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Press Releases

TBI Arrests Smith Co. Man for Trading Child Pornography

Press release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; August 3, 2012: 

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has arrested a Smith County, Tenn. man for sexually exploiting a minor and is continuing to investigate him. He could face additional charges.

Doug Clemmons, 51, of Carthage, Tenn. was arrested at his home last evening and charged with one count of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor after exchanging child pornography with another individual. TBI agents executed a search warrant at his home located at 103 Lebanon Road in Carthage, Tenn. to gather additional evidence in the case against him after receiving information that he was engaged in illegal activities involving a minor. He was booked into the Smith County Jail without bond.

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Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Gibbons: State Can’t ‘Babysit Protesters 24/7’

Among the questions Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons fielded about the early morning arrest of protesters who had taken up residence on Legislative Plaza was what justified the new curfew and demonstrations policy.

It was, in part, protesters’ concerns about public safety and health conditions amid reports of individuals being victimized such as a woman being groped while playing a board game, a fight breaking out between homeless people and others using the area like a public bathroom, he told reporters in a press conference Friday.

“Protesters themselves approached the state earlier this week asking for some assistance to address the problem that they were facing. … I think what the Department of General Services was trying to do was strike a balance between making sure they had their right to peacefully protest, but at the same time, address the concerns they had, as well as others, over public safety and health conditions.

“They probably don’t see it this way, but I think we have set up a condition where they can peacefully protest under safe circumstances. We are not in a position, we do not have the resources to go out, and, in effect, babysit protesters 24/7.”

The policy issued Thursday closes down the Legislative Plaza, War Memorial and Capitol grounds from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and requires parties interested in protesting to purchase a permit from the Department of General Services pending approval of the Tennessee Capitol Commission.

Those permits will be good from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and groups wishing to demonstrate later will need a special use permit that may be issued at the discretion of the department.

Gibbons also discussed how he chose the 3 a.m. timing for the arrest of 29 “Occupy Nashville” protesters and said he disagreed with a night judge who refused to sign the warrants on the basis that there was no legal justification for the arrests.

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Featured Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

VIDEO: State Law Enforcement Officials Defend ‘Occupy Nashville’ Arrests

Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons defended the predawn arrests of 29 Occupy Nashville protesters on Legislative Plaza Wednesday, saying the protesters had plenty of time to pack up and go home.

Gibbons made the comments at a press conference Wednesday morning, adding he decided it was best to make the arrest in the 3 o’clock hour to minimize public disturbance and to give protesters hours to leave the premises.

“We respect and support the right to peacefully protest. We’re simply urging those who want to engage in peaceful protests to adhere to the reasonable policies that have been issued by the Department of General Services. If they choose not to, then it’s our responsibility to take the appropriate enforcement action and we will do so,” said Gibbons.

The commissioner was joined by Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott, who said the troopers making the arrest acted with “incredible restraint.”

Both officials said it is the department’s job to enforce the policies written by the Dept. of General Services and deferred explanation of the policy to that department.

The protesters were issued misdemeanor citations for criminal trespassing, which is a class C misdemeanor. They were released just before 9 a.m.  and await a Nov. 18 court date with the Davidson County General Sessions Court.

Protesters with the Occupy Nashville movement say they plan to meet in a General Assembly at 7 p.m. Friday to determine whether they will remain at the Legislative Plaza location or if they will move to space by the courthouse down the street.

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Press Releases

State Troopers Arrest 29 in Occupy Nashville Protest

State of Tennessee Press Release; Oct. 28, 2011: 

DEPARTMENT OF SAFETY & HOMELAND SECURITY ENFORCES STATE’S REVISED POLICY ON LEGISLATIVE PLAZA CURFEW

PROTESTORS ASKED TO LEAVE LEGISLATIVE PLAZA, STATE TROOPERS MAKE 29 ARRESTS

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security early Friday morning enforced a revised state policy that makes the Legislative Plaza, War Memorial Courtyard, and Capitol grounds areas closed to the public from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. daily. The revised policy also states there shall be no overnight occupancy of the state properties.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol, which provides security for Legislative Plaza, War Memorial Courtyard, and the Capitol grounds, asked Occupy Nashville protestors to leave the Legislative Plaza at 3:10 a.m. Approximately two dozen protestors left the plaza without incident. Troopers arrested 29 protestors who refused to leave.  The protestors were transported to the Davidson County Jail where troopers issued them misdemeanor citations for criminal trespassing (a class C misdemeanor). The protestors were released shortly before 9 a.m. A court date has been set in Davidson County General Sessions Court for November 18. A total of 75 state troopers were involved in the curfew enforcement.

