judge Craft would continue and accuse Mr Story of interrupting.
This is an excellent way of intimidating pro-se defendants, whether or not this effect is intended.
The Hammer Award.
Judge Chris Craft, as a former prosecutor, is one of a number of judges who are former prosecutors. We believe that exposure to the corrupt culture of the Shelby County DA’s office is a red flag. We are following several other judges in that category.
Updates: Chris Craft dismisses Earley Story’s writ of error coram nobis.
Chris Craft named in article on class action suit against probation business.
In April 2019, we wrote about Jason White, who was framed for a pound of meth by Bartlett detectives and ADA Chris Scruggs, recipient of our first Hammer Award for over-zealous prosecution. White was, until recently, serving 60 years at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Lauderdale County.
White was spirited out of state Monday May 20th in a carefully planned operation.
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.
— concluded —