NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — More than half of Tennessee prosecutors say a new law allowing assault charges against mothers who give birth to drug-dependent babies is having a positive effect.
That’s according to a statewide survey done by the Tennessee Department of Safety. The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1E2Lpuu) reports the agency released results last week showing that 17 prosecutors thought the threat of jail is deterring more drug-dependent births, while seven thought it wasn’t helping and six didn’t respond.
In a letter that accompanied the survey, Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said criminal charges were “used sparingly and selectively” in the six months the law was in effect last year.
American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg opposes the law. She says it doesn’t entice women to get treatment; it drives them underground.
About two hours before Byron “Low Tax” Looper was found dead in a prison cell Wednesday morning, he reportedly assaulted a pregnant female counselor, according to the Chattanooga TFP. An incident report from the Morgan County Correctional Complex reveals what happened in the hours before the death of Looper, who was serving a life sentence in East Tennessee for assassinating his political opponent, Sen. Tommy Burks, in 1998.
The incident report accuses Looper of hitting the counselor, who was 34 weeks pregnant, in the head about 8:55 a.m. Wednesday. Guards responded to the assault and restrained Looper, the report states, “with the least amount of force necessary.”
….The report states that earlier that morning Looper was standing nearby when his counselor and a prison unit manager were talking about a request he had made. That’s when, authorities say, he held his hands out and hit the counselor on both sides of her head, knocking off her glasses.
The report doesn’t specify the request Looper made, but two sources said Looper recently had been told he was going to be placed back in the prison’s general population, and he didn’t want that because he was afraid of being hurt.
Looper, who legally changed his middle name to “Low Tax,” ran against Burks, a popular Democrat, in 1998.
Burks, who had held office in Tennessee for 28 years, was found slumped over in his truck on his farm in Monterey on Oct. 19, 1998, shot near his left eye. Looper was charged in the crime and convicted of first-degree murder.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee congressman, in his first public comments since reports that he once urged a mistress to get an abortion, said Thursday that the woman did not turn out to be pregnant.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a freshman Republican seeking re-election next month, did not further dispute a transcript of a recorded phone conversation in which he appears to urge the woman to terminate the pregnancy. His remarks came in an interview with WTN-FM host Ralph Bristol
“I don’t mind telling people that there was no pregnancy, and no abortion,” DesJarlais said. “But I also don’t mind telling people that this was a protracted two-year divorce back in 1999 and 2000.
“There was some difficult times, for sure,” he said.
The undated phone recording appears to have been made before DesJarlais’ divorce from his wife, Susan, was finalized in 2001.
According to the transcript, DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, told the woman that he was concerned that she hadn’t taken steps toward terminating the pregnancy.
“You told me you’d have an abortion, and now we’re getting too far along without one,” DesJarlais is quoted as saying. “If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let’s do it.”
Revelations that Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais had affairs outside his marriage and pushed a pregnant mistress to get an abortion were branded “disgusting” and “disqualifying” by his Democratic opponent Wednesday.
DesJarlais, seeking his second term as representative in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District, did not deny the validity of a transcript of a conversation 12 years ago between himself and the pregnant woman. He refused requests for an interview.
DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson sent reporters an email described the reports as “gutter politics” and “character assassination.” He also called them “old news from the last election cycle that Tennesseans have already widely rejected.”
The latter is a reference to TV ads in 2010 aired by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, who cited court records of DesJarlais’ divorce wherein the Jasper physician was described threatening his former wife and as putting a pistol in his mouth and threatening suicide. DesJarlais, a doctor by profession, defeated Davis in the 2010 election.
Reports on the affairs and the abortion, however, had not been made public until published Wednesday by The Huffington Post, a politically-oriented Internet website. The Post said court records show DesJarlais has admitted to at least four affairs.