Legal authority, purpose of Durham investigation questioned

A Breitbart News post by Michael Patrick Leahy says the scope and legal authority of an ongoing investigation by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery into the conduct of State Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) is being questioned by a number of Tennessee political insiders, attorneys and individuals.

At issue is whether the investigation is a political persecution designed to end the career of a brash, ambitious and effective young conservative legislator, or a legitimate exercise of the powers of the Speaker of the House, Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), and Attorney General Slatery.

Also at issue is whether the investigation is a fishing expedition that has expanded its scope to discover information about the private lives of other state legislators.

…Sources tell Breitbart News the investigation is being led by Associate Attorney General Bill Young, Assistant Attorney General Scott Crawford-Sutherland, Assistant Attorney General Linda D. Kirklen, and former FBI agent Walt Valentine, a private investigator in his seventies not employed by the state of Tennessee who has apparently been hired on a contract basis by Attorney General Slatery.

In 2005 and 2006 Crawford-Sutherland served as the lead prosecuting assistant attorney general in Kentucky, working under then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat who now serves as the Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives, in the probe of the hiring practices of Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican.

Nine members of Fletcher’s administration were subsequently convicted of crimes which Fletcher described as comparable to “minor violations of fishing laws” when he pardoned all of those convicted. Fletcher also said that Stumbo “has been carrying out a political vendetta.”

Fletcher was resoundingly defeated for re-election by Democrat Steve Beshear in 2007, 59 percent to 41 percent.

When Crawford-Sutherland resigned as an assistant attorney general in Kentucky in 2011 to set up a legal practice in Nashville, the Nashville Business Journal described him as “a prosecutor who helped bring down the political career of Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher.”

On February 4, one week after Tennessee Attorney General Slatery began the investigation of Durham’s conduct, Speaker Harwell, after apparently coming to think that she, acting on her own, did not have the legal authority to request the Attorney General to initiate such an investigation, “created an [Ad Hoc select] committee that will now lead an investigation into Rep. Jeremy Durham.”

…There is no express provision in the Tennessee Constitution or statutes that directs the Attorney General to conduct non-criminal investigations of alleged conduct of a member of the legislature,” an attorney familiar with the Tennessee Constitution and statutes tells Breitbart News, adding:

“In reviewing the statutes, I am unaware of any publicly available precedent for the Attorney General to conduct an investigation into the non-criminal conduct of a legislator for the purpose of expelling that legislator from the Tennessee General Assembly and the precedent that does exist is typically limited to giving advisory opinions as to what the law allows or disallows in general but not as to the conduct of specific individuals.”

…Several of those interviewed in the probe tell Breitbart News that investigators have merely asked cursory questions about Durham, then have begun to probe about the conduct of other legislators and women who have had any professional or personal contact with either Durham or other legislators. In addition, investigators have demanded, without warrants, that many of those questioned hand over their personal cell phones so that all of the data in the phone can be downloaded for review by the investigators. While some of those who have been interviewed by the investigation have complied with this request, others have refused to do so.

Breitbart News has spoken with three of the dozens of individuals who have been interviewed by investigators from the Attorney General ‘s office, and they tell a consistent story of attempts at intimidation and an investigation fishing for evidence.

“I was interviewed by two people, a woman named Linda and a guy named Scott. They didn’t leave business cards. They asked more questions about others than they did Jeremy Durham,” one person who was interviewed by investigators from the Attorney General’s office tells Breitbart News.

“They briefly asked about him, but mainly they asked me about the women he allegedly harassed and other legislators. They were hunting down gossip on them,” the person says.

“It was good cop, bad cop. Linda was the good cop. Scott, the guy, was really aggressive. It got much more intense.”

“The takeaway for me was, my God, I’m only here to talk about other people,” the first individual adds.

…The investigators for the Attorney General have used intimidation tactics of questionable legality outside the confines of the formal interviews as well.

At 8 am on Saturday morning, February 13, a man, who subsequently identified himself only as “an agent of the Tennessee Attorney General,” forced his way, without being given permission to enter, into the private residence of State Rep. Durham and demanded Durham read a document sent to him by Attorney General Slatery in his presence.

“I opened the door and a man shouldered his way in, he stepped through the door, I wasn’t forcefully holding it, I was kind of holding it half open half closed,” Durham says.

“The man was in his seventies. He had white hair, was about 6 foot, 6 foot 1, kind of slender to average build,” Durham tells Breitbart News, adding:

He did not identify himself by name, but said he was an agent of the Attorney General.

“This is my house. You don’t have my permission to enter,” I told him.

“It’s cold outside,” he responded.

“The 4th Amendment doesn’t care if it’s cold outside. I need you to wait outside,” I told him.

“He was absolutely trying to intimidate me,” Durham says of the man who trespassed into his house that day.

…Ultimately, the man moved outside the house, and Durham joined him there.

“He wanted my iPad. I gave it to him because it was state issued,” Durham tells Breitbart News.

Less than two weeks later, the same man confronted Durham again, this time on the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives on February 22 as Durham sat at his desk waiting for the Speaker to gavel the House back in session for a joint session of the TGA with the Senate for the purpose of confirming State Supreme Court Justice Roger Page.