“The Department of Safety and Homeland Security took the appropriate action to support the state’s revised policy that the Legislative Plaza is not to be used at night without specific authorization. The policy was revised for security reasons, and the protestors were aware of the policy.  The process was handled by state troopers in a professional manner and without incident.  It is our responsibility to keep the protestors safe on state property, along with citizens who work, live and enjoy downtown.  We all must work together to ensure a safe environment,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.

The Department of Safety and Homeland Security enforced the curfew policy at the least disruptive time to citizens who visit, work, and live in downtown Nashville.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public.  The department encompasses the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security and Driver License Services. General areas of responsibility include law enforcement, safety education, motorist services and terrorism prevention.

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Liberty and Justice News

Todd’s No-Blow Shows He’s Wise to Ways of Beating DUI

It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will be able to prove Rep. Curry Todd was impaired when he was arrested in Nashville this month on suspicion of drunk driving and unlawfully possessing a firearm.

But if the police affidavit filed after the arrest is accurate, the Shelby County Republican lawmaker violated a state law that requires motorists to submit to a blood-alcohol content test when asked to by law enforcement officials.

Todd, formerly a Memphis cop and lobbyist for the state Fraternal Order of Police, is charged with violating Tennessee’s “implied consent” law when he refused the officer’s request that he blow into a breathalyzer. But from the standpoint of avoiding self incrimination, aside from admitting he consumed “two drinks,” Todd handled his drunk-driving arrest skillfully — especially for somebody who may suspect he’s over the legal limit but doesn’t want to hand a prosecutor all the evidence needed for an easy conviction.

“If you’re driving, I wouldn’t admit to anything,” said Rob McKinney, the incoming president of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a Nashville DUI attorney who blogged about Todd’s arrest. “You have the right of the Fifth Amendment. It’s better to not say anything than to lie to a police officer.”

While every case is different, defense attorneys generally advise against agreeing to field sobriety and blood alcohol content tests as long as the driver is willing to give up his or her license for a year in exchange for giving prosecutors a tougher job seeking a DUI conviction.

McKinney, who questions the accuracy of sobriety tests, said anything from having bad knees, being overweight and being tested on crooked and poorly lit ground could throw off how drivers perform on the field sobriety tests while technical problems with machinery can impact the results on chemical tests.

“I think there’s too much discretion left to police officers to ask somebody to submit to a blood or breath test,” he said.

Drivers who violate the “implied consent” law by refusing sobriety tests risk suspension of their driver’s license for a year — even if the driver is ultimately acquitted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol charges, according to state law.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 20 percent of drivers suspected of drunk driving refuse to take a breathalyzer or blood alcohol content test.

Tennessee’s 1969 law has grown stronger over the years, including this spring when Todd and the General Assembly voted almost unanimously to force suspected drunk drivers to take the tests if the driver has a DUI on record or a child was in the vehicle at the time of the stop.

Todd has refused to comment about the details of his Oct. 11 arrest or his decision to step down as chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee aside from e-mailed statements to the media saying he has been advised by his lawyer not to give further comments.

According to a police affidavit, an officer read Todd the implied consent law. Todd then “stated that he understood and subsequently refused to perform a breath alcohol test,” according to the affidavit.

In the last budget year, Tennessee recorded 2,241 convictions of drivers who rejected the tests and 22,119 DUI convictions. Those numbers include convictions of Tennesseans across state lines and out-of-towners convicted in the Volunteer State.

The total number of “implied consent” convictions is down over the last four years after hitting a high of 2,750 convictions in the 2006-07 fiscal year. The total number of DUI convictions has also dropped by 6,000, or 21 percent, in the last four years.

