law enforcement

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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Sheriff pleads guilty to sex with women inmates, beating man

Fentress County Sheriff Chucky Cravens has pleaded guilty to bribing female inmates for sex and beating a male prisoner, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.

Cravens, 47, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday after an investigation that began barely more than a week before. The official charges were three counts of honest services fraud and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. The charges stem back from July to as recently as March 1.

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TBI: Police officer pawned department pistols

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

NASHVILLE – Special Agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have obtained an indictment for a former police officer who is now facing charges of Theft and Official Misconduct.

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Holt drops traffic camera bill amid unpaid ticket talk

State Rep. Andy Holt, the legislature’s leading crusader against traffic camera tickets, dropped a push for  passage of his latest bill on the subject (HB779) Tuesday after the House Transportation Committee rejected an amendment the Dresden Republican had proposed. He also had a bit of back-and-forth banter with a TV reporter later.

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Rep. Holt wins panel OK of traffic camera bill without noting 10 unpaid tickets

State Rep. Andy Holt has ten outstanding and unpaid traffic camera speeding tickets, but failed to tell members of a House subcommittee about them when winning approval of a bill that would make the tickets secret, reports WTVF TV of Nashville.

Holt, R-Dresden, got all ten tickets from traffic camera operations in the town of McKenzie. He’s long been a crusader against traffic cameras and last year posted a Facebook video showing himself burning one while suggesting others do the same. But he refused to answer questions about his tickets from a WTVF reporter.

They (the tickets) date back to October of 2015 and go through January of this year. He’s clocked traveling up to 54 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone.

….McKenzie Police Chief Craig Moates wished Holt would just slow down.

“Obey the speed limit and then a violation would not be an issue,” Chief Moates said. He can’t believe the local state representative would advise people to burn traffic camera tickets.

As introduced, HB779 would prohibit city and county governments from blocking access to courts systems by people who have unpaid traffic tickets. An amendment added in the House Transportation Subcommittee would also block local governments from making public the names of persons with outstanding tickets.

According to the Nashville Scene, Holt told the subcommittee the legislation is needed because some  cities are “denying access to services such as a civil court because individuals have chosen not to pay their photo-enforcement citations.”

“That’s a problem. That’s a severe problem. When people are denied civil rights and opportunities because they have not paid an unenforceable — in my opinion, I’ll leave it at that — because they have chosen not to pay these photo enforcement citations, that too is a problem.”

The bill was approved by the subcommittee on voice vote. It’s scheduled for a vote next week in the full House Transportation Committee as well as the Senate Transportation Committee.

The same House sub killed a separate bill by Holt (HB780) that would have required law enforcement officers using a traffic camera to station themselves in “a clearly marked law enforcement vehicle that is visible from the road to approaching vehicles and shall give a signal of the operation of a manned traffic enforcement camera by use of authorized flashing lights.”

County pays $225K to settle another lawsuit involving ousted sheriff

Rutherford County this week paid about  $225,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Tommy Thompson, a former sheriff’s department major who was fired by former Sheriff Robert Arnold, subsequently convicted of corruption charges and ousted from office.

Further from the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal:

The government cut a $224,999.60 check to settle the case Tuesday, County Finance Director Lisa Nolen said.

Thompson joins other former sheriff’s deputies to accept settlements in wrongful termination lawsuits, including a $340,000 award about a year ago to fired Deputy Chief Virgil Gammon.

Thompson and Gammon both said they provided information to a federal grand jury that indicted Arnold on 14 counts accusing the ex-sheriff of illegally profiting off inmates through the sale electronic cigarettes from a JailCigs business, according to their lawsuits. Thompson also spoke to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, his lawsuit states.

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THP officers cleared in shooting; wounded man charged

Two Tennessee Highway Patrol officers who opened fire on a man during a traffic stop on Interstate 26 have been cleared of any wrongdoing, while the suspect they shot has been indicted by a Sullivan County grand jury, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

The shooting, which occurred Jan. 12 in Kingsport, was the subject of a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe.

True bills were returned against Richard D. Jenny, 39, of Johnson City, on two counts of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said that after being presented evidence collected by the TBI, the grand jury determined that the troopers, Alex Perry and Andrew Connors, were put in fear for their lives by Jenny’s alleged actions, and did not use excessive force.

“The grand jury’s finding was that Mr. Jenny pulled a pistol on them and under the circumstances they acted reasonably and appropriately,” Staubus said.

… Prior to this week’s indictments, Jenny had been released from HVMC. Earlier this week, he sought additional care at Johnson City Medical Center, where he was released and arrested on Friday…. A TBI records request about Jenny’s history revealed more than a dozen criminal charges against him over the past 20 years in Tennessee…. Offenses include domestic assault, possession of drugs for resale, theft, evading arrest and possession of a sawed-off shotgun.

TBI accuses man of theft from TN National Guard and sheriff’s office

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

NASHVILLE – An investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters has resulted in the arrest of a Linden man on charges of theft and official misconduct.                                                                   

At the initial request of 21st District Attorney General Kim Helper, in August 2015, TBI Special Agents began working with the Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in investigating then-Army National Guard Sergeant Dave Pendleton on allegations of theft. At that time, Pendleton was working with the Army National Guard, and was stationed at the National Guard Armory in Perry County.

During the course of the investigation, Agents developed information that between July 2014 and August 2015, while serving as a supply sergeant, Pendleton was responsible for the theft of approximately $129,369 worth of government property, including aviation and vehicle fuel, and equipment. The investigation further revealed that while employed as a deputy with the Perry County Sheriff’s Office, Pendleton used his county-issued gas key in July and August 2015 to purchase gas that was used in his private vehicle.

Agents also learned that while employed as a deputy, Pendleton arrested an individual on May 18, 2015, and confiscated a weapon. That weapon was never entered into evidence and was last seen in Pendleton’s possession. Pendleton is no longer an employee of either the Perry County Sheriff’s Office or the Army National Guard.

On Monday, the Perry County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Pendleton (DOB 8/27/1977) with one count of Theft over $60,000 and five counts of Official Misconduct. Pendleton was arrested Tuesday and booked into the Perry County Jail on a $25,000 bond.

Rep. Holt pays traffic camera tickets with Monopoly money

News release from state Rep. Andy Holt

NASHVILLE, Feb. 16, 2017– On Thursday, Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) took to Facebook Live where he paid two traffic camera tickets with Monopoly money and a photographed image of a $50 bill. On one of the payments, Holt wrote “In the spirit of justice,” before sending it off to processors. Holt says he did the video in an effort to raise awareness for new legislation, aimed at traffic cameras, he’s introducing along with Senator John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) and Senate Transportation Chairman Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta). (Note: The video is HERE.)

“Cities across the state, in concert with photo-enforcement companies, continue to skirt the law and take advantage of our taxpayers, and I won’t rest until everyone knows the truth about this,” says Holt.

The proposed legislation will require all unmanned traffic cameras be used only from a marked police car with the lights blazing, and will require the suspect to be pulled over by the law enforcement officer operating the manned photo-enforcement device.

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

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