law enforcement

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson facing criminal charges

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson, a former state legislator, has been charged with forgery and booked at the county jail he oversees. He was freed on $30,000 bail after being booked at the Bradley County Jail, according to media reports.

From the Times Free Press:

The charges — six counts of knowingly holding or using forged or falsified car titles — arise from a Times Free Press investigation published in December into Watson’s unlicensed used car sales.

The charges are Class E felonies, each punishable by one to six years in prison and fines of up to $3,000.

None of the charges brought Wednesday by the Bradley County grand jury relate to any other allegations of misconduct by Watson that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been looking into for 13 months. The special prosecutor in the case, 4th Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn, did not reply Friday when asked whether the investigation is over or if more charges are possible.

Watson, a four-term state legislator and former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, did not appear publicly after being booked.

In a statement released through his attorney, James F. Logan Jr., the sheriff said he has cooperated fully with the TBI and other agencies in the probe of what he called “accusations from some who desire to have more control over county government and the operations of the Sheriff’s Office.”

Watson said Bradley County residents and his employees can be assured the sheriff’s office will “continue to provide the best services possible to insure [sic] the safety and property of all citizens and visitors.”

…”It’s an incredibly sad event” for the sheriff to be booked into his own jail, Logan said, adding that Watson “wants justice.”

 

Note: Watson is the fourth Tennessee sheriff to face criminal charges in the past year or so. The others, now former sheriffs who were accused of misconduct while in office, were Gibson County Sheriff Chuck Arnold, Fentress County Sheriff Chucky Cravens and Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold. They have all pleaded guilty to some charges.

Also, this post updates, expands and replaces original post.

Knox County approved for enforcing fed immigration laws through 287(g) program

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has approved Knox County’s participation in the controversial 287(g) program, reports the News Sentinel.

The two bodies signed a memorandum of agreement earlier this month that dictates the Knox County Sheriff’s Office’s responsibilities in training and allowing a certain number of local deputies to be acting ICE agents. It makes Knox County the only jurisdiction in the state participating in this federal program.

The program deputizes local law enforcement officials to act on behalf of and in place of federal immigration authorities in exchange for training and funding.

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Republicans bash Nashville immigration ordinance (including pledge to invalidate it, if passed)

Nashville’s Democrat-dominated Metro Council approved Tuesday on second reading – with a third approval required next month – a “Nashville together” ordinance that would prohibit using any city funds, resources or facilities to assist enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The state’s Republican officeholders have been bashing the move since then. Here’s a sampler with one pro-ordinance press release thrown in.

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Trump picks DA Dunavant as U.S. Attorney General for West TN

Michael Dunavant, who has been a state district attorney since 2006, has been nominated by President Donald Trump as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee

Dunavant, of Covingon, now serves as DA for Tennessee’s 25th Judicial District,  which covers Fayette, Hardeman, Lauderdale, McNairy and Tipton counties.

Some info on Dunavant from a Jackson Sun report in 2014, when he was running for a new eight-year term as DA (he won with 20,931 votes to 10,748 for challenger D.J. Norton of McNairy County):

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Whitwell police chief charged with theft, official misconduct, illegal drug sales, food stamp fraud

A nine-count indictment returned by a Marion County grand jury accuses Whitwell Police Chief Rodney Easterly of theft, official misconduct, illegal drug sales and fraudulently obtaining food stamps, reports the Times Free Press.

Evidence was presented to the grand jury by Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston’s office after 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor’s office stepped aside. Taylor’s office has worked with the chief before on criminal cases since the Whitwell Police Department is within the 12th Judicial District’s six-county jurisdiction.

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Witness tampering added to charges in Monroe County vote buying cases

Witness tampering has been added to the list of  federal charges against Brian “Wormy” Hodge, who is accused of buying votes to help Randy White get elected Monroe County sheriff in 2014, reports the News Sentinel.

 Hodge was initially indicted in February on charges he recruited now-confessed chronic vote buyer Betty Jane Best to funnel money he supplied to voters willing to cast their ballots for White and help those voters use the absentee ballot process to do so.

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Police officer charged with patronizing prostitutes while on duty

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

MEMPHIS – An investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has resulted in the indictment of a Ripley police officer on charges of official misconduct and patronizing prostitution.

At the request of 25th District Attorney General Mike Dunavant, on March 27th, TBI Special Agents began investigating Donald Bonds, who is a lieutenant with the Ripley Police Department, on allegations of sexual misconduct. During the course of the investigation, Agents developed information that on two different occasions in January and February 2017, Bonds paid to have sex while on duty and inside his police vehicle.

On June 5th, the Lauderdale County Grand Jury returned indictments, charging Donald Orvell Bonds (DOB 03/01/1968) with four counts of Official Misconduct and two counts of Patronizing Prostitution. Bonds was taken into custody without incident and booked into the Lauderdale County Justice Complex. He was released after posting a $10,000 bond. Bonds is currently suspended without pay.

On fines for violations of TN campaign finance, lobbying laws going unpaid

The Registry of Election Finance and the Tennessee Ethics Commission have levied $730,000 in civil penalties since 2010, but collected just 21 percent of that total, reports The Tennessean.

The Registry, which oversees enforcement of campaign finance laws, has $356,125 in unpaid fines during the period while the Ethics Commission, which oversees enforcement of lobbying laws and the filing of conflict-of-interest disclosures, has $218,380 in unpaid penalties. (Note: A big chunk of the unpaid Registry penalties are from 2016, when the agency assessed $215,300 in fines with $172,275 unpaid as of last month, according to Registry figures.) If other unpaid penalties going back up to  26 years are added, the unpaid total reaches more than $1 million.

These findings underline what many Tennessee politicos already know: The public entities tasked with holding officials accountable have little, if any, teeth.

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State trooper didn’t check inside wreck; body found later by tow truck driver

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has suspended a sergeant for two days without pay after he failed to find a man’s body in a wrecked minivan he didn’t “inspect or inventory,” reports the News Sentinel.

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Legislature OKs making officer-involved shooting probes public (if DA approves)

News release from House Democratic Caucus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee House of Representatives has voted to make TBI investigative records around officer-involved shooting deaths public. Last week, the Tennessee Senate approved the bill unanimously. Senate Bill 1039 and House Bill 277 is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, and Representative G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis.

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