“We don’t think it’s right that the best evidence in a DUI situation can be suppressed by the defendant automatically,” said Guy Jones, deputy executive director of the District Attorneys General Conference.

“If you committed any other crime and we wanted to get a fingerprint or a hair sample or something, DNA, we could get that. Whereas in a DUI situation, if a person can avoid not being tested for several hours, then we lost what was the best evidence,” he said.

Chris Dye, a DUI enforcement training instructor for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, said he’s had more people refuse to take sobriety tests than agree in the last few years.

“A lot of these professional drunks, these ones with multiple DUIs, they’re used to refusing,” he continued, adding he’s looking forward to tougher implied consent laws. “It’s been dismissed more than it’s been enforced, and it really hasn’t served the purpose it’s been intended for.”

There’s a push within Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to fix issues like that as a team of commissioners plan to “completely” rewrite the state’s DUI laws.

“Driving is a privilege, not a right, and I think every driver needs to understand that,” said Bill Gibbons, commissioner of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and former district attorney in Memphis. “If you don’t obey the law, you can lose that privilege.”

The working group of commissioners from the departments of Safety and Homeland Security, Correction, Military, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Highway Patrol expected to send Gov. Bill Haslam a rough draft of their recommendations last week, Gibbons said.

“If you read it, it’s a patchwork law at this point, and it’s very complicated. A lot of exceptions to general rules and so on. We just need to go through, rewrite it, simplify it, streamline it,” he told TNReport.

“They’re very complicated, they’ve been amended here and there over many years. So what we’re looking at is really a rewrite of our DUI laws to simplify them, make them understandable not only to DUI officers but to the public as well,” he said.

Gibbons said it’s still up in the air as to whether the recommendations will include an overhaul of the implied consent law.

“I don’t want to get ahead of the curve on that,” he said.

House Speaker Beth Harwell said Todd’s decision to refuse a breathalyzer test didn’t factor into her talks with him about standing down from his leadership post.

“I had not given that thought. I was most concerned with what is best for the General Assembly as a whole,” she said. “I had not looked into any of the particulars of his charges.”

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Liberty and Justice

Gov. Haslam, Rep. Todd Link Up: Todd Says He’s Sorry

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam saw Rep. Curry Todd at a charity golf tournament Monday and said Todd, who was arrested last week for drunken driving with a loaded weapon in his car, told him he made a mistake.

“He said, ‘I realize I made a bad mistake, and I’m sorry,'” Haslam said.

Todd, a Republican from Collierville, participated in a golf event Monday held by Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and Rep. Gary Odom. Harwell, a Republican, and Odom, a Democrat, both represent Nashville.

“I went out there to have breakfast, and Curry was part of the group playing golf,” Haslam said. “I asked him how he was doing. It was purely more of a personal conversation. We didn’t talk about the Legislature.

“I was obviously, like everybody else really, sorry to see that happen. It was a big mistake from Representative Todd that could have had dangerous consequences. I think he is aware of that as well.”

The governor addressed several issues with reporters after he spoke to the Governor’s Housing Summit in Franklin, including Todd’s arrest, the Occupy Wall Street protests, school vouchers and the matter of Tennesseans over 60 not having to have photos on their driver’s licenses.

Todd’s arrest, which has rekindled the debate over gun carry laws in the state since Todd was the sponsor of the bill to allow guns in bars, has begun to raise speculation about the course of the agenda under the Republican-controlled Legislature next year.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick had put Todd in the chairman’s role of a task force on firearms. But Todd reportedly told McCormick after the arrest he would vacate that position, and McCormick had been considering lowering the profile of the gun task force to focus more on the economy. McCormick reportedly has decided to keep the task force going, but with a diminished priority.

Todd announced Monday afternoon that he’s stepping down as chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee “until this matter is resolved.”

“The Committee’s work is an important aspect of the General Assembly and I do not want my actions to distract from that,” read a short statement from Todd.

Haslam was asked about any potential impact on the legislative agenda next year, but he offered only clues to his own agenda, which seemed to be devoid of gun issues.

