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.
Our identification of the Caissa Seven at the time had predictive value, although we overestimated Kemp Conrad’s Caissa spend at a time when some documents were unavailable at the Election Commission.
We also missed a year-end 2014 contribution of $500 by Caissa Public Strategy to Edmund Ford Jr. We are sorry we missed that, as it would have pointed to his antics around the 2018 referendum. Essentially Ford was another Caissa paeon, voting with the Caissa whip almost all the time especially on public safety issues.
The DA’s office, long before Amy Weirich’s regime, has owned the Hammer Award. We’ll be awarding our Hammer Award to judges as well as prosecutors.
Our June award winner is Judge Chris Craft, Shelby Criminal Court Division VIII. We outline his bio towards the end of this piece, but right now we’re going to jump into why Craft gets the Hammer Award.
During her closing argument, Weirich said “Just tell us where you were, that’s all we are asking, Nuora”. This was a reference to an unexplained hour in the timeline of the night of the murder, and the fact that Nuora had not taken the stand during the trial. Jackson’s attorney, Valerie Corder, objected on the basis that the prosecution is not allowed to use a defendant’s constitutional right not to testify as a sign of guilt.
Judge Chris Craft refused a mistrial. In Nuora’s 2013 Supreme Court appeal, Corder played a five second video of Weirich charging across the courtroom at Jackson with her demand for testimony, and the supreme court justices wanted to see it again. This, and a note which was “disappeared” from the evidence, formed the basis for Jackson’s eventual retrial. Chris Craft bent over backwards to allow Weirich’s obvious malpractice. Weirich eventually received a “private reprimand” from the Board for Professional Responsibility for her malpractice in this case.
In the Tennessee Supreme Court’s judgement, “Given that the impropriety of any comment upon a defendant’s exercise of the Fifth Amendment right not to testify is so well settled as to require little discussion, it is not at all clear why any prosecutor would venture into this forbidden territory”.
It is also not clear why any judge would allow it.
The Earley Story case.
Earley Story is a former Shelby County Deputy Sergeant jailer who was framed for the sale of marijuana on the basis of evidence by a paid confidential informant, in reprisal for blowing the whistle on conditions at the 201 Poplar jail. After his 1998 conviction, Story, though he served no time, has constantly tried to assert his innocence.
Earley Story has a motion for a writ of “Error Coram Nobis” currently in Chris Craft’s Division VIII. He filed a motion for Judge Craft to recuse himself. The Post and Email blog details Story’s grounds for recusal. “In February, Story was granted a hearing in Division VIII, where Judge Chris Craft presides. In 2004, Craft denied Story’s post-conviction appeal; he also sentenced Story to ten days in jail after finding him in “contempt of court” for allegedly interrupting him in the courtroom. Story has questioned not only Craft’s neutrality, but also why his recent request for a case review was not assigned to Division III, in accordance with Tennessee law, rather than in Division VIII.
Given Craft’s previous involvement, including his misrepresentation of Story as having accepted a guilty plea at a hearing of the private parole board to which Story’s case was sent. Story has also sued Craft for alleged improprieties in the handling of his probation.
We were in court for Story’s February 11th, 2019 appearance in Craft’s court. This was their first interaction, from my notes:
Judge Chris Craft: Do you have an attorney? Earley Story: No Judge Chris Craft: No What? Earley Story: No Sir Judge Chris Craft: No What? Earley Story: No Sir Your Honor. Judge Chris Craft: No What? Are you answering “is it raining”. Earley Story: You asked if I have an attorney. Judge Chris Craft: Sit down. (mumbles something) I’ll find you in contempt of court.
Considering that Judge Craft had sentenced Earley Story to ten days for contempt in 2004, we are inclined to take this threat at face value.
Michael Rimmer was sentenced to death three times for an alleged 1998 murder. Chris Craft presided over the 2016 retrial. and third death sentence.
He was granted a new trial in December 2013 because Thomas Henderson, a high-placed, veteran attorney in the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, did not give relevant evidence to Rimmer’s defense attorneys, a Brady violation. The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Office of Professional Responsibility ordered a public censure of Henderson.
