Law and Order

Friday, November 22, 2013

DA's Office Accuses Vandy Rape Suspect Lawyer of Destroying Evidence

Posted by on Fri, Nov 22, 2013 at 6:28 PM

A California attorney representing Brandon Vandenburg, lead defendant in the Vanderbilt rape case, helped destroy evidence in the case, according to a motion filed by the Davidson County District Attorney's Office late Friday afternoon. 

In destroying or attempting to destroy evidence, one of Vandenburg's attorneys, Albert Perez Jr., is an "un-indicted co-conspirator," the DA's office asserts. Perez's alleged action, the filing argues, creates a conflict of interest that runs afoul of state and federal law governing proper attorney representation. According to the filing, Perez is now a potential witness in the case.

As a result, prosector Tom Thurman is asking that Perez be removed.

Vandenburg, along with former players Cory Batey, Brandon Banks and JaBorian "Tip" McKenzie, was indicted in August on charges of aggravated rape and sexual battery in the alleged June assault of a female Vanderbilt student. All defendants have pled not guilty.

According to the filing, Miles Finley, of Bermuda Dunes, Calif., and Joseph Quinzio, of Palm Desert, Calif., told state prosecutors that Perez was an "active participant and co-conspirator" in tampering and destroying evidence in the case. Both Finley and Quinzio — Vandenburg friends who prosecutors say received and deleted photos of the alleged rape — are facing charges of tampering with evidence. The charges against Finley and Quinzio are still pending. The two have agreed to testify in Vandenburg's expected trial.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Social Media Can Get You Sued In Tennessee

Posted by on Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Remember this case?

A Goodlettsville woman who works for Southwest Airlines (PDF of the original suit at this link) sued over a series of tweets made by an irate flyer. The plaintiff didn't allow the defendant to take the whole family with her when she boarded early via her Business Select status. The defendant, a singer here in Nashville, took to the Twitters to complain. Commence legal action.

The suit is good reading, if only to go through the angry set of tweets within.

At the trial court level, the defendant (the singer) won summary judgment on the defamation and invasion of privacy (false light) claims. The state appeals court yesterday, however, only upheld the trial court's punting of the defamation claims. The Southwest employee's invasion of privacy claims live on.

Richard Dinkins wrote for the court [PDF]:

... we believe that a reasonable person could find, under the entire circumstances of the incident, that Ms. Grant-Herms’ posting of selective facts placed Ms. Patterson in a false light by implying that Ms. Patterson was rude and a bad service agent, one who was more concerned with adherence to the airline rules and procedures than the welfare of the child, and that these implications caused injury to her. Considering the record, Ms. Grant-Herms has not shown she is entitled to summary judgment on the false light invasion of privacy claim.

It's a good lesson that if you're going to go on a Twitter rant, you could be opening yourself up to litigation.

David Anthony, an attorney at Bone McAllester Norton who pointed out the case to Pith, has a very good point.

Your steak is burned.Your cable goes out. You have to wait 30 minutes too long in the waiting room.

Out of boredom, anger, or some mix of it all, you go on twitter or Facebook and complain. If you really want their attention, you link your target’s twitter account. That will get their attention, you might think. Maybe they respond and apologize.

Or, maybe, they file a lawsuit against you for defamation or invasion of privacy. Yes, in Tennessee, a twitter or Facebook rant can get you sued.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Eighth Avenue South/Wedgewood the 18th Most Dangerous Neighborhood in America?

Posted by on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 7:00 AM

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According to website NeighborhoodScout, which provides crime statistics and other data for people looking to buy a home, the neighborhood they refer to as Eighth Avenue South/Wedgewood Avenue is the 18th most dangerous neighborhood in America. The website claims that a resident of the neighborhood has a 1 in 14 chance of being a victim of a crime over the period of a year.

The neighborhood is outlined in the screenshot to the right. Now I'm not suggesting it's the safest neighborhood in town, but is it really the 18th most dangerous in America? With a median home of $186,700?

