News

Feds Step Up Effort to Combat Crime Against Memphis Area Hispanics

U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton joined Latino leaders in Memphis Monday to announce a partnership to attack crime against the Hispanic community, the Commercial Appeal reports. Regional Mexican Consul David Manuel Preciado Juarez came from Little Rock to express his support for strengthening relations between law enforcement and the region's more than 700,000 Hispanic residents.

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DNA Cases at FBI Moving Quicker Through System

The FBI laboratory has reduced its backlog of forensic DNA cases by 87 percent in two years, from 3,211 cases to 403 cases, the Associated Press reports. The Justice Department's inspector general attributes most of the decline to increased staffing and use of automated technology. Also, the FBI is focusing on cases where DNA testing of biological evidence is more likely to yield useful information.

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Staubus Talks About His Calling as Prosecutor

Barry Staubus looks back on his first year as Sullivan County district attorney general in this profile. He says he views the job as a calling, and talks about his work to battle synthetic drugs, his increased administrative responsibilities, and moving the office toward using electronic case files. Last year, when Greeley Wells retired, Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Staubus as the county’s top prosecutor until the next election. Last month with no opposition, he was elected to fill out the remainder of Wells’ term, which ends in 2014. Read more about him from TriCities.com

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Bradley Co. Won't Add Deputy, But Helps Inmates with Education

Bradley County commissioners will not fund a new deputy position, even though Sheriff Jim Ruth says the county needs one, the Times Free Press reports. In other news, Ruth has been instrumental in helping inmates at the Bradley County Justice Center get their GED's, as 20 will take the test this fall through a new Bradley County Department of Corrections program. According to testing coordinator for the county's adult high school, Charlotte Samples, a released inmate with a GED is 50 percent less likely to be imprisoned again.

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Maryville Law Firm Lost to Fire

The building that housed the Maryville law firm of Gribble, Carpenter & Associates burned in a fire last week, and the firm -- comprised of William (Billy) Gribble, Charles Carpenter, Keith Edmiston, Stanley Barnett, Alan Waller and Casey Daganhardt -- have reopened the office at 118 Parliament Dr., Maryville 37804. Donations of law books, especially the Tennessee Practice Series, and other resources like Raybin on Criminal Procedure or Garrett on Divorce, are needed. Contact Billy Gribble at blountlaw@yahoo.com or 865-936-3060 if you can help. Members of the firm say they have already received much support, which they appreciate very much. They are still actively handling cases and will be working over the next few weeks to reconstruct client files.

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Judge Orders Legal Fees in Shackling Case

U.S. District Judge William Haynes Jr. issued an order today demanding that the Nashville government pay $1.1 million in fees and other expenses to Juana Villegas, who, in 2008, was shackled to a hospital bed hours before giving birth. Last August, a jury awarded Villegas $200,000 for having her rights violated. Metro government appealed the award and there is a hearing on the case next month. The order today is limited to legal fees and expenses. Haynes also certified Villegas' application for a special visa created to protect undocumented residents who are crime victims. The Tennessean has more.

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MTSU Announces Federal Court Reporting Program

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) announced a new project in collaboration with the Tennessean in which students will report on the federal judicial system and federal law enforcement operations in Nashville. Named after journalism icon and former Tennessean CEO John Seigenthaler, the Seigenthaler News Service selected seven seniors as the first program scholars. Read the full story at the Daily News Journal.

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Horse Trainer Gets 3 Years Probation, Fine

Former hall of fame horse trainer Jackie McConnell was sentenced to three years probation and fined $75.000 this afternoon in a Chattanooga federal courtroom, The Tennessean reports. McConnell, who was recorded beating Tennessee walking horses in a video released by the Humane Society last May, could have been given as much as five years probation and fined up to $250,000 for his offenses. As part of his plea agreement, McConnell has to report all of his dealings with horses in federal court.

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Overcrowding Resolved at Washington County Jail

Washington County Attorney John Rambo says he expects the state to recertify the Washington County Detention Center after the jail rectified its overcrowding issue by transferring 86 inmates to state correctional facilities. Learn more in the Johnson City Press

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West Memphis Murder Documentary Premieres Tonight

Free, advanced screenings of Peter Jackson’s documentary “West of Memphis” begin tonight in Memphis and will continue over the next several weeks throughout the Memphis area and Arkansas. The documentary covers the well-publicized case of the "West Memphis Three" who were released in 2011 after being wrongly imprisoned for murder for almost 20 years. The documentary is set for national release on Dec. 25. Read more in the Commercial Appeal.

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DA’s Office Evacuated After Suspicious Letter Found

The downtown office of Nashville District Attorney General Torry Johnson was evacuated yesterday, The Tennessean reports, after a suspicious package was delivered. Spokeswoman Susan Niland said the office received a threatening letter that included white powder in the envelope. Law enforcement evacuated the office and closed part of Second Avenue near the county courthouse. Keith Moses, with the FBI’s Nashville office, said the package was taken to a state laboratory for analysis.

