At a Wednesday hearing, legislators called it “egregious” that state parole officials claimed they were supervising felons who later turned out to be dead. But what upset them even more, reports the Tennessean, was the fact that two parole officers were not arrested after being caught falsifying some of those dead felons’ files. “Why is that?” asked state Rep. Barrett Rich, R-Somerville, vice chairman of the Government Operations Joint Subcommittee on Judiciary and Government.
Gary Tullock, assistant commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Correction who oversees supervision of the state’s felons, struggled to respond.
“I don’t have a good answer for you, is it a crime –” Tullock began, when Rich cut him off.
“Falsifying documents, certainly state documents, would be a crime,” Rich replied. “And, if that hasn’t been referred to the district attorney general for the county that the offense occurred in, then I think certainly it would be imperative for you to do so.”
Legislators at Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing blasted the Tennessee Board of Parole in light of a critical audit accusing the agency of supervising dead felons, not properly supervising live ones and failing to double-check parole officers’ work through supervisory reviews.
The subcommittee gave the Parole Board a year to correct the problems before auditors return to check on their progress. Lawmakers were unmoved when Charles Traughber, Parole Board chairman, said that was not enough time.
“Knowing that you’re not giving them enough time to resolve all of these findings and make a serious dent in it, it would take Superman to do that,” Traughber complained. “And we don’t have Superman.”
State Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, who chairs the subcommittee, offered a blunt reply.
“These findings are of such magnitude that they require an immediate and urgent response,” he said. “So, thank you very much.”
— Note: See also the TNReport rundown, which includes video/
Finished with a sentence of six months’ home detention and two years’ probation that ended in 2010, former state Sen. Ward Crutchfield won’t answer one of the juiciest political questions in Chattanooga, reports Chris Carroll. Will he run for City Council in March?
“A lot of people would like to know,” the 83-year-old said with a reedy laugh at a local Democratic gathering last week. “I’m getting calls from all over.
“I’m not trying to be funny,” he said, “but that’s all I’m going to say about it right now.”
Two years removed from open-heart surgery, Crutchfield navigates salad bars instead of the steak dinners he enjoyed as a state senator. He’s the lingering ghost of a bygone era, a shadow of the cigar-chewing political bull he once was.
A try at resurrection would follow perhaps the most epic tumble in Chattanooga political history.
…Crutchfield’s still-active campaign account shows a balance of $145,809, according to disclosures filed in July. Officials said he could use the money in a City Council bid.
In the last four years, Crutchfield has donated $20,000 to various organizations and candidates, including $4,650 to the Hamilton County Democratic Party
…The qualifying deadline for City Council is Dec. 20.
“I’m doing well, feeling fine,” Crutchfield said. “You’ll hear a lot out of me later.”
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Former Dyer County Sheriff Tommy Cribbs has been sentenced to 24 months in prison and fined $10,000 for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
He had pleaded guilty to possessing a Weatherby .300 Magnum Vanguard.
Cribbs was sheriff during the 1970s and 80s. In 1985 he pleaded guilty to threatening witnesses, prisoner brutality, defrauding insurance companies and other charges. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison on federal and state charges.
According to the State Gazette of Dyersburg, Cribbs has had several legal encounters in the past few years.
Nearly three months after a Unicoi County grand jury indicted Sheriff Kent Harris on 10 felony charges, the county is maintaining a “wait-and-see” approach on what to do about the sheriff, reports the Johnson City Press. County officials are still waiting on action from the state attorney general’s office before making any moves of their own regarding Harris’ position, according to County Mayor Greg Lynch.
“It’s not anything that’s dead in the water,” Lynch said. “It’s on hold right now.”
In late October, the County Commission heard from County Attorney Doug Shults who, at that time, told the commission that he had received information from District Attorney General Tony Clark that the state attorney general’s office was looking into civil actions relative to Harris’ removal from office.
On Oct. 14, a grand jury returned 10 true bills charging Harris with 10 felonies, including six counts of official misconduct and one count each of tampering with evidence, theft over $1,000, criminal simulation and attempted aggravated assault.
Ouster proceedings can be initiated by the state attorney general’s office, the district attorney general’s office or the county. Should the County Commission seek the ouster, the costs associated with the proceedings would fall to the county.
State Sen. Bill Ketron contends a critic of his voter ID law proved the legislation is needed by being a convicted felon who fraudulently voted for several years, reports the Daily News Journal.. “This is about following the laws we have on the books,” said Ketron, a Murfreesboro Republican who sponsored the voter ID law. “He disenfranchised my rights.”
Ketron held a press conference Monday afternoon and teamed with former Rutherford County Democratic Party Chairman Jonathon Fagan. The duo named current local Democratic Party Vice Chairman Tony Pegel as a former convicted felon who they contend was allowed to vote from 1992 through 2010 even though Pegel failed to provide required details about his conviction to the Rutherford County Election Commission.
“He robbed the Smoky Mountain Market in East Tennessee,” Ketron said.
Two phone messages were left for Pegel, but the Burnt Knob Road area resident could not be reached for comment.
Ketron took issue with Pegel in particular for writing a recent guest column he submitted to The Daily News Journal critical of the senator’s previous guest column in support of the voter ID law.
“Mr. Pegel stated I had been misleading citizens in my editorial regarding the number of felons who had voted ineligible in Tennessee,” Ketron said. “In fact, he knew better since at that time he had already petitioned to have his rights restored after voting ineligible for 16 years. He is not the only one. We had over 10,000 ineligible felons on our voter rolls before the Election Coordinator encouraged county election officials to purge the rolls in accordance with Tennessee law.”
…Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Puttbrese said Ketron pushed voter ID legislation from a proposed bill handed out in Washington.
