By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — While there’s been progress in making Tennessee a safer state, much remains to be done, particularly on domestic violence, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday.
The Republican governor kicked off a public safety summit that also focused on Tennessee’s sentencing laws, homeland security concerns, drug abuse and trafficking and other issues.
Haslam created his public safety subcabinet about four years ago to coordinate efforts to make Tennessee safer.
Since 2010, the governor said reported domestic violence offenses in Tennessee have decreased nearly 14 percent. Last year, Tennessee was ranked the 10th highest in the nation for the rate of women killed by men.
“I’ll be really clear, they’re still too high,” Haslam said. “But a 14 percent decrease is a good place to start.” Continue reading →
COLLEGEDALE, Tenn. (AP) — An East Tennessee city of fewer than 7,000 residents is poised to become the first municipality in the state to grant health care benefits to domestic partners.
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/12shZN7 ), Collegedale City Commission members last week passed on first reading a plan to extend the same benefits married city workers receive to heterosexual and same-sex partners of city employees.
A consultant with the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service said that, if the commissioners approve the proposal again, Collegedale would become the first among Tennessee’s 346 cities to cover domestic partnerships.
Consultant Bonnie Jones said she is surprised one of the larger cities might not be the first.
“Collegedale is kind of on the cutting edge,” Jones said.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released a report on family violence Wednesday and immediately drew fire from a domestic violence group astounded that the report did not address unmarried and same-sex couples, according to The Tennessean. The report analyzed more than 40,000 incidents of domestic violence involving spouses, children, grandparents or extended family in 2012. The report found that simple assaults accounted for two out of every three domestic violence incidents, women were twice as likely be victims and that nearly two out of every 10 incidents involved drugs or alcohol.
But the report omitted another 40,000 or so incidents involving unmarried and same-sex couples, which led a top victims’ advocate to question the report’s worth.
“It’s crazy. I don’t know why they’d do that. It’s as serious for victims who are not married as it is for those who are. I’m not sure that report will be that useful,” said Kathy Walsh, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence. “Families include couples who live together and have children, it includes same-sex couples who live together.”
…”You’re only looking at half of the problem,” she said.
The TBI responded by saying they plan to issue more domestic violence reports in the future, but that non-familial cases were not a focus on their initial report.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that while the crime rate is showing an overall decline in Tennessee, instances of aggravated assault, prescription drug abuse and domestic violence remain major concerns for his administration.
The Republican governor said at a meeting of more than 400 public safety officials that domestic violence accounts for about half of all crimes committed in the state each year.
“If you look at the chart this year in terms of total crime we really show good progress on everything except domestic assault,” Haslam told reporters after speaking to the group.
“We’re already at the bottom end of states in terms of rankings there,” he said. “So we’re going to want to focus that more.”
Haslam this year introduced and signed into law a measure to require mandatory jail time for repeat convictions for domestic violence. He said it’s too soon to tell if the change has made a significant difference, but that there’s reason to be optimistic.
“I’ve got to believe that will have an impact as we move forward,” he said. “It’s a substantial message that if you’re a repeat offender, you’re going to go to jail regardless of who you are.”
The governor said several members of his Cabinet will continue to work with law enforcement to seek ways to reduce violent crimes and drug abuse.
“If you look at the drug-related numbers of those assaults, it’s pretty high number,” he said. “There’s a mental health component for some of those as well.”
Former U.S. Congressional candidate Brad Staats was arrested early on Sunday morning after allegedly slapping his wife during a domestic dispute, reports The City Paper. Staats admitted to police that he “pushed his wife … down onto a bed then left the location,” according to a Metro Nashville Police Department affidavit. The report also indicates that Staats’ wife Bethany called police to their Hermitage home and told police Staats slapped her.
“Ms. Staats did have a red mark on her left cheek consistent with her statement,” the affidavit reads.
The former Republican candidate for Tennessee’s 5th District was booked into Davidson County Jail at 3:39 a.m. Sunday. Staats, 43, was charged with one count of misdemeanor domestic assault, posted a $5,000 bond and was released.
Staats, whose campaign site describes him as a “family matters” conservative, ran against longtime Democratic incumbent Congressman Jim Cooper in November’s election. Cooper won by more than 30 percent of the vote.
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The domestic assault case of state Rep. David Hawk has been bound over to a grand jury.
The Greeneville Republican was charged in March. At a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, a judge heard testimony from two sheriff’s deputies and Hawk’s wife, Crystal.
According to The Greeneville Sun (http://bit.ly/Poha6v ), she testified that her husband threw her out of bed the morning of March 18, then struck her in the face, giving her a black eye.
Hawk has denied striking his wife. He said she pulled a gun on him and threatened to shoot.
Crystal Hawk testified Tuesday that there were no guns in the house.
Hawk, who is seeking re-election in November, didn’t testify at the hearing. But he told reporters after the proceeding that he’s “completely innocent.”
Memphis City Council member Janis Fullilove and her husband Vernon Chalmers were arrested Tuesday in the latest in a series of domestic altercations at their home southeast of Memphis International Airport, reports the Commercial Appeal. Each suffered minor injuries and both were charged with domestic assault causing bodily harm.
Police responded to the couple’s home in the 3300 block of Morningview at about 12:17 a.m. Chalmers, 55, told officers he had been out baby-sitting the couple’s grandchildren and visited a friend afterward. When he returned home, Fullilove, 62, accused him of cheating on her and began throwing dishes, according to police.
Chalmers told police that Fullilove had been drinking and that he pushed her to the floor and held her down. Officers reported that Chalmers’ arm was cut in the confrontation.
Fullilove passed out on the sidewalk while being taken to a police car.
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A preliminary hearing in the domestic assault case of state Rep. David Hawk has been rescheduled and the district attorney has recused himself from the case.
The Greeneville Sun reports (http://bit.ly/PTjV05 ) a hearing scheduled for Monday was moved to Sept. 11, after the Aug. 2 primary election in which Hawk is running against three other Republicans to keep his state house seat.
Hawk said the election was not the reason for the delay. He said Joseph Baugh, who was appointed as special prosecutor after District Attorney General C. Berkeley Bell recused himself, asked for the hearing to be rescheduled.
Hawk pleaded not guilty to the charge filed in March by his wife, Crystal Goan Hawk, who said her husband struck her in the face with his hand, knocking her down.
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An East Tennessee state legislator has been granted a continuance in a domestic assault case filed by his wife.
The Greeneville Sun (http://bit.ly/K7X4ZP ) reported Greene County General Sessions court moved back a scheduled appearance by Rep. David Hawk to July 16. The Greeneville Republican lawmaker had been scheduled to appear Monday afternoon.
The five-term representative pleaded not guilty a day after the charge was filed March 18.
Crystal Goan Hawk told deputies her husband struck her in the face with his hand, knocking her down.
There was no immediate word why the legislator requested the continuance.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that increases the penalty for domestic assault is headed to the governor for his signature.
The measure, which is part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s crime package, was unanimously approved 33-0 by the Senate on Wednesday. The companion bill passed the House 97-1 last week.
The legislation carried by Republican Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville adds fines and jail time for second and subsequent convictions of domestic assault.
It originally would have cost local jails about $8 million, but the proposal was amended to decrease jail time, as well as add a dollar to the amount the state pays for housing jail inmates. The changes reduced the cost to local jails by about $2 million.
Haslam has appropriated close to $600,000 in his budget for the legislation.
A news release is below