Durham files criminal trespass charge against journalist

Embattled state Rep. Jeremy Durham has brought criminal trespass charges against Nashville Scene reporter Cari Wade Gervin, contending she tried to enter his Franklin home while seeking an interview.

In an affidavit, the Republican lawmaker contends Gervin on Tuesday evening “attempted to enter the residence over multiple objections and demands” from Durham and his wife, Jessica, that she leave.

“The Durhams were able to physically prevent Ms. Gervin’s body from completely entering the residence. However, Ms. Gervin then placed her foot in the doorway, preventing the door from closing,” says the affidavit, posted by former state Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, on his Facebook page.

When the door was subsequently closed, the affidavit says, Gervin “remained in the front yard of the property for another 5-10 minutes.”

The Scene, quoting Gervin, gave a somewhat differing account of the encounter.

“When Gervin rang the doorbell of Durham’s residence shortly after 8 p.m. and subsequently introduced herself, the representative screamed at her to leave his property and tried to grab her cellphone out of her hand. Soon after, because Gervin had momentarily partially stepped onto his threshold during the altercation, Durham called the police to report that she was ‘criminally trespassing’,” the Scene said.

Durham called police, and Gervin waited on the street in front of the residence for the arrival of three Franklin officers and then talked with two of them while apparently recording the conversation, according to the Scene account. She was then allowed to leave, with police telling her there would be an investigation.

From the Scene story: “Here’s the situation. I’ve got two witnesses that said you tried to cross the threshold of a house uninvited,’ (police Sgt. Todd) Stamper said. ‘By state law, that is criminal trespass. Doesn’t matter if you’re a journalist, doesn’t matter if he’s a public official. Does not matte”

Gervin is quoted as saying in her 14-year career of reporting, “I have never been physically intimidated in this manner by anyone, much less by an elected public official.”

The summons to Williamson County General Sessions Court that accompanied Durham’s affidavit indicates no court date has been set on the misdemeanor charge.

Gervin, who previously worked in Knoxville for Metro Pulse, no longer published, said in a text message that she had been advised not to further discuss the episode while charges are pending.

Campfield’s Facebook posting of the Durham affidavit includes criticism of her past reporting on his activities.

The Scene story says Gervin was trying to question Durham, who took a two-week leave of absence from the Legislature in February, about entries in his latest campaign finance disclosure that “suggest he was spending a lot of time away from treatment” that the legislator reportedly was seeking while accused of sexually harassing women and engaged in “apparent campaigning” instead.

Gervin said Durham had previously refused to return her phone calls and had sent her a text message asking her not to contact him.

The episode came during a week when Breitbart News, a national news website with staunchly conservative leanings, ran a couple of stories questioning whether the investigation of Durham by state Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office, requested by House Speaker Beth Harwell, is legally authorized under Tennessee’s state constitution and state law. State Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, has requested a formal opinion from Slatery on the legal validity of the investigation.

State Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, told the online publication she believes the investigation is inappropriate and could lead to more support next year for her efforts to have the attorney general elected by popular vote rather than being appointed by the state Supreme Court.

Note: This post basically updates and expands previous post HERE.