Monthly Archives: October 2016

So who got Haslam’s vote for president? Maybe Evan McMullin

Gov. Bill Haslam has said he won’t vote for Donald Trump (or Hillary Clinton) and will instead cast a write-in vote for “another Republican.” He voted early and won’t say who got his vote. But, just as a matter of pure speculation, the guess here is that the most likely candidate as the Tennessee governor’s choice behind the closed doors of the voting booth is Evan McMullin, who is one of six write-in candidates for president who actually filed the paperwork necessary to have their votes counted in Tennessee.

The AP today has a profile story on McMullin, a former CIA counterterrorism operative and a Utah native who appears to have a chance of carrying his home state this year, according to some polls. He’s been characterized as a “never Trump” Republican. Trump says he’s a Clinton “puppet” who’s taking votes from the GOP nominee, reports Politico.

Here’s the start of the AP story:

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Former CIA agent Evan McMullin has quickly evolved from a political unknown to a legitimate threat to become the first independent candidate in nearly half a century to win electoral votes in a presidential election.

The presidency itself is out of his reach because McMullin is only on the ballot in 11 states (including Tennessee). But he could poach enough conservative votes in Utah to squeeze past Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton and become the first non-GOP candidate to win the mostly-Mormon state since 1964. That would be a particular blow to Trump.

McMullin, 40 and a Mormon, has been embraced by many Republican-leaning voters who are steeped in Utah’s culture of courtesy and fed up with Trump’s crudeness and antics.

So who is this guy?

…He was chief policy director for U.S. House Republicans when he watched with amazement as Trump won the GOP nomination and no other conservative jumped in the race. By late summer, McMullin decided to try to give conservative voters an alternative to Trump and Clinton. Despite knowing he would endure ridicule and questions about his motives, McMullin went for it.

The whole story is HERE.

Women jailers get judicial diversion after sex with inmates

Two former Scott County jail employees, both women, have been granted judicial diversion –  they will serve no time behind bars and can have their records wiped clean after good behavior during a three-year probationary period – on charges involving having sex with inmates, according to the News Sentinel.

In one case, the woman has since married the inmate after the one-time episode. The other was described by her attorney as a troubled person who has turned a new leaf in her life.

Eighth Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton granted Deana Shedara Keith judicial diversion in an official misconduct case filed against her after she confessed having sex with an inmate she was supposed to be guarding at the Scott County Jail last year where she worked as a corrections officer.

…Tabitha Wilson, another Scott County jailer, also confessed a separate affair – involving repeated encounters not only at the jail but at her home while the inmate was supposed to be on work release – during the same time frame. She, too, pleaded guilty to official misconduct and was granted diversion Monday.

Wilson was a married mother of two. Keith was single and, according to defense attorney Kimberly Parton, has since married the inmate.

Sexton earlier this year resisted the idea of diversion because of a law change passed in the wake of a Knox County judicial scandal that barred elected or appointed officials the special privilege if their crimes involved their jobs. Sexton was the first judge in the state to question the scope of that law and whether it included public employees. The state Attorney General’s office has since opined the Legislature only intended for the law to bar officeholders, not employees, such as rogue cops, misbehaving jailers, thieving government workers or even public employee supervisors.

… Prosecutor Philip Kazee balked at diversion for the pair. “We’re sending a message to corrections officers that you can have sex with inmates, and you can have it wiped off your record,” he said.

Sexton disagreed. “One of the options the court has with diversion is if that doesn’t work, we can come back in here,” he said.

Supremes adopt new divorce forms

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Tennessee Supreme Court has adopted a set of plain-language forms and instructions for use in uncontested divorces between parties with minor children in an effort to simplify divorce proceedings for parties that fall into that category.

The forms are approved by the Court as universally acceptable as legally sufficient for use in all Tennessee courts pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 52. The forms and instructions were submitted to the Court by the Access to Justice Commission.

The forms arose from the Commission’s responsibility under Supreme Court Rule 50 to develop initiatives and systemic changes to reduce barriers to access to justice and to meet the legal needs of persons whose legal needs may not be met by legal aid programs. Currently there are restrictions on the types of family law cases which may be handled by federally funded legal aid providers.

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Cohen calls for FBI director’s resignation

News release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today called on James Comey to resign as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“FBI Director James Comey’s recent public comments on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her emails, apparently before seeing any evidence, and against the advice of the Justice Department according to press reports, and even, some have suggested, in violation of the Hatch Act, make it clear that for the good of the FBI and the Justice Department, he should resign his position effective immediately,” said Congressman Cohen. “In the past, even quite recently, I have expressed my appreciation for Director Comey.  I appreciated his courage as Deputy Attorney General when he stood up to President Bush’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales when they attempted to persuade hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to reauthorize Bush’s domestic surveillance program, which the Justice Department had just determined was illegal.  When, in July of this year, Director Comey recommended no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information while she was Secretary of State but added his own sidebar of opinions to the announcement, I gave Director Comey the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that his making such highly unusual remarks was called into question by many.”

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Stewart proposes bill declaring AG can investigate harassment

House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart says he’ll introduce legislation next session clarifying that the state Attorney General does have the authority to investigate claims of witness tampering or other harassment, reports the Nashville Post.

The move comes two months after a “Jane Doe” in the AG’s investigation of former Rep. Jeremy Durham received harassing materials at her home shortly after the public release of the investigative report. At the time, AG Herb Slatery’s office said it did not have the authority to investigate further.

Stewart said Friday he thinks the AG already does have that authority, but this new legislation would specifically clarify that the AG’s authority “shall extend to any investigation of claims that a witness involved in an investigation by the attorney general and reporter has been threatened or harassed in connection with the investigation, or any other conduct that might hinder or impair any such investigation.”

