Sunday, July 22, 2007

July 22, 2007 Teddy Ray Mitchell Lawsuit

Several people noticed a small blurb in the Citizen-Tribune on July 11, 2007, stating that a lawsuit had been filed by Teddy Ray Mitchell and Judy Mitchell against Hamblen County and the City of Morristown.

Teddy Ray Mitchell was carrying a lawn chair and a small American flag on an aluminum pole on June 24, 2006, when he started up the First North Street entrance to the Courthouse lawn. He was planning to attend an anti-illegal immigration rally.

When officers told him that he could not take the aluminum pole with the small American flag onto the Courthouse lawn, Mr. Mitchell objected. Words were exchanged. At some point, Mr. Mitchell was allegedly tasered, taken to the ground, and arrested.

There was an absolutely massive display of law enforcement present that day.

Several individuals asked if I would post the entire complaint that was filed in US District Court in Greeneville so they could see what it says.

Plaintiffs are Teddy Ray Mitchell and wife Judy Lee Mitchell. A jury trial is demanded.

Defendants are City of Morristown; Hamblen County; Officer Frank Lane; Officer Matt Stuart; Officer Troy Wallen; Officer Andrew Kyle; Officer Eric Carson; Lt. Chris Weisgarber (sic); Chief of Police Roger Overholt; Mayor Gary Johnson; and John Doe's.


Come the plaintiffs and for cause of action would state as follows:

1. The plaintiffs are citizens and residents of Hamblen County, Tennesse.

2. The defendant City of Morristown is a municipal corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Tennessee and existing in Hamblen County, Tennessee.

3. The defendant Hamblen County is a governmental entity existing and created in the State of Tennessee.

4. The individual officer defendants, Frank Lane, Matt Stuart, Troy Wallen, Andrew Kyle, Eric Carlson, Chris Weisgarber (sic), are police officers employed by the City of Morristown and may be served with process through the Chief of Police in Morristown, Tennessee. (NOTE: Chris Wisecarver)

5. Chief of Police Roger Overholt is employed by the City of Morristown and may be served with process through the Chief of Police in Morristown, Tennessee.

6. Mayor Gary Johnson is employed by the City of Morristown and may be served with process at 100 W. First North Street, Morristown, Tennessee 37816. (NOTE: Sami Barile is now Mayor of Morristown)

7. The John Doe defendants are parties who are employees of the City of Morristown or Hamblen County who participated in the actions that led to the planning, policy, and decisions that resulted in the violation of civil rights of the plaintiff, Teddy Ray Mitchell, and his resulting injuries, as well as John Does that participated in the violation of his civil rights. None of these individuals are known to plaintiffs at this time. Those would include Sheriff's department deputies that participated in the events and arrest of Teddy Ray Mitchell on June 24, 2006.

8. The defendants and all of them acted in their official capacity to violate the plaintiff, Teddy Ray Mitchell, of his rights.

9. This is a civil action seeking relief and/or damages to defend or protect the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. This action is brought pursuant to 42 USC (Section) 1983, as well as other remedies. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 USC (Sections) 1331, 1343(3)(4) and 2201.

10. Venue exists in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee.

11. On or about June 24, 2006, the plaintiff, Teddy Ray Mitchell, a 61 year old veteran, was on his way to attend a "concerned citizens" pro-America rally. This rally was a peaceful rally that had been orgranized in part by some of the leaders of the Hamblen County community and at which certain public officials would be speaking.

12. Citizens were encouraged to attend and to bring American flags. Mr. Mitchell brought along with him a lawn chair and an American flag to attend the rally. He also wore around his neck a picture of himself in his Navy uniform from the 1960's. Mr. Mitchell was not a member of any group or organization. He simply wanted to attend a pro-America rally.

13. Upon arrival, Mr. Mitchell was surprised to find that the entire grounds of the Hamblen County Courthouse where the rally was to occur had been cordoned off. Mr. Mitchell understood this to be a peaceful rally and, therefore, did not understand the high degree of security.

