|July 23, 2009||Where does TPD go after Hardy trial?||3 comments|
|July 22, 2009||Hardy trial and other things||1 comments|
|July 21, 2009||Notes from Day 2 of Hardy V. Tupelo||no comments|
|July 21, 2009||Day 2 - Hardy v. Tupelo||2 comments|
|July 17, 2009||Ooops, Stanford case "sealed" docs weren't||no comments|
Cliff Hardy's lawsuit against the City of Tupelo may go his way or not.
Regardless, Hardy's claims have let the Genie out of the bottle – that is, nobody's going to forget what he's alleged and testimony from others about racial problems within the Tupelo Police Department.
In truth, if any competent person had conducted the Tupelo Ethics Report instead of Cindy Brown (well, anybody but George Castanza on Seinfeld), these issues could have been credible and perhaps addressed by now, or at least the city could be farther down the road toward addressing them.
We've heard some odd things this week in court:
• That an NMMC official's son beat up TPD officer and was taken to mental health services, rather than arrested.
• That at least two white TPD officers "could" have been involved in beating a black suspect in the Lee County Jail. This allegation never was investigated.
• That some white high-ups in TPD mistreated black suspects.
• That Maj. Ronnie Thomas was ordered to remove a picture of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from his office wall, after black officers complained. Forrest is widely considered to have founded the Ku Klux Klan.
• That Thomas and Chaffin, both white, were constant companions leading up to the time former Deputy Chief Robert Hall, who is black, came under his serious legal problems.
• That one black officer, who testified, denied he was drunk on the job when accused by Hardy. He also insinuated it wasn't the only complaint against him.
• That Chaffin admitted he was unaware of what was contained in Internal Affairs files about TPD officers.
And the whole issue of "professional courtesy" has become a sticky wicket – that although it's not official policy, it's generally recognized that an investigating officer can send a suspect home without arrest.
Today, Hall came back to the stand to specifically insist that TPD Chief Harold Chaffin NEVER suggested or ordered him NOT to release accident suspect Jamison Shells in May 2006 after a hit-and-run accident on McCullough Boulevard.
Earlier this week, Chaffin said he warned Hardy about getting involved in the incident's followup by TPD and strongly suggested Hardy walk away because he was friends with Shells' parents.
Who's really telling the truth will be what the jury considers, no doubt.
And it's been very interesting that while this case is all about Cliff Hardy, it's really all about Robert Hall, who ultimately was indicted and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice and another charge to avoid facing jail time, if he went to trial.
This may be Hall's first public statements about his very public disgrace and departure from his well-regarded status as TPD's No. 2 guy.
Hardy ultimately lost all his jobs at TPD within months of making a public speech in Hardy's defense.
The jury likely will get the case by mid-afternoon, and I suspect they'll be highly motivated to decide something so they can go home tonight.
Stay tuned ... Patsy
First, the staff of life: politics.
No big surprise Sen. Thad Cochran is going to vote against Sonya Sotomayor for U.S. Supreme Court. He always follows whatever Sen. Roger Wicker does.
Isn't that it, ... or is the other way around? Whew, I've been in court too long this week.
Bigger question: Why did the Neshoba County Fair NOT invite Philadelphia's new mayor (who is black) and Central Supreme Court Justice James Graves (who is black)? I adore new Justice Jim Kitchens (who is white), also Central District, but he's been invited to speak next Thursday while Graves hasn't.
Is there something racial going on here? In Neshoba County? Naaaaaah? (I'm from Pike County. I can talk about Neshoba anytime.)
Speaking of court, Tupelo PD Chief Harold Chaffin is spending a lot of time in federal court this week. He's sitting at the defense counsel table with city attorneys John S. Hill and Berkley Huskison as the city seeks to fend off former Capt. Cliff Hardy's lawsuit.
Hardy contends he was run out of the department after he spoke in defense of a colleague, then Deputy Chief Robert Hall, who Hardy said was being persecuted because of his race. Hardy is white and Hall is black.
Looks like the jury could make up its mind before the sun sets Thursday.
It's hard to say which way the seven whites and one black jury will go. They've been reasonably attentive all week, but the U.S. District Court courtroom in Aberdeen has been so cold that I'm not sure Justice Scalia could concentrate sufficiently.
Frankly, when I'm cold, it's bad news. We all almost died of frostbite and chills on Monday, when I learned that the temp is controlled by some federal bureaucrat in Washington. Lordy, go figure!
Anyway, somehow the afternoon temps have improved. Still, the jurors arrived Tuesday in jackets and sweaters. TV colleague Susan Parker looked like an Eskimo, and I brought a shawl and a blanket.
