Tag Archives: sex

Casada, Sargent deny Durham kiss and hug claims

Ousted Rep. Jeremy Durham tells WSMV=TV that two prominent Republican legislators have hugged or kissed women at the Legislative Plaza. He also declared that another lawmaker who voted to remove him from office has smoked marijuana at the state Capitol and several others have consumed alcohol at legislative offices.

Durham did not name the individual he alleged smoked marijuana, but he did identify others for different claims.

“Charles Sargent, that’s who I’m talking about,” Durham said. “I’ve watched him kiss women on the mouth in Legislative Plaza. But I can’t even, like, send a remotely flirtatious text message.”

In July, the Attorney General released a report that accuses Durham of sexually harassing 22 women at the Legislature. The investigation also alleged Durham had sex with a college student in his office after providing her alcohol.

Durham denies he had sex or even made sexual contact with the women interviewed in the report.

Instead, he’s raising questions about his former colleagues.
“You know, the Glen Casada, the Charles Sargent, like let’s all hang out and hug on women,” Durham said. “That’s the ones that are in power.”

So is any of this actually true?

On Thursday Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, denied kissing women on the mouth at the legislature, only acknowledging the occasional hug or peck on the cheek if he knows the person.

“I don’t know where this young man is coming from,” Sargent said in a phone interview. “I feel sorry for him. We have a young man whose life is falling apart.”

Rep. Glen Casada, R-Thompson’s Station, echoed those statements.
“I understand he’s hurting and he’s angry. I wish the best for him,” Casada said in a phone interview.

He added: “I hug women at church. I hug women at the Capitol. I hug men. I think hugging is proper, if done correctly,” Casada said.

But Durham didn’t stop there. He named lawmakers who he said regularly drink in their office.

Those men did not return calls from Channel 4. But even Durham admits, he too drank on state property.

“I have drank in my office before,” Durham said. “I did keep alcohol in my refrigerator, I did.”

When asked if she would look into these claims, Speaker Beth Harwell stated, “Jeremy has again called 22 victims liars, and he has no credibility. Beyond that, I have no additional comment.”

Durham disputes sex allegations, suspends campaign

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A state representative accused of sexually harassing at least 22 women said Thursday that nearly all of the allegations in an attorney general’s report are either false or taken out of context.

Republican state Rep. Jeremy Durham said he never attempted sexual contact with any of the women whose stories are described in the report. He also said he was suspending his re-election campaign to focus on his family, although he stopped short of resigning his seat.

Reaction from leadership in the supermajority Republican General Assembly was quick, with House Speaker Beth Harwell calling Durham’s denials “insulting to the brave women whose testimony was detailed in the report.” She also said he needs to make it clear that he is not running for re-election. Early primary voting starts Friday, so Durham’s name already is on the ballot.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Durham should resign immediately.

“His actions were beyond disgraceful,” Ramsey said in an emailed statement. “Suspending his campaign but refusing to resign is an affront to the women of this state and the taxpayers who pay his salary.” Continue reading

TBI investigating domestic violence case involving Chattanooga mayor’s adviser

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation Thursday into a domestic violence incident involving one of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s senior advisers, reports the Times-Free Press.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston asked the TBI to look into the case, which involves allegations that Mayor Andy Berke had a sexual relationship with his adviser, Lacie Stone, and that the relationship prompted Stone’s husband, Bobby Stone, to attack her Friday night.

Bobby Stone was arrested and charged with domestic assault and vandalism early Saturday morning, after Lacie Stone called police Chief Fred Fletcher for help and said her husband was going to kill her, Fletcher said Wednesday. She then went to Fletcher’s house to wait for police.

Berke has adamantly denied allegations of a sexual relationship with Lacie Stone, and Fletcher said the domestic violence case was treated like any other. But Pinkston’s spokeswoman, Melydia Clewell, said Wednesday that Pinkston’s office wanted the TBI to look into how police handled the case, and that Berke and Fletcher’s comments raised “unusual concerns” for prosecutors.

A spokesman for the TBI declined to release any details about the scope of the investigation on Thursday.

“The investigation is active and ongoing and we have no additional detail to offer at this time,” spokesman Josh DeVine said in a statement.

Fletcher said he welcomes the TBI’s investigation.

“We welcome the support and assistance of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation,” he said. “I have called on them many, many times, whether it is helping to investigate my own officers or on a case that needs extra assistance.”

…Berke said Thursday he will cooperate with the TBI. Despite reports he had cancelled all of his public appearances this week, he attended at least two public events Thursday — a meeting of the Mayor’s Council for Women and an annual awards ceremony for the police department. After the awards ceremony, he declined to answer several questions about the investigation and allegations, but did speak to reporters.