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Baumgartner Loses Evidence Motion

U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley has ruled that former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner will not get access to a list of evidence that prosecutors intend to use at trial. Baumgartner is facing federal charges he covered up a pill distribution conspiracy. While documents and materials that could be used at trial have been turned over, Shirley found that the prosecutors are not required to pinpoint exactly what materials they will use or to outline their trial strategy. Read more in the News Sentinel

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Blackwood Says He Has Not Lost Objectivity

In an order made public today, Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood wrote that he has not lost his objectivity and will not step down in presiding over the torture slayings of a Knox County couple. "The court concludes that a person of ordinary prudence in the court's position, knowing all the facts known to the judge, would not find a reasonable basis for questioning the judge's impartiality," Blackwood wrote. The Knox County District Attorney General's pushed Blackwood to recuse himself from the cases of three of four defendants in the January 2007 slayings. The News Sentinel reports

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Court Clerk Suspended After Confrontation With City Manager

East Ridge city manager Tim Gobble publicly confronted a court clerk in her office because he was upset over the handling of an armed robbery case in which his daughter was the victim, Chattanoogan.com reports. Gobble, who suspended Court Clerk Joanne Thomas for five days without pay, said "it is well established that the city manager is over the court clerk's office and not the judge. ... I'm going to get it fixed."

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Paper Explains Series With Bebb

An editorial in the Cleveland Banner explains why it made the decision last week to let 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Bebb tell his side regarding accusations made against him in a Chattanooga Times Free Press series. The Banner said that the coverage was not to defend Bebb against the charges nor was it to persecute the veteran prosecutor, but that Bebb's position had been left incomplete. "Rhetoric from political rivals, selected details from past investigations and juicy finger pointing by former law enforcement employees had dominated media coverage and street-corner conversation," it said and that prompted the paper to interview Bebb.

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Charges Dismissed After 24-Year Prison Stint

An Ohio judge today dismissed a 24-year-old murder charge against Michael Keenan, who spent much of the past two decades on death row. The decision came after a ruling in April that Keenan had to be tried again or have his verdict set aside. That ruling was based on the discovery of evidence favorable to Keenan and a co-defendant that had been withheld by prosecutors. Learn more in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

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District, U.S. Attorney Pool Efforts

The Memphis Daily News reports that Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton have joined forces to handle cases that cross state-federal boundaries. Weirich and Stanton talked about the partnership, which includes an anti-gang initiative and focus on gun crimes, during a program called “Behind The Headlines” on WKNO TV.

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Judge Issues First Baumgartner Ruling

U.S. Magistrate Clifford Shirley has responded to some of the motions filed in the trial against former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner, who was indicted in May on seven charges of misprision of a felony. Shirley suggested in a written filing late last week that certain evidence against Baumgartner should be allowed in court. WBIR has more

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Court Asked to Appoint Special Judge

The Tennessee Supreme Court has been asked to appoint a special judge to oversee a $9.9 million lawsuit filed against Sullivan County by county sheriff Wayne Anderson. All local chancery and circuit judges recused themselves. Anderson is seeking additional resources to fund the county jail and sheriff’s office as, according to him, he is charged to do by state law. On the defense side, the county attorney also has stepped aside, saying it is a conflict of interest to represent one agency of the county against another. The Times News has more

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Lightning Damages West Tenn. Criminal Justice Complex

Lightning struck the Henderson County Criminal Justice Complex in Lexington in west Tennessee on Sunday morning, causing damage estimated in the tens of thousands of dollars, the Jackson Sun reports. The strike destroyed the complex's fire alarm system, electronic key system, National Crime Information Center records system and the 911 system.

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DA Paul Phillips Retires After 33 Years

After serving the 8th Judicial District for more than 33 years, District Attorney General Paul Phillips is retiring from the post, WATE reports. "I think his legacy will be that he helped the children of these counties," said his friend, Charles Herman.

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Bebb Defends Record, Says Criticism is Political

District Attorney General Steve Bebb, the subject of a recent investigative series in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, is speaking out, defending his record and calling allegations of wrongdoing unfounded and politically motivated, telling the Advocate and Democrat  that  "I have not broken any laws or violated any rules of ethics." He said he is proud of his 10th Judicial District staff, which prosecutes cases in Monroe, McMinn, Polk and Bradley counties. The Chattanooga paper has raised allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and misuse of public money by Bebb and his staff.

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Summers to Lead Probe of DA

Former Tennessee attorney general and judge Paul Summers has been asked to lead an investigation into allegations of misconduct in the 10th Judicial District. Wally Kirby, executive director of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference, said he asked Summers to take the lead after current District Attorney Steve Bebb requested a pro tem DA. Bebb has been the subject of a six-day series in the Chattanooga Times Free Press that alleges financial and professional misconduct in his office and the district’s drug task force, and raises questions on procedures used in the seizure of cars and cash. The Cleveland Banner reports

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PD Drops Recusal Motions Against Judge

A two-week standoff between the Chattanooga public defender and local criminal court judge that tied up 143 cases ended Tuesday with a one-sentence motion. Ardena J. Garth, public defender for the 11th Judicial District, gave notice yesterday that she is striking all of her motions for recusal effective immediately. The move may break the impass between the two, but the Times Free Press  reports that it may not settle the dispute, which has Garth on the record accusing the judge of creating a hostile work environment and questioning his impartiality. Likewise, the judge is on record accusing the public defender's office of poor management, sloppy lawyering and undermining justice. Both parties declined to comment about the recent dispute.

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Conviction Upheld on Threatening YouTube Video

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit on Monday upheld the conviction of Franklin Delano Jeffries II for transmitting an interstate threat. He appeared in a YouTube video singing a menacing song about Knox County Chancellor Michael Moyers, who was handling Jeffries child custody case at the time. The Jackson Sun has more

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