14. While approaching the entrance to the rally, Mr. Mitchell was confronted by the above-noted defendant officers.

15. The officers forcefully demanded that he would not be able to take his flag into the rally. Mr. Mitchell objected to this. He asked if a Mexican flag would be allowed and was told by one of the defendant officers that, yes, a Mexican flag could go in. The officers then did forcefully try to take the flag from him and grabbed Mr. Mitchell and forced him to the ground. At the same time, they stunned and/or tasered him.

16. Mr. Mitchell is 61 years of age. The officers used unnecessary force and did violently violate his constitutional rights to freely attend a public rally and carry an American flag.

17. The above-stated defendants did violate Mr. Mitchell's constitutional rights, including the right of free speech and to carry an American flag; the right to be free from an unlawful attack; the use of unnecessary force by a police officer; and the unlawful arrest of him, all in the the exercise of his protected constitutional rights.

18. Mr. Mitchell and other American veterans have served in our Armed Forces to protect our right to carry and present the American flag. The officers in questiosn sought to deprive Mr. Mitchell of this right and did so forcefully and with unnecessary violence did take his American flag from him. causing injury to him.

19. The aforestated defendants violated Mr. Mitchell's constitutional rights, including those protected pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 USC (Section) 1983.

20. The defendants, through their planning of the security for this event and through the actions that led to the injury and arrest of Mr. Mitchell, did act in concert to violate his civil rights.

21. Further, the defendant officers have maliciously prosecuted him, all in an effort to prevent Mr. Mitchell from exercising his civil rights.

22. As a result of the actions of the defendants, the plaintiff, Teddy Ray Mitchell, has incurred damages, including personal injury and attorneys' fees. He continues to be wrongfully prosecuted. All of these actions have caused and will continue to cause him damages and injury and are intended to hinder him in his protection of his civil rights. The plaintiff prays to recover any and all damages to which he has suffered.

23. The plaintiff, Judy Lee Mitchell, has been deprived of consortium of her husband and is therefore likewise entitled to damages.

Having set forth their Complaint, the plaintiffs pray to recover an amount not less than $100,000, as well as their attorneys' fees and costs and such further and other relief as to which they are entitled. The plaintiffs request a jury to try this cause.

Respectfully submitted this 22nd day of June, 2007.

Signed by: Teddy Ray Mitchell
Judy Lee Mitchell

James C. Wright (Attorney for Plaintiffs)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

July 15, 2007 Tennessee Waltz: Bitter Tune for Eleven Public Officials

Tennessee State Senator Ward Crutchfield of Chattanooga held on to his office as long as he could, denying all the while that he was guilty of taking bribes in the 2005 Tennessee Waltz FBI investigation of corruption at the state and local level.

Then on Thursday, July 12, he entered a plea of guilty to a bribery charge. In return, a more serious charge of extortion was dropped. His attorney commented afterwards that the money Crutchfield took was not a bribe; instead, it was a thank you, a tip, a "gratuity."

The next day, former Tennessee State Senator Kathryn Bowers announced that she would enter a guilty plea on Monday, July 16, despite nearly two years of fierce denials to bribe-taking.

Out of 12 arrests, there are 11 guilty pleas or convictions with one remaining individual scheduled for trial in September. My guess is that the remaining trial will never take place---that a guilty plea will be announced on the eve of trial or before.

The FBI did an outstanding job in establishing airtight cases. I've heard more than one person speculate that with a little more time, many more state and local lawmakers could have been snared in the "money for legislation/legislative favors" scheme.

The FBI tapes told a tale of corruption in Nashville and across the state. In the end, not even a legislator/lawyer like Crutchfield could withstand the tale of the tapes.

Monday, July 09, 2007

July 8, 2007 Taxes: Why The Public Doesn't Believe a Word the Politicians Say

"How do you know when a politician is lying?" Answer: "His/her lips are moving."

We laugh. But unfortunately, there is a lot of truth in that joke.

Another unfortunate truth is that local government spending is beginning a sharp upward spiral. And when spending goes up, taxes go up.

TAXES: On June 28, the Hamblen County Commission passed a budget that has around $1 million dollars in new spending out of the county general government fund. That new spending comes with a price tag ---a 10-cent tax increase.