“I’ll let the proceedings go forth,” he said, and added later, “I’m not going to comment on the investigation. I’ve been asked not to comment on it.”

Chattanooga mayor denies sexual relationship with staffer

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke denied allegations that he maintained an inappropriate sexual relationship with one of his senior advisers Wednesday, five days after his adviser’s husband was arrested for domestic assault.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

As soon as Bobby Stone, 54, went to jail, rumors quickly began to spread that he attacked his wife, Lacie Stone, 38, after discovering she was romantically involved with Berke, who is also married. Berke said in a statement that Bobby Stone was lying.

“Upon being arrested and charged, her husband made numerous false allegations about me and other people involved in city government,” Berke said. “It is unfortunate that this situation escalated to the point of a domestic assault. Let me be clear: the allegations are absolutely false.”

Berke did not answer multiple previous requests for comment from the Times Free Press and declined to comment further, “out of respect for the ongoing investigation.”
Continue reading

Judge dismisses one piece of UT sexual assault lawsuit

By Steve MeGargee, AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge has dismissed one of dozens of claims in a Title IX lawsuit filed against Tennessee while denying the rest of the school’s motion to dismiss.

The school filed a motion in March to dismiss and strike portions of the complaint, which includes eight unidentified women as plaintiffs and said Tennessee violated Title IX regulations through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled Tuesday that one claim was “dismissed without prejudice,” but she allowed the rest of the case to proceed and didn’t strike any other portions of the complaint.

“We appreciate the judge’s consideration of dismissal of certain issues with this case especially in light of the case’s difficult nature as it involves the lives and well-being of young people,” Bill Ramsey, the school’s lawyer, said in a statement. “Under the standard for a motion to dismiss, the Court was required to accept the allegations in the complaint as true for purposes of ruling on the motion. We maintain our position that the allegations put forth in the lawsuit regarding the university are unfounded and without merit. We are confident that once all of the facts are considered instead of only the allegations in the complaint, plaintiffs will be unable to prove their claims.”
Continue reading

Committee makes sexual harassment policy recommendations

A special committee tasked with updating and improving the legislature’s sexual harassment policy sent its final recommendations to House Speaker Beth Harwell on Thursday, reports The Tennessean.

The vast majority of the committee’s final report is consistent with a six-page draft document that included suggestions that the legislature maintain annual statistics on the number of sexual harassment complaints the legislature receives and issue a report if a violation of the policy has occurred.

Those changes are among several suggested by national experts interviewed by The Tennessean as part of an investigation into the legislature’s sexual harassment policy. Those experts said the policy was mired in secrecy and offered little accountability.

…Legislative attorney Doug Himes said he would send a final version of the committee’s report to the speaker’s office as well as legislative human resources head Connie Ridley, who he said was absent from Thursday’s meeting because she was “attending to other legislative matters.”

An assistant to embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham said he was meeting with Ridley at some point on Thursday to discuss the logistics of moving the Franklin Republican’s legislative office to an adjacent building.

The move came after Harwell released a letter on Thursday from Attorney General Herbert Slatery indicating an investigation into Durham had found the lawmaker had been involved in a pattern of inappropriate behavior.

UT’s ‘Sex Week’ focuses on consent

The University of Tennessee’s annual “Sex Week” gets underway Monday with organizers stressing lessons of consent, respect and boundaries, reports the News Sentinel.

But those lessons about sexual assault prevention get left out when critics talk about the event, which kicks off its fourth year this week, said Elizabeth Stanfield, a co-chair of the event.

“They really miss the point about consent and communication,” she said.

Stanfield and Colleen Ryan, a junior, are leading the student-run event that runs Monday to Friday and is organized by the student group Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee.

The pair said they joined the student group during the 2013-14 school year to help plan the second year of Sex Week because they had friends who were sexually assaulted. At the time, SEAT was the only student group pushing the conversation about sexual assault, they said.

Sex Week started four years ago and faced strong opposition and criticism from state lawmakers in its first two years. After a compromise on funding, the event has stayed an annual one on campus, helping spread the conversation about sexual assault. That conversation has come into the spotlight after a federal Title IX lawsuit against UT that alleges the campus has a “hostile sexual environment” was filed in February.

“We’ve been telling administrators for four years that something needs to change,” Stanfield said, noting she has seen the university do more to prevent sexual assault and promote consent.

