Criminal

Lawyer for Nashville Police Officer Delke Questions DA's Handling of Evidence

The lawyer for Nashville police officer Andrew Delke, who was charged with first-degree murder after shooting Daniel Hambrick during a foot chase, filed a document on Thursday accusing District Attorney Glenn Funk of flip-flopping when considering the seal of evidence in the case, The Tennessean reports. Attorney David Raybin filed the reply to the state’s position regarding discovery, questioning Funke’s stance that evidence in the case be made public before the trial, highlighting his office’s position on the recent rape case against Vanderbilt football players where the state attorney general submitted a brief to seal the evidence until the case was adjudicated. "Now the very thing District Attorney Funk recently contended would 'present a serious threat to a defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial' in another case is being touted by the same district attorney general as 'required to ensure the citizens of Davidson County are confident that the judicial process is fair and that all persons are treated equally,” Raybin wrote in the filing. "It is unclear why the state believes the right to a fair trial outweighs pretrial transparency in a case against violent sexual predators but not in a case against a Nashville police officer.” A spokesman for the prosecutor's office told the paper "The district attorney's office will respond to Mr. Raybin's filing in open court on Tuesday."

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Clarksville Bounty Hunter Accused of Murder Accepts Plea Agreement

One of the bounty hunters and bondsmen accused in the 2017 murder of a Clarksville man who they mistook for a fugitive and opened fire on his vehicle has accepted a plea agreement, The Leaf-Chronicle reports. Jonathan Schnepp Jr. pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault, with the state dropping 13 other charges against him — including first-degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping — because of his continued cooperation with prosecutors. Five other defendants in the case are expected to stand trial in July, with another entering a memorandum of retirement agreement last December. 

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Nashville Police Oversight Board Holds First Meeting

Nashville’s new Community Oversight Board held its first meeting at the Metro courthouse last week to discuss leadership and staffing needs, The Tennessean reports. The board includes diverse members of the community, along with former police officers tasked with examining claims of racial bias and police misconduct in the city. Among the board members are former Davidson County Circuit Court Judge and Baker Donelson attorney Matt Sweeney and former Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper, who was elected secretary of the group. Voters overwhelmingly approved the establishment of the board in November 2018 despite opposition from Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson and the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police who expressed concerns that it may create a divide between law enforcement and the public. Chattanooga is also considering the adoption of a similar committee to oversee its police force.

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Matthew Charles Interviewed by NBC Nightly News After Second Release from Prison

Matthew Charles — the man who was released from prison, then sent back pending appeal of his case  — was interviewed by NBC Nightly News on Tuesday, making his first public remarks since being re-released, NBC News reports. Charles was convicted in 1996 for selling crack and illegal possession of a firearm, labeled a “career offender” because of prior criminal convictions, then sentenced to 35 years in prison. A federal judge granted Charles early release in 2016; however, prosecutors appealed that decision and he was subsequently returned to prison around two years later. His case became part of the national discourse on criminal justice reform after attention from members of Congress and celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, and is believed to be the first person released because of the First Step Act.

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Memphis Attorneys Keep Clothes on Hand for Clients Who Cannot Afford Dress Attire

The Shelby County Public Defender’s Office has taken a novel approach to criminal defense, maintaining a closet of clothing for defendants who cannot afford dress attire to wear in court, The Commercial Appeal reports. On whether what a defendant wears to court matters, attorney and supervisor for Shelby County Public Defender’s Office Gregg Carman said that "It probably shouldn’t. But jurors can’t always set aside appearance. As soon as a client walks into a courtroom with a jury, that jury is making judgments about them from the way they present themselves, whether it’s their demeanor their attitude, their walk, or their clothing, their hairstyle." The Shelby County District Attorney General's office also has a clothes closet for victims and witnesses, but declined to comment on the story.

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Montgomery County Judge's Remarks Make National Headlines

Montgomery County Judge Wayne Shelton's comments comparing black-on-black killings to killings committed by the KKK are making national headlines, The Leaf-Chronicle reports. The remarks came as Shelton was presiding over the preliminary hearing of Vincent Bryan Merriweather, one of the three men accused of gunning down Antorius Gallion in Clarksville on Nov. 19. Shelton, who is the longest sitting judge in Tennessee, told The Leaf-Chronicle that "Black lives really do matter. The total disregard of that fact by any in our society is totally reprehensible."

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Rutherford Store Owners Allege Discrimination in 'Operation Candy Crush'

Store owners raided and shuttered by Rutherford County law enforcement during "Operation Candy Crush" for selling CBD oil are alleging that they may have been targeted because of their race, The Daily News Journal reports. An amendment to the complaint initially filed in October says that 12 of 17 of those arrested are of Egyptian descent and that several surrounding stores sold the same CBD products but remained open and that those owners were not charged with crimes. According to the complaint, Assistant District Attorney John Zimmerman is alleged to have told an attorney for one of the CBD suppliers that "all the people selling CBD in Rutherford County are 'foreigners.'" The paper reports that the case is set on District Judge Aleta A. Trauger’s Jan. 7 docket at 1:45 p.m. 

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Federal Judge Questions Racial Bias by Prosecutors

A federal judge in Memphis is questioning whether prosecutors are issuing more onerous charges against black defendants than white defendants for comparable crimes, The Commercial Appeal reports. U.S. District Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr. has raised concerns of racial discrimination in at least three separate cases — most recently one involving two drug dealers who traveled together when selling MDMA. In that case, the white defendant got out of the car that the men were traveling in to transfer the drugs, while the black defendant remained in the vehicle with another woman. A gun was found in the car between the legs of the black defendant, who was charged with a gun crime mandating an automatic five-year sentence. The white defendant was not charged with a gun crime and received a drastically lighter sentence. Representatives of the prosecutor's office say they do not discriminate based on race and the white man received a lesser sentence because of his limited criminal record. Fowlkes, a former state and federal prosecutor who has also served as a Shelby County public defender, is one of the few black federal judges, which make up only 10 percent of that judiciary.

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3 More Pilot Execs Sentenced in Fraud Case

A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced three additional ex-Pilot Flying J executives for their roles in what the judge described as “probably the biggest fraud case in the history of the trucking industry," the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier said during sentencing, "You're all good people who did something bad. I don't think there's a need here to protect the public (from you). But people need to understand if they give in to temptation and do anything at all like what you did, there's going to be punishment forthcoming. You've learned your lesson, but other people need to learn their lesson also." Each of the convicted men received a reduced sentence for cooperating with federal prosecutors to convict ex-Pilot President Mark Hazelwood. So far 14 ex-employees of the company have agreed to plead guilty in the case.

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News Report: Detective Accused of Beating Handcuffed Man Had History of Violence

The Hamilton County detective suspended this month for severely beating a handcuffed man has a history of violence, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Blake Kilpatrick — who is under investigation by the DOJ after video surfaced of the beating — was previously accused by his then-girlfriend of bursting into her home and hitting her. Kilpatrick also allegedly kicked down his and his ex-wife's door in 2011, then vandalized their home. Records show that he was never arrested or charged in those incidents. Kilpatrick’s attorney, who is also defending him in a wrongful death suit filed in 2017, said that he is investigating the incidents and working on a statement. Charley Toney, who was beaten by Kilpatrick after being arrested, suffered a collapsed lung, a broken finger, a broken nose and several broken ribs. 

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