We saw the story of Kendrick Watson when we wrote about Celitria Watson, his sister, and April Malone, his significant other. They were co-defendants in one of his cases. A wiretap report, obtained under a warrant for Kendrick’s phone, was falsified by police and prosecutors. This resulted in April and Celitria’s cases being severed from Kendricks, and dismissed. Nonetheless, reports from this wiretap were used against Kendrick, and April and Celitria’s proof of evidence fabrication was not allowed in court.
Kendrick Watson had other issues with the legitimacy of the wiretap warrants, including a warrantless search of the phones of his associates following a traffic stop and some questions relating to a bank report used to obtain the warrant.
Perhaps this is a natural consequence of judges policing each other in a cozy manner, but Chris Craft, as the presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary, rejected Kendrick Watson’s complaint against Judge Lee Coffee, despite Coffee’s acceptance of tainted evidence.
Thompson was a shot-caller for the Traveling Vice Lords who was accused of ordering the killing of Deputy Deadrick Taylor in April 1996. This appears to be part of a spike of deputy killings that happened around the time that a massive Jobs for Cash conspiracy was being revealed by an FBI inquiry and subsequent Federal trial of two of the conspirators. Thompson was being held on a separate charge in 201 Poplar at the time he is supposed to have ordered the murder of the deputy.
Judge Chris Craft presided over Thompson’s conviction on docket 96 11968-96621546.
Thompson was mysteriously transferred under the Interstate Prisoner Transfer Compact and he is now believed to be in a Federal institution in Arkansas. Charles Thompson had a close association with Jason White, his deputy in a prison gang. White, while still in prison under a previous sentence, was framed on a planted meth bust, given an additional 60 year sentence, and, a few weeks ago, spirited away on another interstate prisoner transfer to a distant state.
Just City Court Watch Blog describes Craft interaction.
“April 10th, 2019 – An attorney believed to be representing the defendant pointed his finger at her and said, “Keep quiet!” as she was attempting to speak to Judge Craft and request a new attorney. When it came time for her case, the defendant wanted to be heard. After her attorney painted her as mentally incompetent, Judge Craft let her speak. She explained that there had been no communication between her and her attorney, and that she’s being ignored. As you can imagine, this is her only opportunity to advocate for herself — particularly since her attorney wasn’t. She had a difficult time staying quiet, but was never disrespectful in my opinion. After Judge Craft heard her out, there was more she wanted to say. However Judge Craft appeared annoyed at this point and said, “I’ll give you 10 days in jail for every word you say”. The defendant was quiet.”
Earley Story describes Craft intimidation
We previously saw a description of Judge Craft’s interrogation of Earley Story. In conversation with Mr. Story, he described an interaction with Craft during the case when Craft sentenced Story to ten days for contempt.
Judge Craft would say something, then pause. If Mr Story waited for the judge to continue, he was chided for being non-responsive. If Mr Story spoke during the pause, Judge Craft would continue and accuse Mr Story of interrupting.
This is an excellent way of intimidating pro-se defendants, whether or not this effect is intended.
Chris Craft received his law license from the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1978 after graduating from Memphis State University. From 1980 to 1982 he did graduate work at Memphis Theological Seminary in Law and Religion.
From 1978 to 1982 he practiced as a defense lawyer in the family firm.
Beginning in 1982 through 1994, Craft was employed as an assistant prosecutor in the Shelby County DA’s office. In 1994 he was appointed as a judge.
Chris Craft was appointed to Judge of Division VIII of the Shelby County Criminal Court in 1994 and was elected to that position in 1996. He has been re-elected for eight year terms ever since, most recently in 2014, when he was unopposed. He is next up for election in 2022.
In August 2011, Judge Craft was elected as the presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary. In a lame attempt at levity in responding to Sen. Beavers’ legislation, Judge Craft said, “It’s kind of hard for laypersons to understand the code of judicial conduct.”
This hyperbolic comment doesn’t pass the involuntary laugh test. Anyone could easily understand the mandates of the code of conduct.
Chris Craft is an elder and Sunday school teacher at Second Presbyterian Church and frequently extols the virtues of faith-based organizations.
The Hammer Award.
Judge Chris Craft, as a former prosecutor, is one of a number of judges who are former prosecutors. We believe that exposure to the corrupt culture of the Shelby County DA’s office is a red flag. We are following several other judges in that category.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
We 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.