Criminal

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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Kentucky City Clerk Wanted for Embezzlement Arrested in Sevier County

A former Kuttawa city clerk, wanted for stealing money from the Kentucky town’s coffers, was arrested in Sevier County last week after being on the run for months, the Kentucky New Era reports. Katie Harrison stopped showing up for work in July after financial irregularities were discovered in the office's bookkeeping. Harrison surrendered after her husband, Clayton Harrison was pulled over for an inoperable brake light and arrested for fraud. Both husband and wife are being held in the Sevier County Jail awaiting extradition.

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Man Credits Blount County Recovery Court for Saving His Life

A Blount County man credits the county’s innovative recovery court program for saving his life, according to an article in the Citizen Tribune. Daniel McQueen said that he was using from $400 – $500 of heroin a day, stealing credit cards, cars, or anything else of value to feed his habit. A judge at the Blount County Recovery Court sentenced McQueen to complete the court’s strictly regimented addiction treatment program, offered as an alternative to incarceration and he has been sober since. The program has been successful in Blount County, which plans to build a new “transition center,” to house hundreds more entering recovery through the criminal justice system. Recovery Court Judge Tammy Harrington said that she has seen hardened, long-term offenders complete the program and achieve sobriety.

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TBA Criminal Justice Section to Host Lunch Following Forum

The TBA Criminal Justice Section will host a networking luncheon following the Dec. 7 Criminal Justice Forum. This lunch will provide the opportunity for Criminal Justice Section members, judges, law students and attendees of the program to meet section leadership and attorneys who share a similar focus. There is no charge for this luncheon and parking will be validated. Attendance of the program is not required. Please RSVP to jword@tnbar.org to reserve your spot.

When: Friday, Dec. 7, 12:45 p.m., CST
Where:  Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
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Campbell County Judge Blasts 'Culture of Medicated Drivers'

Campbell County Judge Shayne Sexton on Wednesday blasted what he referred to as a 'culture of medicated drivers' when sentencing Kevin Trent for killing a woman while driving after taking two of his prescribed medications — oxycodone and Xanax, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Trent, who lost his left leg below the knee and both his arms below the elbows after being hit by a drunk driver in 2005 and used a homemade system to accommodate his missing limbs, drove into oncoming traffic, hitting victim Karen Freeman’s vehicle head-on. Trent had a “therapeutic range” of Xanax in his system at the time, however, a “relatively high level of oxycodone” according to a doctor testifying at his trial.

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Senate Republicans Discuss Changes to Criminal Justice Reform Bill

Senate Republicans are discussing changes to the FIRST STEP Act, the initial bill regarding a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. criminal justice system, The Washington Post reports. Among the changes being discussed are narrowing fentanyl-related crimes to ameliorate mandatory minimum sentences in some cases, narrowing the “safety valve” provision, which provides more discretion to judges when issuing sentences and nixing the “stacking” regulation, which would add more penalties to those who commit a drug-related crime while possessing a gun, even if the firearm wasn’t used. President Trump has made criminal justice reform one of his top legislative priorities, a measure that has to date received bipartisan support.

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