* * * *
You've got to wonder how long Tupelo PD Chief Harold Chaffin can hang on.
Chaffin categorically denies he's had one thought about retirement, but he sure looked beleaguered and tired up there on the stand repeatedly Wednesday.
I have no doubts the new city administration has, at the least, casually chatted about new leadership in the police department.
Bound to happen – new Mayor Jack Reed Jr. is widely credited with helping ousted Deputy Chief Robert Hall with finding suitable employment with Community Development Foundation after Hall agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanors and resign from TPD.
Unverified talk also speculates several recent employment lawsuits against the city have drive up its liability insurance. We'll have to see about that rumor.
Regardless, the new Reed Administration appears to welcome the challenges.
* * * *
Good news for Scruggs-DeLaughter trial junkies:
Thanks to Senior Judge Glen Davidson (my son's a fan) for deciding to establish a "media room" for reporters during the trial of disgraced Hinds Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter.
Also, thanks to me for nagging Chief Judge Michael P. Mills to let me bring my laptop into the federal courtrooms to cover trials.
I asked for laptop use several months ago, but last week, I spoke with Mills to tell him that the U.S. District Court in Houston, Texas, where the big Stanford doin's are going on, lets anybody in with a laptop – EVEN reporters!
I give Mills credit. He's open to new ideas, so he said he's pass that info along to Judge Davidson. (It also sounds like the court is looking at wider media access.)
To my great delight, I learned quickly about the DeLaughter arrangements. Trial is set to begin in Oxford Aug. 17.
Judge DeLaughter has pleaded not guilty to charges he allowed himself to be bribed in a legal-fees case against Dickie Scruggs. He also is accused of mail fraud and of lying to investigators.
Now, I've got to get myself some wi-fi so I can blog live from the courtroom. I'll figure out something.
* * * *
Sorry I failed with a column today (Thursday), but this Aberdeen court gig has taken all the spark out of my brain.
BTW, thanks go heaven-ward for the rain this week. My garden needed it, and I've loved not turning on the A/C since Saturday!
Keep readin'.... Patsy
Combing through my notes from Tuesday's trial, Cliff Hardy v. Tupelo:
Buddy McCarty - Tupelo architect, said he's come to know former TPD Capt. Cliff Hardy as a participant in the Senior Services volunteer program, which he helped Hardy set up.
"Cliff loves and breathes the Police Department," McCarty said.
He also said he got to know then-Deputy Chief Robert Hall, who" wanted to try new things."
Robert Hall – Former TPD deputy chief. (See Wednesday's Daily Journal for the guts of his testimony)
Prior to the Jamison Shells incident – the hit-and-run accident Hall got squeezed by – Hall had never had any accusations of bad conduct, he said.
He also said he got interested in becoming a policeman by watching the TV show, "Adam 12."
About the Shells incident:
Hall said he knew Shells' family from church and knew Shells from after-church basketball games.
He said he found out about the accident – Shells' vehicle struck a child riding a bicycle – when Shells' mother called him. She said her son had runover somebody on the Hwy 45 bypass and pulled over at Hardee's to all 911.
"I said I'd check it out," he said. He called Chief Chaffin and got his permission to check on the situation.
He said he became concerned when he saw that a couple of officers at the scene had complaints against them. Later, Shells complained he was assaulted by them.
He said he was concerned about potential liability to the city and ordered Shells be brought back from the jail and released, knowing more investigation needed to be done. Charges could come later, which is common, he added.
Doyce Deas - former city councilwoman.
Helped organize the October 2006 public forum on racial reconciliation.
She said after Hardy's speech in defense of Hall, she felt it substantiated reports she'd received from other community residents.
Mike Russell – TPD sergeant. Succeeded Hardy as PAL coordinator. "I had very high regard for him," he said of Hardy.
He said he didn't believe Hardy's speech caused a morale problem at TPD.
Katarsha White - new TPD sergeant. Worked with Hardy in Community Oriented Policing. Called him a very fair, good supervisor.
About his speech, she said, "I don't think it changed morale. It was already where it was going to be. I don't think it changed anything."
Anthony Hill – TPD major, Hardy's immediate supervisor. "I had no idea," he answered, about why Hardy's wide-ranging responsibilities were taken away by Chief Chaffin.
About Hardy's speech, he said it didn't affect him one way or the other.
Dr. Priscilla Roth-Wall – clinical psychologist of Tupelo. Diagnosed Hardy as severely depressed with severe anxiety.
She held her ground against city attorney John Hill, who tried to get her to say Hardy was just a paranoid person.