“If you look at what we proposed last year, and I think the bills we propose this year, there will be things focused again on jobs, education and things that are budget-related,” Haslam said. “I think you’ll continue to see our focus be there. That’s what it was last year.”

Haslam’s reference to “last year” was to the legislative session held in the first part of 2011. The Legislature will reconvene in January 2012.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey last week said he wanted to revisit the matter of why Tennesseans over 60 are allowed to have driver’s licenses without their photographs on them — one of the snags in the state’s new photo ID law for voting. Ramsey said he was looking for the justification of the 60-and-over exemption, and Haslam was asked if he would advocate addressing it as well.

“I guess I would want to hear the pros and cons of that,” Haslam said. “I assume the reason of that was just to make it easier, or maybe for some personal reasons for folks over 60. I don’t understand the reason why there was an exception there to begin with.

“I’m sure there is a good reason. I just don’t happen to know how that came to be.”

People have camped out in New York in an “Occupy Wall Street” protest, which has been copied in other cities, including Nashville, where protesters have gathered recently at Legislative Plaza. Haslam said he sees disgruntlement among the people.

“I think what you really have is a lot of dissatisfaction about the current condition of the country,” Haslam said. “You see that in how people feel about: How confident are you about the direction of the country? That’s come out in a lot of ways.

“Right now, their message is fairly — how should I describe it? — disorganized. There are a lot of different thoughts there. I think, at the root, people are saying, ‘We really don’t like the way things are going.’ My point back would be: Let’s talk about what we would do differently. Let’s talk about specific things that have caused us to be here and what we would do differently.”

Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, has said he plans to pursue a school voucher initiative for low-income students in Hamilton, Knox, Davidson and Shelby counties, which hold the state’s four largest cities. The Senate approved a similar measure in April, but the House Education Subcommittee sent the bill for further study.

Haslam said his administration is trying to decide how to approach the voucher issue and that there is no decision yet. He said the benefit is giving parents choice on where their children go to school but that there is a need to balance that against whether such an approach is helpful or harmful to existing public schools.

Haslam addressed the nation’s economic woes in his speech to a luncheon on housing held at the Marriott at Cool Springs.

“I don’t know how we could have a more challenging environment,” he told the crowd. “I would love to tell you I think that is going to get a lot better sometime soon. But I really don’t think that.

“As confident as I am long-term about the future of Tennessee, I think we are, like everyone else, caught in the grips of working our way out of some serious economic issues.”

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Press Releases

Comptroller Investigation Leads To Ashland City Accounting Clerk Arrest

Press Release from Tennessee State Comptroller, April 11, 2010:

Former Ashland City accounting clerk Lisa Cantrell has been booked on a theft charge following an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Municipal Audit.

In a letter released Monday, Dennis Dycus, director of the Division of Municipal Audit, informed Ashland City’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen that between July 1, 2009 and September 30, 2009, Cantrell failed to deposit at least $5,785 in checks and cash collections into the city’s account.

The money should have been deposited into the city’s general and water funds, but Ms. Cantrell falsified city business records and stole the money instead.

The Cheatham County Grand Jury indicted Cantrell last week on a felony theft charge.

“I am glad to see that Ms. Cantrell will be brought to justice in this matter and I commend District Attorney General Dan M. Alsobrooks and his staff for their willingness to take up the prosecution,” Dycus said. “A good way to deter public officials and employees from committing thefts and other crimes while in office is to punish them appropriately and show that no public employee is above the law.”

“Protecting taxpayer funds from waste, fraud and abuse is one of the highest priorities of this office,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “While it is disappointing each time one of these cases comes to light, I am very pleased to have auditors on my staff who are skilled at uncovering this type of activity.”

The letter to city officials also notes that during an interview with state auditors, Cantrell admitted that she had taken money from the city for her own personal use and described what is commonly referred to as a “check-for-cash swap scheme” as her means of accomplishing her crime.

The letter further details that Cantrell also acknowledged using a refund check from Northern Tool to the city of over $2,000 to swap for city cash that she had stolen.

The Comptroller’s report can be found at http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/RA_MA/