Of course, that doesn't take into account rental properties, of which there are many. Regardless, I'm not sure how reliable NeighborhoodScout's statistics are, considering that they also note that 1.5 percent of the residents are of Asian ancestry, yet 3.6 percent of the residents 5 years old and above "primarily speak Mon-Khmer, which is the dominant language of Cambodia, at home."

Hmmm. Am I just bad at math, or is something wrong with this picture?

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Buzzfeed: Vandy Rape Case Could Get Uglier Still

Posted by on Sat, Sep 7, 2013 at 11:58 AM

As the day's slate of college football games is getting underway, a report from Buzzfeed on the Vanderbilt rape case involving five football players has just hit the web, revealing more sordid details in a case which seems as if it will only get worse.

The story, written by former Tennessean reporter Bobby Allyn, also includes the particularly startling allegation that Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin told a player to delete footage of the incident.

From Allyn's report:

A source close to one of the defendants said he believes that Franklin encouraged a player to delete a video of the incident after the player showed it to Franklin.

“I’m 99.9 percent sure that Franklin saw the video,” the source said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if the public finds this out soon.”

“Coach Franklin denies that emphatically,” said Hal Hardin, Franklin’s attorney. “People always speculate and gossip. There is no truth to that accusation whatsoever. It’s inflammatory.”

“He has been cooperating fully with the investigation,” Hardin said. Prosecutors believe they have recovered all the images associated with the incident and that no potential evidence was lost before or during the investigation.

Be sure to read the whole story here. Also out today is a piece from The New York Times which examines Vanderbilt as a school and football program that had risen to its highest heights right as it hit an all time low.

UPDATE, 1 p.m.: More from David Boclair at PostSports.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Court Sides With Brentwood in Contributor Lawsuit

Posted by on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 12:49 PM

A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the City of Brentwood Wednesday, in the case between the city and The Contributor over an ordinance restricting sales of the street newspaper.

In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of The Contributor — which is sold by homeless or formerly homeless vendors and is the highest selling paper of its kind in the country — challenging a longstanding Brentwood ordinance prohibiting street sales. The ordinance had been on the books since 1976, but apparently had rarely, if ever, been enforced before Contributor vendors started showing up on Brentwood's tony suburban streets. The ACLU claimed that the ordinance violated the First Amendment.

The case was dismissed last year by a federal judge in Nashville, but the ACLU had appealed for that dismissal to be overturned.

Friend of Pith Emily Kubis — whom you should follow on Twitter — has the details on today's ruling from the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, at the Brentwood Home Page:

Continue reading »

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Grand Jury Indicts 4 Former Vanderbilt Players on Rape Charges

Posted by on Fri, Aug 9, 2013 at 5:07 PM

Four former Vanderbilt University football players were indicted today by a grand jury. As of this writing, one has been arrested.

From The City Paper:

Brandon Banks, Cory Batey, Jaborian ‘Tip’ McKenzie and Brandon Vandenburg were charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery.

Vandenburg is additionally charged with one count of tampering with evidence and one count of unlawful photography.

According to police, "The four defendants are charged with raping the unconscious victim inside Vandenburg’s room at Gillette House dormitory in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 23rd. The matter first came to light the next week when University officials checking the dorm’s hallway surveillance recordings regarding an unrelated situation observed concerning behavior by the defendants. Notification was made to the Vanderbilt University Police Department on the night of June 25th. VUPD contacted the MNPD’s Sex Crimes Unit on the morning of June 26th."

The university suspended the four student-athletes from the school and the team on June 29. The Vanderbilt athletic department declined comment and forwarded all requests to the university's public affairs office

Starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels and reserve tight end Dillon van der Wal have been subpoenaed as witnessess for the state.

The CP will be updating here as the story develops.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bradley Manning Found Not Guilty of 'Aiding the Enemy,' Still Faces 100 Year Sentence

Posted by on Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Breaking news this hour, in a story that is not local but nevertheless crucial for anyone who isn't eager to live in a totalitarian state.

