The state attorney general has found no prosecutable criminal acts by 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Bebb, reports the Chattanooga TFP. A report by Attorney General Robert Cooper criticizes Bebb’s office for poor judgment, mismanagement and deficient record keeping but finds no prosecutable evidence against him on allegations of official misconduct, theft, bribery, extortion and other offenses.
Prosecutable evidence against employees in Bebb’s office or current or former officers of the district’s drug task force would be handled by someone other than the attorney general’s office, Cooper’s report states.
The Times Free Press obtained a copy of the report late Monday afternoon.
Contacted by phone Monday evening, Bebb said he had not yet read it and would reserve comment for now.
State Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, who called for the attorney general to investigate allegations raised in a Times Free Press series last year, also said Monday they haven’t read the report and declined to comment immediately.
The newspaper investigated allegations that under Bebb, the prosecutor’s office botched important cases through ineptness or misconduct, misused taxpayer money and played favorites in criminal prosecutions in the 10th Judicial District of Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties. The Aug. 12-17, 2012, series of stories drew calls from state lawmakers and others for an investigation.
On Aug. 28, Cooper called for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the state comptroller’s office to begin a joint probe.
Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey plan legislative hearings on the Department of Children’s Services when the General Assembly reconvenes late this month, according to the Tennessean. Republican leaders will ask lawmakers to “examine our existing statutes and to identify laws and innovative practices in other states that may be good ideas for Tennessee,” Harwell said in a prepared statement.
The plans come in response to an earlier call by Democratic Rep. Mike Turner to hold an investigation of how DCS operates.
Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol said he would ask his own legislative committee to examine the work of the state agency. He said he was prompted by a series of recent revelations in news stories in The Tennessean and in public reports released by watchdog groups.
“I have lots of questions, and I’m going into this open to hearing from across the board how DCS operates and what is going on over there,” said Lundberg, who co-chairs the Civil Justice Committee. “We have a very steep learning curve and a short time to get there.”
O’Day said on Tuesday that her agency is responding.
“Our philosophy with the legislature, from the very beginning, has been that the more that they know about what we do, the better,” O’Day said. “So we’ve done numerous visits with our legislators, to our various field offices, and plan to continue that open dialogue. We’re ready to talk to anybody at any time and answer whatever questions they have.”
Two McMinn County grand jurors in 2010 complained to an investigator that the jury foreman and an assistant district attorney tried to influence their votes in a politically fraught case, reports the Chattanooga TFP. The grand jury in July of that year voted not to indict sheriff candidate Joe Guy for campaign finance violations. Guy went on to win the election and is now McMinn County sheriff.
Later, two grand jurors told an investigator they felt improper influence was brought to bear in the jury room by foreman Joel Riley and Paul Rush, assistant district attorney in the 10th Judicial District.
No action was taken, records show. None of the other 10 grand jurors who sat on the case was interviewed, and the investigation was closed.
But both grand jurors told the Times Free Press they still believe Riley and Rush tried to influence their votes.
…The initial complaint alleged that a woman who worked for Gentry and Joe Guy told family members that Guy had given her and her husband cash and asked them to write him checks as campaign contributions.
The initial complaint alleged that a woman who worked for Gentry and Joe Guy told family members that Guy had given her and her husband cash and asked them to write him checks as campaign contributions.
Guy’s statement was slightly different. He told Haynes that Joy Early had come to him with the small contributions. He said he believed they were from deputies and others who didn’t want Frisbie to know they were giving to Guy.
The Chattanooga Times-Free Press takes a lengthy look at questionable activities in the 10th Judicial District – Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties – under District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb. According to the results of research and interviews done by the Times Free Press:
* Bebb and some of the people he oversaw routinely used public property and money as if it were their own — from cars to phones to cash.
…Bebb also is chairman of the board of the 10th District Drug Task Force, which brought in more than $5 million between 2007 and 2010, mostly from stopping drivers on Interstate 75 and seizing cash, vehicles and other assets, according to Department of Safety records.
The Times Free Press found that Department of Safety files show numerous cases where drug task force agents took large sums of cash from drivers on Interstate 75 without ever charging them with crimes and sometimes without finding drugs.
