crime

Haslam to consider clemency for reported sex abuse victim who committed murder at age 16

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says his administration has begun gathering information on Cyntoia Brown, a Nashville woman whose murder conviction has become a cause célèbre, reports WPLN. But a decision on whether to grant her clemency is unlikely to come until the last days of his term in January, 2019, in keeping with a tradition established by predecessors.

Brown was convicted more than a decade ago for the murder of a Nashville man. Advocates for Brown say she was caught up in a so-called “sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline.” At 16 years old at the time of the crime, Brown says she was the victim of sex trafficking.

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TN Supreme Court: You can’t claim self-defense if ‘engaged in unlawful activity’

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Supreme Court of Tennessee clarified the law of self-defense when the person making the claim is engaged in unlawful activity at the time the need for self-defense occurred. This clarification is important because some trial courts have not allowed defendants to assert self-defense when it appeared they were engaged in unlawful activity at the time they used force to defend themselves.

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Burchett offered check (declined) and apology (accepted) after Saudi teen’s attack

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, a candidate for the 2nd Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan, was one of several motorists who came under attack from a Saudi Arabian citizen who recently enrolled at the University of Tennessee to study nursing, reports the News Sentinel. The youth’s lawyer says he suffered “an unexpected mental breakdown” in the episode, which warrants say involved pounding on cars and grabbing at the drivers as they passed him on a street near the UT Knoxville campus.

“Did they screen this guy at all for mental health issues?” Burchett said Friday of 19-year-old Nofl Hassan Alatyah. “I’m not getting any answers, and I’m very frustrated.”

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Former ETSU tennis coach indicted on fraud and theft charges

Press release from state comptroller’s office

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released an investigation that has resulted in the indictment of Yaser Zaatini, the former Director of Tennis and coach at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). The investigation was initiated after the ETSU Department of Internal Audit reported financial discrepancies in the tennis program.

Investigators determined that from September 2011 through February 2017, Zaatini misappropriated at least $45,540 from ETSU and often provided fabricated or altered documents to the ETSU Athletics Department. Zaatini used a variety of methods to misappropriate the money. Zaatini fabricated and submitted at least 65 fraudulent student athlete per diem documents, which often appeared to contain copies of student athletes’ signatures. The student athletes told investigators that they had neither signed the documents nor received the per diem payments. Zaatini received money to which he was not entitled.

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TBI agents, investigating former Rep. Jeremy Durham, ask legislators about bribery

TBI agents recently interviewed at least two state legislators – House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden — in conjunction with a criminal investigation into former Rep. Jerry Durham, reports The Tennessean. The agents specifically asked about bribery, but Casada and Holt said they were unaware of any such activity.

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Domestic assault charge against Maury County Democratic party chair dropped

Charges of domestic assault were dropped against Maury County’s Democratic Party chairman last week despite a police report that described his girlfriend as having a laceration above her right eyebrow after a confrontation with him, reports the Columbia Daily Herald.

Seth James Campbell, 28, was arrested Oct. 5, the morning after the alleged incident, a Columbia Police report said. After stepping aside briefly as chairman, Campbell was reinstated by the Democratic Party’s steering committee and will continue in his role.

“Everything totally was resolved; the DA dropped all charges,” Campbell told The Daily Herald on Saturday. “The party held an emergency executive committee meeting on Oct. 10 and voted to stay the course, pending a full investigation. With the charges being dropped, they have asked me to continue as chair of the party.”

Campbell challenged state Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, for her seat in the 2016 election as an independent. The Mt. Pleasant High School special education teacher and assistant football coach was named party chairman in March.

The girlfriend told police she did not want to press charges and sent the newspaper an email saying, “The officers may have had the best of intentions, but Seth should never have been arrested.”

TN political leaders decry church shooting; Trump silent

Tennessee politicians expressed concern and sympathy for victims of a Sunday shooting in an Antioch church that left one woman dead and seven others injured, mostly in tweets. While collecting some of those tweets in one story, The Tennessean also reports that President Donald Trump did not tweet condolences as he “spent Sunday in a Twitter battle with professional athletes over patriotism.”

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Former county mayor, employees indicted on theft charges

News release from state comptroller’s office

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, working in conjunction with the investigator from the 24th Judicial District, has released an investigation related to several former Decatur County employees and former County Mayor Michael Smith.

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Former state rep gets 21-year sentence for Ponzi scheme

One-time Tennessee legislator Larry Bates drew a prison sentence of 21 years and 10 months for a $20 million Ponzi scheme around the family business of selling gold and silver to investors on Tuesday, reports the Memphis Daily News.

Bates and his family did so with an appeal based on political and economic instability and focused on pitches on Christian media outlets as well as their own Information Radio Network Inc.

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Indictment issued in ‘acts of hate’ against TN mosque

News release from U.S. attorney’s office, Nashville

Charles Dwight Stout, III, 19, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury and charged with obstruction of justice, announced Jack Smith, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. The charge relates to the ongoing investigation into the vandalism of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro on July 10, 2017.

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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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