Stewart said he thinks the bill will have broad support, because it will be hard to vote against it — as it won’t only imply to an investigation in this particular instance but any future investigation by the AG.

Further, from The Tennessean:

In a statement late Friday, House Speaker Beth Harwell said she would support the idea of giving the attorney general authority to investigate such retaliation.

Senate District 10 heats up: Outside group helps Democrat; Gardenhire bashes ‘Detroit values’

An independent group is spending $46,000 for a TV ad praising Democratic 10th Senate District candidate Khristy Wilkinson’s support for Insure Tennessee, reports the Times-Free Press. The 30-second commercials is paid for by the little-known Washington, Iowa-based Heartland Accountability Project and began running on Chattanooga TV stations over the weekend.

The ad never mentions the Nov. 8 election or that Wilkinson is running for office. It doesn’t urge voters to cast ballots for her or refer to her opponent, incumbent Republican Todd Gardenhire, of Chattanooga.

But it does boost her name identification. And it represents the first real sign that state Democrats, or someone, is now playing seriously in the District 10 contest, seen earlier in the year as one of just two possible Democratic pickups in a Senate with a 28-5 Republican majority.

…Gardenhire has outspent Wilkinson in the general election and has aired local TV ads promoting his support of some $100 million for public school teachers. He’s spent about $56,000 on those ads and is expected to spend another $10,000 on a cable ad buy. Continue reading

Nashville, Knoxville newspapers endorse legislative candidates

The Tennessean and the Knoxville News Sentinel have made some endorsements in legislative races, while not endorsing a candidate in the presidential race this year. Otherwise, most papers appear to be steering clear of editorially taking sides in legislative campaigns.

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Jailed Rutherford Sheriff Arnold: There’s a ‘hit out for me’

Jailed Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold falsely told his wife on the phone his life is being threatened, according to a Daily News Journal report on documents filed with U.S. District Court by prosecutors.

 “I have a hit out for me now,” Arnold said to his wife, according to the prosecution’s document.

The prosecution contends the sheriff is still manipulating his wife in a court file that’s called an additional response in opposition to Arnold’s Nashville attorney Tom Dundon seeking Arnold’s release. Judge Kevin Sharp will hold a hearing at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Nashville to consider whether the sheriff should remain locked up while awaiting a jury trial scheduled to start Feb. 7.

Arnold, his uncle John Vanderveer and Joe Russell, a Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office accounting chief, face a 13-count federal indictment of illegally profiting from the inmates the sheriff oversees in Murfreesboro through the sale of JailCigs, an electronic cigarettes business.

Unlike Vanderveer and Russell, the sheriff lost his pretrial release status when U.S. Magistrate Judge Alistair Newbern revoked Arnold’s $250,000 bond. Judge Newbern found probable cause that the sheriff had committed domestic assault, witness tampering and intimidation of his wife involving a Labor Day altercation at the couple’s home in Murfreesboro.

……The prosecution on Wednesday for the second time quoted additional phone conversations from jail between Arnold and his wife after a previous document mentioned them Oct. 21.

The sheriff told his wife that gang members in jail are hoping to “get their tear drop by, you know, shoving a shank deep into my . . . neck.” the document said. “However, Arnold is asked about the hit by a colleague at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, and Arnold admits to that colleague that, in fact, there is not a hit out on him and that he is just “trying to get Megan, you know, to really try to work to get me the hell out of here.”

The prosecution contends that Arnold’s wife was manipulated into making a recent sworn statement asking for her husband to be released and asserting that she wasn’t harmed.

Former Gibson Sheriff Arnold dodges jail time in plea deal

Former Gibson County sheriff Chuck Arnold has pleaded guilty to more than 20 charges in a deal with prosecutors that will put him on probation for the next 10 years and require restitution payments of over $8,000 but keep him out of jail.

Further from the Jackson Sun:

Arnold, 59, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to obtain a controlled substance by fraud; one count of forgery; five counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud; one count of extortion; two counts of theft of property over $1,000; five counts of facilitation of theft and eight counts of official misconduct.

Arnold and 11 other former Gibson County Sheriff’s Office employees were indicted last November on various charges. Arnold’s indictment included 113 counts. Multiple counts of similar charges were dismissed as part of his plea deal.

Numerous other former sheriff’s employees have trials set in the next couple of months.

…According to documents, an audit showed that between July 2013 and September 2014, drugs were picked up under the names of inmates but never given to the inmates, there were issues in accounting for the drug fund, and there were discrepancies between employees’ pay and the time they worked.

Note: This post should have appeared a week earlier, but, well, better late than never.

Trade deal pitched as boon to TN booze producers

Excerpt from a Politico note on U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman’s visit to Nashville Friday to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership, written off by many as “all but dead after a brutal election campaign,” as a boon to Tennessee whiskey and music businesses:

Tennessee whiskey and bourbon account for over half of American spirits exports to TPP countries, which totaled over $557 million last year, according to USTR. The TPP agreement would eliminate spirits tariffs that are now as high as 45 percent. New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan, and Vietnam also would recognize Tennessee whiskey and bourbon as distinctive U.S. products, giving them special protection in those markets.

Nashville is home to Rep. Jim Cooper, one of 28 House Democrats who voted last year for trade promotion authority to help Froman finish the TPP talks. In fact, seven of Tennessee’s nine House members voted for TPA, and so did both of its senators, Republicans Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander. The two Tennessee congressmen who voted against the fast track trade bill were Reps. Steve Cohen, a Democrat, and John Duncan, a Republican.

And here’s the start of an AP story on Froman’s visit:

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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