…he money drug task force agents took off the highway paid for them to travel the country for law enforcement conferences and training. Task force financial records show that the task force — with 14 to 16 agents — spent at least $100,000 between 2008 and 2010 on hotels, meals, mileage and airfare. They took dozens of trips to locations as close as Opryland and Gatlinburg and as far as Washington, D.C., Sandestin, Fla., and Charleston, S.C.
…Former DTF Director Mike Hall’s drug task force credit card was used to charge more than $50,000 between 2008 and 2010 on meals for himself, task force members and guests at local restaurants, as well as gifts, flowers and goodies for co-workers and office secretaries, credit card receipts show.
…In numerous cases, Bebb shelved TBI investigations into allegations of officer misconduct without taking action, state records and newspaper archives show. He routinely declined to charge cops for behavior that would have landed civilians in jail — from abusing prescription pills and beating up spouses, to shooting up a neighborhood with an assault rifle, to driving drunk and wrecking a vehicle with methamphetamine ingredients inside, records show.
…Court records and judges’ opinions contain repeated allegations and findings that 10th District prosecutors withheld evidence, tolerated and even participated in law enforcement misconduct, and violated judicial orders and defendants’ rights in criminal cases.
A nearly three-month-old Internet blog posting taking Tennessee GOP state Reps. Tony Shipley and Jon Lundberg to task for passing legislation outlawing synthetic drugs and shutting down area head shops has been turned over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into, Shipley tells the Kin sport Times-News. “I got a call this morning that someone said something was out there, looking like it was a life threat, and it was forwarded to TBI, and they do whatever it is they do,” Shipley said. “The information was sent to Nashville by county officials who saw it today.”
The blog, called ablogination.tn420.org, said of Shipley: “We’re coming for you. The businesses you sought to destroy have more money than you do and far more resolve.”
The blog, dated May 15, included a computer-altered image of the so-called “Blackbird Mailer” used by the Tennessee Republican Party in the 2008 campaign between Shipley and former state Rep. Nathan Vaughn, Northeast Tennessee’s first African-American state lawmaker. Shipley narrowly won that election.
In the TRP mailer, the heads of Vaughn, former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama were pasted on blackbirds and described as “Part of the Big Government Flock.” In the blog, Shipley’s and Lundberg’s heads are pasted on the blackbirds and described as “Part of the Fascist Big Government Flock.”
See also WJHL-TV’s reporting, which includes this: A T.B.I. spokesperson said State Senator Mae Beavers contacted the agency with concerns about the blog post.
A T.B.I. agent met with Sen. Beavers, the spokesperson said.
…Shipley told 11 Connects News that Speaker of the House Beth Harwell has directed the T.H.P. (Tennessee Highway Patrol) Office of Executive Protection to evaluate the threat and take steps necessary to protect him and his family.
Here’s a portion of the blog post.
“We’re coming for you (Shipley). The businesses you sought to destroy have more money than you do and far more resolve….You attacked our livelihood, which means you attacked our families and their well-being. I am your enemy, Tony.”
State Representative Jon Lundberg told 11 Connects’ Josh Smith he doesn’t consider the blog to represent an “imminent threat.”
Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus tells the Kingsport Times-News that he asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation three months ago to look into why some people did not receive requested refunds for tickets purchased in advance of a GOP forum and dinner planned for Oct. 15, 2011, in Kingsport. On Wednesday, TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm advised the investigation is still ongoing. She said the probe involves “missing money” associated with the canceled event and declined to provide further details.
“I had some complaints by some citizens that didn’t receive their money, and so I’ve asked the TBI to do an investigation,” Staubus said Wednesday.
“It’s still under investigation. It’s not complete, and so I don’t want to make any more comments about the nature of it than that. I did make a request to look into the circumstances of that forum.”
Staubus said initially three citizens came forward, and then he received “numerous” phone calls from other Sullivan County residents, as well as a few others in the Davidson County area. All the calls involved complaints that refund requests — some made prior to the event’s cancellation — were not honored, he said.