Criminal

Movie Draws Renewed Interest in Hoffa Legal Trials

Release of the Netflix movie "The Irishman" has drawn renewed attention to former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa and his legal trials. A recent piece in the Chattanooga Times Free Press by TBA member Maury Nicely, digs deeper, looking at Hoffa's federal trial for jury tampering in Chattanooga and how that trial may have played a part in the union boss’ downfall. Nicely, author of the book "Hoffa in Tennessee,” called it “the biggest-ever Chattanooga trial,” saying the events that transpired in then Judge Frank Wilson's courtroom may have led to Hoffa’s fall from power, and ultimately his disappearance. The trial lasted from Jan. 20 to March 12, 1964, resulting in conviction of Hoffa on four of the 20 counts against him, and led to numerous appeals by his legal team who alleged improper conduct by federal prosecutors such as providing alcohol and sending prostitutes to jurors.

read more »

AG Slatery Orders Information Regarding Confidential Rape Settlement to be Unsealed

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has ordered court records regarding a confidential settlement paid by Hamilton County Schools as result of a 2015 Ooltewah rape case to be unsealed, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The case stemmed from an incident where four minors claimed to be victims of rape perpetrated by older classmates during a basketball tournament trip to Gatlinburg. Slatery’s most recent motion calls for the court to unseal the dollar amount of the settlement between Hamilton County Schools, its insurer and an anonymous victim; however, other information and documents contained in the court file would remain sealed.

read more »

Story Highlights One Man's Struggle to Stay Out of Jail Over Probation Fees

A recent piece in the Daily News Journal highlights a Murfreesboro man’s struggle to remain free from incarceration because of his inability to pay probation fees. Marques Martin filed a pro se federal lawsuit maintaining that Rutherford County and private, contracted probation company PCC, kept him in a cycle tantamount to a debtor’s prison, resulting in the loss of “family, homes and cars” and causing him to rack up $60,000 in child support arrearages. PCC was previously party to a class action lawsuit in 2015, leading the company to reach a $14.3 million settlement with approximately 29,000 persons over similar allegations.

read more »

Tennessee Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Chemically Castrate Child Sex Offenders

Tennessee state Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, introduced a bill last week that would require anyone convicted of a sex offense to minors under the age of 13 to be chemically castrated, the Jackson Sun reports. The bill, as introduced, only applies to offenders eligible for parole and allows the offender to halt treatment at any time, but the refusal would constitute a parole violation. Griffey’s bill requires that the parolee pay for the cost of the procedure, which may be comprised of medication that "reduces, inhibits or blocks the production of testosterone, hormones, or other chemicals in a person's body." None of the 13 bills introduced by Griffey in the 2019 session passed.

read more »

Gov. Lee Discusses Faith, Execution in Recent Interview

In an interview with the Associated Press, Gov. Bill Lee discussed his Christian faith and how it has affected him in the recent spate of Tennessee executions, The Washington Post reports. Lee told the AP that weighing the fate of the three death row inmates executed in his first year as governor has led to the most difficult decisions he has made; however, he believes that the death penalty is “appropriate for those most heinous of crimes.” Lee said that he discusses execution decisions with his wife, pastor and close friends, also taking the scheduled execution day off to spend it alone in thought and prayer. Six inmates have been put to death since the state resumed executions last year, with Attorney General Herbert Slatery asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to set a date for nine more death row prisoners. Lee told the AP that Slatery didn’t consult with him about the request but said he had no plans to involve himself in the future.

read more »

Defense Attorneys Seek Sealed Juvenile Court Records Regarding Phil Trenary Murder

Defense attorneys for two men charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Greater Memphis Chamber CEO Phil Trenary are seeking the juvenile court records of an alleged accomplice, the Commercial Appeal reports. Lawyers for Quandarius Richardson and McKinney Wright say that information from the closed-door juvenile court hearing of the 16-year-old girl, who was with them at the time of the slaying, could benefit their clients and asked Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft to issue an order allowing them to review the transcripts, orders, recordings and other materials sealed by a juvenile court magistrate. Richardson’s attorney, Paul Guibao, said he had spoken to prosecutor Ray Lepone who maintains the state plans to provide much of the information, including video from the teen girl's juvenile court hearing, in discovery. Richardson and Wright are due back in court on Jan. 16, 2020.

read more »

Hamilton Co. Deputy Facing 44 Criminal Charges Sees First Day in Court

The Hamilton County sheriff's deputy facing a litany of charges for his conduct while acting as a law enforcement officer saw his first day in court on Friday, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Daniel Wilkey was indicted on 44 criminal charges, including six counts of sexual battery, two counts of rape and nine counts of official oppression. Attorney Ben McGowan appeared with Wilkey, asking Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman to postpone arraignment until Wilkey could officially retain him, with Steelman agreeing to a Jan. 24 date. In addition to the criminal charges, Wilkey faces 11 civil lawsuits, including one alleging the wrongful death of a Rhea County man and accusations by five underage girls who say he groped them and made another boy strip during a traffic stop.

read more »

Teen Charged With Killing Wilson Co. High School Student Appointed New Defense Team

The teen charged as an adult for killing a Mt. Juliet High School student is seeking to delay his trial as he transitions defense counsel, The Tennessean reports. Ethen Vanderpool stands accused of criminal homicide for the shooting death of JayShawn Taylor in November. Vanderpool’s original defense attorney, Tony Maynard, filed a motion to withdraw from the case in November, citing contractual reasons and differences of opinion on how the case was being handled. Criminal Court Judge Brody Kane then appointed Joshua Robbins to defend Vanderpool. The defendant and his family have now hired Kirk Catron and Hunter Fowler who have requested to push back the trial dates in order to prepare and review discovery and the evidence in the case. Prosecutors did not comment on whether they would contest the motion.

read more »

Memphis to See More Activity by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies

Memphis has been selected as one of seven cities nationally for increased activity by federal law enforcement agencies, The Commercial Appeal reports. Operation "Relentless Pursuit” is directed at cities that have seen an uptick in violent crime. Although data from the TBI shows violent crime trending downward in the state, Memphis is nearing its 200th homicide of the year. West Tennessee's U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant is expected to offer more details regarding the effort this afternoon.

read more »

Epidemic of Overcrowding in Rural Jails

The New York Times in a recent piece examines the issue of overcrowding in rural jails, focusing on the Hamblen County Jail in particular. While the facility is intended to house just 255 inmates, it housed 439 at the end of October, with inmates sleeping on mats in the hallways and lawyers forced to meet with their clients in a supply closet. Experts attribute the increase primarily to crimes committed in support of methamphetamine and opioid addictions, which has devastated bucolic communities. While rural jails have seen a spike in inmates, urban jail populations have dropped about 18% nationally since 2013, likely due to increased use of alternative sentencing programs in these areas.

read more »