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And did Glen Casada (or his chief of staff) submit false evidence to the Nashville D.A.?
First of all, thank you all so much for signing up for this experiment! (And please tell your friends about it, if you are so inclined.) I will send an email next week with more details of what I plan to write about on a regular basis, and with what frequency — the plan is weekly-ish — and how the upcoming paid subscription ($5/mo for now) will work. (Not paying me money will still get you emails, albeit less frequently). Also, there will be better design soon, I swear.
But today I’m skipping all of that and getting straight to the story …
A week ago, on Feb. 28, state troopers at the Capitol arrested activist Justin Jones and charged him with assault after he tossed a cup into an elevator, allegedly hitting state Rep. Debra Moody (R-Covington) and House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin). The police report states that the paper cup was “filled with an unknown liquid believed to be hot coffee,” but Jones says it was a mostly empty cup of iced tea from Frothy Monkey, the local coffee shop chain. (A person who has, in her lifetime, sipped from both cups of hot coffee and also iced tea might question how anyone splashed with one could possibly confuse it with the other, possibly raising questions about exactly how much liquid landed on Casada or Moody. However, CSI: Nashville this newsletter is not.)
Whether the cup was full or almost empty or hot or cold, in the past week Tennessee Republicans have gone to town on Jones, who was already facing charges from an incident while protesting a Marsha Blackburn campaign rally last October. “It’s clear that Tennessee Democrats have become completely unhinged!” tweeted the House GOP Caucus over the weekend.
The tweet included a brief video (widely circulated last week) of the cup-throwing incident — except now set to dramatic music, partially in slow motion, and for some inexplicable reason altered to be in black and white. In text panels interspersed with the images, Moody is quoted saying that if law enforcement had not been there, there’s no telling what would have happened to her. (This is not unlike how former state Sen. Mae Beavers started requesting troopers escort her around Legislative Plaza after Jones staged a sit-in in her office in 2017.)
“This is not a ‘peaceful protest’, it is radicalism and assault that will not be tolerated!” the video continues, over footage of Jones and fellow activist Jeneisha Harris calling legislators racist. (The comma error is theirs, not mine.) The pair, along with several other activists, were protesting the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Capitol, which GOP legislators refuse to move. (Forrest, a slave trader and Confederate general, was the first head of the Ku Klux Klan; his bust was not placed in the Capitol until 1979.)
Jones, of course, is black. (As is Harris, who was also arrested last week, ostensibly for stepping behind the velvet rope cordoning off the Forrest bust.) Jones is a Fisk graduate and a divinity school student at Vanderbilt — you know, the kind of black man to whom Republicans normally point as proof that racism doesn’t exist and affirmative action isn’t needed. Jones is tall, but he’s not physically imposing like, say, a state trooper. But Jones’ legitimate anger and frustration over racism and injustice in Tennessee has become the target for some white Republicans (elected officials and not) in a way similar to how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become a flashpoint on the national level. Long before Jones tossed that cup last week — a move that no one of any political persuasion has yet defended to my knowledge — he had a bullseye on his back.
If you’ve picked up on the “target” wordplay, that’s by design — Jones has been subjected to threats on his life more than once in the past year. The alleged “news” website, The Tennessee Star, has been aiming for Jones for months, and its inflammatory rhetoric has only worsened the situation. (I use the word “alleged” because the Star is pay-for-play, as been well known around Nashville since not long after it launched, and as Snopes.com extensively reported earlier this week.)
Two days after the arrests, the Star published a partial transcript of a radio interview with website co-owner Steve Gill and House Majority Caucus Chair Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) in which they both suggested that Jones was likely to escalate his “behavior.” “We don’t want to have a Steve Scalise congressional Republican baseball team shooting as this guy keeps ratcheting up his behavior,” Gill says, referring to Jones. (Jones, for what it’s worth, says that not only does he not own a gun, he has never even fired one.) Both Gill and Sexton then talk about how Jones’ bond should be revoked, given the October arrest. (Sexton also states that Jones “bumped” Casada the week prior, which Jones says did not happen.)
Late Monday afternoon, Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk’s office filed a motion to revoke (or significantly increase) Jones’ bond. The filing stated that Jones had emailed Cade Cothren, Casada’s chief of staff, on Friday, March 1, the day after the cup-throwing and arrest. Because this email also cc’d Casada, the motion said, Jones had violated the terms of his bond, which included a no-contact order between Jones and Casada or Moody.
“Due to the nature of the offense and the fact that the Defendant violated his bond conditions the very next day after his release, the State requests … this Honorable Court grant this motion,” the document reads.
Here’s the thing, though: Jones did not email Cothren or Casada (or Moody, for that matter) on March 1. He has not, as of me typing this at least, violated the no-contact order in person or via email. And within 36 hours or so after filing the motion alleging Jones violated the no-contact order, the D.A.’s office retracted it.
Funk did not return calls or a text message about the situation. Steve Hayslip, the spokesperson for Funk’s office, refused to comment as to why a motion to revoke bond was filed on unverified information, stating, “We are not at liberty to discuss specifics regarding a pending criminal case.” (Which — waves at Andrew Delke — is clearly not always the case for Funk.) Hayslip also refused to release the email or any other documentation provided to the office upon which the motion might have been based, either to me or as of yet to Jones’ attorney, Nick Leonardo, saying that the matter would be resolved in court later this month.
But Jones says he was told the D.A.’s office originally received a screenshot of an email from Jones to Cothren appearing to have been sent on March 1. The actual email, however, was sent on Feb. 25, three days before the cup incident. When the D.A.’s office realized that, they pulled the motion.
Neither Cothren nor Casada returned repeated calls or texts, and it is possible all of this is some sort of mix-up. But it’s also hard to imagine that an attorney would misread a Feb. 25 timestamp as March 1 and then subsequently file a motion based on it. Which means that someone — almost certainly either Cothren or Casada — possibly sent falsified evidence to the D.A.’s office in an attempt to get Jones’ bond revoked. And presenting knowingly false evidence to a court is a crime.
Hayslip would not say whether the D.A.’s office will press charges if indeed this has what happened. Leonardo said he is currently focused on his client’s case and would not comment on whether he would push for charges to be brought if false evidence was actually presented.
After retracting the original motion, Funk’s office filed a different motion this week to revoke Jones’ bond because of the October arrest. Hayslip would not comment whether the office was under political pressure to do so. Leonardo said a hearing for the motion is set for March 19.