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning — the man arrested three years ago and charged with leaking, among other things, a trove of diplomatic cables and the now famous video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed civilians, including a Reuters journalist, to WikiLeaks — was found not guilty on Tuesday of aiding the enemy, but guilty on other charges including espionage and theft. A report from the United Nations last year deemed the United States' treatment of Manning during his pre-trial incarceration was "cruel, inhuman and degrading." He now faces a possible sentence of more than 100 years in prison.

The not guilty verdict on the charge of aiding the enemy — the most serious charge, both practically and theoretically — is cause for some celebration, though. Many people who like the idea of a free press — count us in — feared that a guilty verdict on that charge would set a frightening precedent in which a person who shares damaging information about the government that "the enemy" might see (e.g., in a newspaper) is aiding the other side.

For now, anyway, your government does not consider the free press to be "the enemy." So at least there's that.

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At Pilot: Another Two Bite the Dust

Posted by on Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 5:19 AM

On Monday, Janet Welch (who wasn't even on my radar) and Scott Fenwick pleaded guilty in federal court to defrauding customers of Pilot/Flying J. The Knoxville News-Sentinel reports:

Scott Fenwick, a former regional sales manager, admitted to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

Also pleading guilty was Janet Welch, a former Pilot senior account manager, who admitted to conspiracy to commit fraud.

Fenwick worked under Vincent Greco, the feds' confidential informant. One of the things that's interesting about piecing this together — since we don't have a good Pilot-provided organizational structure — is seeing just how gender-segregated the jobs we know about are. With the exceptions of Jacquelyn Pearl and Cathy Geisick, we haven't heard about other women working in sales at Pilot under John Freeman. And we've heard of no men working as account reps. Seems a bit old-fashioned.

Anyway, the most interesting part of the News-Sentinel article comes at the end. After reminding readers that Ashley Judd, who pleaded guilty in May, kept a second set of records showing what money customers got and what money they should have gotten, the last sentence reads, "Federal prosecutors haven’t said where those records and the testimony promised by defendants might lead."

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Pilot Flying J Lawsuit Date Crawl

Posted by on Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 4:31 AM

The Associated Press is reporting that Pilot Flying J has revised the starting date for the settlement in the class action lawsuit against it.

The original settlement required Pilot Flying J to pay back all money owed with interest. But it only covered the period between Jan. 1, 2008, and July 15, 2013. The revised settlement covers overcharging that occurred as far back as Jan. 1, 2005.

So what's interesting is that Pilot is conceding that the scheme had been going on not just five years, but at least eight. Why is that interesting? Because someone in this state would have some mighty uncomfortable questions to answer if the scheme had been going on much longer than eight years ago.

Remember this story from the Times Free Press about Gov. Haslam facing grilling from The Washington Post about the Pilot scandal from back in April?

It says, in part:

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

House GOP Leader Dismisses Concerns of Black Lawmakers Over 'Stand Your Ground' Law

Posted by on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 1:42 PM

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The whole world has been waiting for the Republican response to black lawmakers' call for review of this state's "Stand Your Ground" law, and here's that breaking news: Rep. Glen Casada, the state House's No. 3 Republican, sees no need for any changes. Surprise!

“That law was vetted through the committee system and it allows for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves,” said Casada. “Maybe [the Black Caucus] misunderstood what the law does. The law doesn’t say go out and shoot people. It says that if a reasonable person fears for his safety or his life then he can defend himself, so that’s good public policy.”

Casada, R-Franklin, rejected the idea that there’s racial bias in the law, saying it grants legal protections to all. “I don’t see color in there anywhere,” he said.

Casada helpfully pointed out the 2007 vote for Tennessee's "Stand Your Ground" law was unanimous. It was taken when Democrats still ran state government, and Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen signed it into law. A little explanation by way of background: That was when Democrats thought they could cling to power in this state by proving to the NRA that they're every bit as crazy as Republicans and willing to give a license to kill to any paranoid bigot or trigger-happy chucklehead who feels threatened on the street.

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