After voting for the tax increase and new spending, Chairman Stancil Ford started the spin machine with political double-speak in which he proclaimed how proud he was that the budget had been CUT by $1 million dollars.

How do you increase spending by $1 million dollars and call it a "cut"? Answer: The first wish-list budget presented this year included over $2 million dollars in new spending. So when the commission only added $1 million dollars in new spending, Ford proudly termed this $1 million in new spending a "cut."

To quote another famous spinmeister: it all depends on what the meaning of "cut" is. To the taxpayer, it's pretty simple. If you are getting $10/hour and ask your boss for a $2/hour raise for the next year but only get a $1/hour raise, did you get a "cut" in pay? No. That's not a cut. That's just less of an increase than you asked for.

When politicians look at a similar situation on the government level, they think that if they spent $10 million last year and if someone proposes to spend $2 million additional dollars in next year's budget but instead they only add $1 million dollars of additional spending, then they have "cut" the budget. That's not a cut. That's just less of an increase than they asked for.

Bottom line: Government spending in the county's general fund is increasing by $1 MILLION DOLLARS from last year's level, and everyone's tax rate is going up by 10 cents from last year's level to pay for the added spending.

I was allowed to speak just before the June 28th tax-and-spend vote was approved. No other citizens spoke at that time although I have seen several letters to the editor opposing tax increases.

On June 28th, I knew the vote was set. My remarks were a reminder that looking for ways to cut or at least hold-the-line on new spending is long overdue. They also were a reminder that local officials, unfortunately, have a poor record for truthfulness about taxes and a poor record for accountability for tax dollars.

You are getting ready to raise taxes AGAIN.

The writing is on the wall. It's a done deal.

I am against the continual increase in taxes. Just like the average citizen, government has to learn to curb the constant desire to spend more and more.

In 1999, you passed a wheel tax. It was supposed to be a temporary tax to take care of a temporary general fund problem and then it was supposed to "sunset" and go away.

Well, the sun never did set on the wheel tax. As soon as the temporary general fund problem was taken care of, you decided that you still wanted to spend more tax dollars.

So in 2002 many of you currently serving on this commission decided to conduct a "pick-your-poison" referendum.

Taxpayers were given the choice of a wheel tax or a property tax increase. What a nifty choice. Too bad there wasn't a third choice---none of the above.

The taxpayers dutifully made their "choice." Continue the $27 wheel tax and they thought that was it.

Little did the taxpayers know that just three months after the wheel tax passed in 2002, many of you commissioners sitting here today or your predecessors would tack on a 15-cent property tax increase, too!

So much for straight talk. No wonder the public has such distrust for elected officials.

That's when people began to see that the government never gets enough.

Then a short time later, it was disaster time for the garbage fund. A 21-cent property tax increase.

Then there was a litigation tax increase.

Then pennies were shifted from the debt fund and put in the general fund. And more money was shifted around that many of you never even knew about until after it was already done.

Now, you're preparing to add another 10-cent increase to the general fund tax rate.

You may never see them and you may never talk to them, but there are people living on fixed incomes today. I have heard at least two or three of you mention these people in private conversations.

These people are living on $500 to $600/month. They are saddled with gas costing nearly $3/gallon. Milk that is nearly $5/gallon. Frequently, they have no health insurance and are faced with the choice of buying food or needed medicine.

And there is a middle class that is squeezed from all sides as well.

Taxes just go up and up and up!

The really sad thing is that there is so little accountability up here for the precious tax dollars that you have already taken and that you are preparing to take more of today.

Everybody can think of new ways to spend money, but suggestions for spending cuts are non-existent or few and far between.

Ignoring those who suggest ways to cut spending is the norm.

No-bid contracts are still the norm.

No questions are now the norm.

And, as a result, there will be a tax increase this year, next year, and probably for many years to come.

Government belt-tightening? Maybe when pigs fly.

Thank you for allowing me to speak today.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

July 4, 2007 Happy Fourth of July

How fortunate and blessed this nation and its people are.

With thankfulness for our many freedoms and with gratitude to all who serve in our armed forces....