“He’s just carrying water for national special interests, there’s no doubt about it,” Puttbrese said. “That’s ridiculous.”
Ketron’s reaction to Pegel is much worse, Puttbrese added.
“The fact that Sen. Ketron would stoop so low to engage in a personal smear campaign against one of his constituents is distasteful and disgusting,” Puttbrese said. “The voter ID law doesn’t do anything to weed out who the felons are.”
See also Jeff Woods’ take on the news conference. An excerpt: But the Murfreesboro Republican then went on to explain that, on his voter registration form, Pegel actually checked the box to admit he had been a felon (according to Ketron, he robbed a convenience store) and only through the incompetence of election officials was Pegel then allowed to vote. Apparently, no one noticed he checked the box or, if they did, they didn’t care.
So how would this have been prevented by requiring Pegel to show photo ID? It wouldn’t have, but so what? Ketron was having fun here. And he wasn’t finished yet. He handed the microphone to former Rutherford County Democratic Party chairman Jonathan Fagan who went after–who else?–Chip Forrester and “the radical fringe” running Old Hickory’s once-proud party.
A man who received a full pardon in Georgia for a felony drug conviction is suing in Tennessee to obtain the right to own abd carry a gun, reports The Tennessean.
David Scott Blackwell, who now lives in Franlkin, is suing the state after being denied a gun permit in Tennessee, arguing that the Georgia pardon fully restored his rights — even the right to bear arms.
(The case) has brought out unusually vocal support from Second Amendment advocates, who in prior years have been hesitant to support some felons’ rights to possess firearms. Among those advocates is the Tennessee Firearms Association, which downplays the fact that Blackwell is a convicted felon, instead painting it as a conflict between the constitutional powers of the pardon and Tennessee lawmakers who have written laws to restrict felons’ rights.
This marks the first time in the association’s 16 years that it has filed a brief in any lawsuit.
“Georgia’s pardon system granted him a full pardon, and it specifically
says he has the right to purchase and acquire guns,” said John Harris, a Nashville attorney who serves as the volunteer executive director for the Tennessee Firearms Association. “This is a question of, can the Tennessee General Assembly pass a statute that restricts the constitutional authority of another branch of the government?”
Blackwell failed to convince a Davidson County Chancery Court judge, but has appealed. The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently heard arguments and is considering the case.
“The pardon restores constitutional rights — that’s what a pardon does,” said Blackwell’s attorney, David Raybin. “Therefore, it restores his right to a firearm. That’s it, in its simplest terms.”
But the state is opposing Blackwell, saying laws passed by the Tennessee legislature prohibiting felons from possessing firearms apply to those whose rights have been restored.
“It is reasonable for the legislature to determine that felony drug offenders, even those who subsequently receive a pardon, are likely to misuse firearms in the future,” wrote the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office. “This is due to the well-known connection between guns and drugs.”
Court records show Blackwell was convicted in 1989 in Georgia on three counts of selling cocaine. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined $3,000. In 2003, he applied and received a full, unconditional pardon. And that pardon spelled out what Blackwell was regaining.
“All civil and political rights, including the right to receive, possess, or transport in commerce a firearm … are hereby restored,” the Georgia pardon reads.
In 2009, having moved to Tennessee, Blackwell sought out information on whether he could possess a firearm here, writing to state Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, who in turn asked Tennessee’s attorney general for guidance.
The attorney general said Blackwell could not own a gun here.
Raybin said that legislation — like Tennessee’s prohibition on felons owning guns — is trumped by powers enshrined in a state’s constitution — like the power to pardon and restore felons’ rights. When the two conflict, the constitution should win, he said.
A Sullivan County grand jury investigation of allegedly illegally registered voters, instigated after Administrator of Elections Jason Booher claimed voter fraud had occurred in the county for years, showed nothing to justify spending any more resources on the allegations, reports the Kingsport Times-News. Shortly after taking office in 2009, Booher publicly called for an investigation into information given to him by state election officials that he said indicated about 100 felons fraudulently registered, were registered still, and voted in the county — some going back as far as the early 1960s.
…Booher later publicly said he’d turned 86 names over to Wells — and that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was on the case.
The TBI’s presentation to the grand jury revealed most of the people identified for investigation by Booher — 55 of the 86 — had not actually voted since being convicted of a felony and having registered to vote, according to the grand jury report dated Aug. 30.
Twenty-six had voted — some of whom had truthfully noted their felony conviction on a voter registration application, and some of whom had answered falsely.
Two of the total 86 were dead. Another has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. And two more had their voting rights legally restored.
“Those who had voted were interviewed, and each gave an explanation which was not unreasonable or unbelievable and did not show any intent to violate the law,” the grand jury’s report states. “Some had admitted being convicted of a felony and allowed to register anyway, and at least one was never asked if convicted of a felony. Seeing no intent on the part of these people to violate the law, seeing no evidence that anything was done which would undermine the public confidence of the results of any election, and seeing no evidence of any attempt to influence the outcome of an election, the grand jury felt that none of these cases merited the further expenditure of state resources.”
While the bill on teachers’ collective bargaining has gotten a lot of attention, Joe White reports that House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner is worried about another measure he characterizes as anti-union — a bill sponsored by freshman Republican Andy Holt would make it easier to file criminal charges against union activists. “I used to be an organizer, and if I went to organize somebody, all somebody would have to say is that ‘I was intimidated by his presence,’ which we know somebody -whether I did anything or not – it would potentially make me a Class B felon.”
Turner says most union activities are regulated by the federal government, but state governments have much more power over public unions. In Memphis and Nashville, that’s police, fire and service workers.
The bill (HB2019) that “prohibits certain union and employee organization activities” is up for a vote in both chambers of the state legislature Monday night – along with collective bargaining.