More people are noticing there’s a need for sexual assault prevention on campus, and that’s exciting for the group, Ryan said.

“It’s our view that the only way to prevent sexual assault is to talk about it, and you can’t talk about it without talking about sex,” Ryan said.

She said education, like Sex Week, can help define healthy relationships and the difference between a sexual assault and a bad sexual encounter. Ryan said Sex Week organizers revamped the event’s sexual assault roundtable with the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee to be more focused on victims and their supporters.

The event continues to cover a variety of topics from religion and sexuality to abstinence and virginity to “50 Shades of Orange,” an event planned due to the popularity of the book and film “50 Shades of Grey.”

Regardless of the topic, Stanfield said boundaries and respect are in every conversation. Consent is not boring, so it shouldn’t be presented that way, she said.

Adjutant general upset with TN National Guard misconduct

Adjutant General Terry Haston summoned all Tennessee National Guard recruiters to a closed-door meeting this week and declared “my tolerance level is zero” for the misconduct reported by WSMV-TV of Nashville.

The station has reported on alleged drunken driving by guardsmen, on guardsmen having sex with prostitutes while on an overseas mission and on a case where a top recruiter found was by investigators to have given his prescription pills to the wife of a guardsman with whom he was having an affair.

From the report on Tuesday’s meeting and the “harsh lecture” delivered by Haston and top staff members:

While the meeting was held behind closed doors, the I-Team obtained audio of what was said inside.

“I don’t know how to say it other than this: any instances of impropriety from 15 October on – I will be [expletive] ruthless about enforcing,” Lt. Col. Andrew Grubb said.

Sgt. Major Terry Scott addressed the recruiters about the I-Team’s investigation that showed dash-cam video of two recruiters accused of driving a recruit in a truck hauling a horse trailer while drunk.

“There are some things I don’t like. When all this TV show – we’re doing this – and I saw the two drunks on TV – and knew they were national guardsmen – it embarrassed me as an NCO. And embarrassed me for the Tennessee National Guard,” Scott said.

Haston said while he supported the recruiters, he was also frustrated.

“I cannot tolerate any more of this behavior, and you all know exactly what I’m talking about,” Haston said. “My tolerance level is zero. … More than half my behavior problems in the Tennessee National Guard comes from my recruiting force.”

Haston and his staff are also being criticized by recruiters who have come to the I-Team, angry that some of the men featured in the investigations were still allowed to advance through the ranks.

…“I’m not going to tolerate you dragging my organization down that I love,” Haston said in the meeting.

Recruiters who are critical of Haston are calling for a congressional investigation into the men featured in the investigations and how they were allowed to stay in the guard.

Draft report suggests changes in legislature’s sexual harassment policy

An advisory committee reviewing the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy makes five recommendations in a draft report, according to The Tennessean, including having one person dedicated to deal with complaints.

Although the committee is still working on the document, other possible recommendations include maintaining annual statistics on the number of sexual harassment complaints the legislature receives, issuing a report if a violation of the policy has occurred and even outlining specific discipline that could be imposed on a member found violating the policy.

Such ideas were included in a six-page draft copy of the committee’s recommendation as presented by legislative attorney Doug Himes.

…Himes told the committee… that the recommendations are merely suggestions, and it is ultimately up to legislative leaders to decide which ones to adopt.

Among other measures legislative leaders could include in the new policy is requiring training for lawmakers and offering training for lobbyists and others visiting the legislature.

…(House Speaker Beth) Harwell created the panel on Jan. 24 in an attempt to determine ways to implement a new sexual harassment policy that will allow victims to comfortably come forward with any possible complaints.

TNDP bashing GOP leaders on Durham

Here is an online ad distributed by the Tennessee Democratic party criticizing House Republican leadership in the Jeremy Durham matter.

And here’s a statement issued by TNDP Chair Mary Mancini on the committee set up by House Speaker Beth Harwell to review policies on sexual harassment:

“The committee set up to review the legislature’s sexual harassment policy will fail because the problem is not with the sexual harassment policy. The problem is that when approached by women who said they were uncomfortable with Rep. Jeremy Durham’s unwanted text messages they, and the existing policy, were ignored by Republican Leaders Speaker Beth Harwell, Leader Gerald McCormick and Chair Glen Casada.

The only reason we are seeing any kind of policy review is because Republican leaders were caught sweeping the scandal under the rug. Instead of asking what will the committee recommend to Speaker Harwell, we should be asking what did Speaker Harwell know and when did she know it? And if she ignored the existing problem and policy until she was forced to acknowledge it, what faith can we have that she will implement any proposed changes?”