law enforcement

Trump nominates U.S. Marshal for East TN

David G. Jolley, who once was U.S. Marshal for West Tennessee, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to become U.S. Marshall for East Tennessee.

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Dept. of Safety returning $112K in misspent fed forfeiture funds

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security had $112,614 in inappropriate spending on food and catering that it received from federal forfeiture funds, according to a U.S. Department of Justice audit. Department officials say they will  reimburse the federal government for the questioned expenditures.

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Memphis police block Forrest cover-up, arrest eight protesters

Police twice blocked protester efforts to cover a Memphis monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest on Saturday, then arrested several participants and dispersed the angry crowd, reports the Commercial Appeal.

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State offers $10,000 reward in murder of Memphis toddler

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE  Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension, arrest and conviction of any person or persons responsible for the June murder of a toddler in Memphis.

“We want whoever is responsible for this tragic crime to be brought to justice,” Haslam said.  “No tips are too small and we ask anyone who may have witnessed anything near the crime scene or with any knowledge of the case to come forward.”

Two-year old Laylah Washington was traveling in a car with her mother on June 11 when struck by gunfire from an approaching vehicle on Kirby Rd. near Raines Rd. The child subsequently passed away at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital.

District Attorney General Amy Weirich requested the reward from the governor to help generate leads in this unsolved case. The Memphis Police Department is investigating the case.

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to contact the Memphis Crime Stoppers at 901-528-2274.

Sheriff, already under indictment, faces new flap over helping bail-bondsman wife in multi-state manhunt

Start of a Times Free Press report on Sunday:

In one epic April weekend, Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson threatened a group of inmates for talking trash about his bail-bondsman wife; embroiled more than a dozen law officers in a multistate manhunt for one of her bail skips; and pulled a gun on a motorist in Georgia, where he has no authority — all with his wife and another bondsman riding along in his official sheriff’s vehicle.

The episode lends weight to complaints from the Bradley County bail bonding community of a thumb on the scales in favor of the sheriff’s wife, Tenille Watson. It also echoes allegations of wrongdoing by Sheriff Watson forwarded last year to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

That TBI investigation resulted in Watson being indicted on six felony counts of using forged or altered vehicle titles in connection with his sideline business as a used-car dealer. Watson was booked July 21. No court date had been set in that case as of Friday. TBI spokeswoman Susan Niland said Thursday the investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, local attorneys asked to review documents and videos related to Watson’s Easter weekend activities say he could have opened himself up to liability ranging from civil rights violations to kidnapping and aggravated assault.

The Times Free Press sent Watson a detailed list of questions Thursday morning about his activities that weekend and asked for his comment. He did not respond.

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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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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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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ABOUT THIS BLOG

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

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