She said no, he was not afraid of everything, just that he was fearful about what had happened to him and what might happen to him – because he had seen what had happened to Hall, when people wanted him out of the way.
Jack Reed Jr. – Tupelo's new mayor. Educated as an attorney. Responded to all questions, every guardedly, as an attorney would. He declined to say he had engineered a job for Robert Hall with CDF, for which Reed was to be president soon.
John Lovorn – owns Tupelo exec search firm, The Pace Group. Was facilitator at 2006 forum, where Hardy spoke. Said attendees voted on top issues of concern: 99 points for hiring of minorities in public schools and city government, 62 points for discrimination in law enforcement/police department. The third-highest issue got 19 points.
He said it was not inappropriate for a police officer to speak at the forum.
"I believe in the First Amendment ... to say what you want to say."
- Come back to "From the Front Row" for other updates and reports from Patsy R. Brumfield. Also read Patsy's Twitter posts at twitter.com/RealNewsQueen or read her on Facebook.
ABERDEEN – Interesting first full day of testimony.
The morning’s impact witness was former City Councilwoman Doyce Deas, a member of the four-person committee appointed to look into allegations of racial bias in employment decisions in Tupelo city government.
Deas testified that she believed plaintiff Cliff Hardy’s speech at an October 2006 racial reconciliation forum was important because she wanted to know what a police insider thought about allegations.
And she told the jury his accusations later were “substantiated” that former Deputy Chief Robert Hall was “mistreated” by TPD, when he was suspended and demoted after he sent a driver home from an accident in which a bicycle-riding youth was injured.
Robert Hall took the stand before Deas and told his side of what happened during his involvement with the accident. He also talked about his subsequent job difficulties leading up to his indictment on accusations surrounding his actions related to the accident.
Hall spoke well on his on behalf. Watch for Emily Le Coz’s blog for more on his testimony and Wednesday’s Daily Journal report by both of us.
Jim Waide of Tupelo is Cliff Hardy’s lead attorney as Hardy tried to convince the eight-member jury that he was pushed out of his captain’s job as Internal Affairs officer and coordinator of numerous community policing programs. He’s assisted by Shane McLaughlin.
Attorneys for the city are John S. Hill and Berkley Huskison of the Mitchell McNutt & Sams law firm.
Huskison may not be aware of it, but he has addressed the two black men to testify today by their first names – Robert and Anthony, while he addressed Sgt. Michael Russell, a white man, as “Sergeant” and did not call by name Katarsha White, a new police sergeant who once worked with Hardy.
Hill, who questioned Deas, called her “Mrs. Deas.”
Howdy, NEMS360.com readers. It’s Day 1 for “From the Front Row,” my periodic blog about stuff I’ve run across in the course of my Daily Journal comings and goings. Today, it’s about how even the best of us can mess up. You may have seen my story about Sir R. Allen Stanford’s attorney’s sealed motion to the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas. My professional guess is that the motion asks the court for immediate financial relief to Stanford’s high-powered attorney or the attorney is going to have to spend his time with paid customers. This assumption comes from the fact that the sealed motion had an exhibit attached. I clicked on the exhibit, printed it and discovered a series of letters between Stanford’s attorney and insurance carriers about using Stanford insurance policies or Stanford Financial Group policies to help pay the legal bills. Stanford had signed over a $5-million Lloyds of London policy to the attorney, who told him that amount probably wouldn’t be enough. Ultimately, the underwriters said the court-appointed receiver said the value from these policies are “assets,” thus frozen by the court and not available to pay legal fees – until the court says to do so. Very interesting.
Anyway, as is my custom most of the time, I dashed to NEMS360.com and posted the story. Twitter and Facebook, too. I also dispatched an e-mail to the attorney, asking if he intended to withdraw.
Today, it’s about how even the best of us can mess up.
You may have seen my story about Sir R. Allen Stanford’s attorney’s sealed motion to the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas. My professional guess is that the motion asks the court for immediate financial relief to Stanford’s high-powered attorney or the attorney is going to have to spend his time with paid customers.
This assumption comes from the fact that the sealed motion had an exhibit attached. I clicked on the exhibit, printed it and discovered a series of letters between Stanford’s attorney and insurance carriers about using Stanford insurance policies or Stanford Financial Group policies to help pay the legal bills.
Stanford had signed over a $5-million Lloyds of London policy to the attorney, who told him that amount probably wouldn’t be enough.
Ultimately, the underwriters said the court-appointed receiver said the value from these policies are “assets,” thus frozen by the court and not available to pay legal fees – until the court says to do so.
He responded, “Not yet.” And so I asked a couple other minor questions.
Four hours and six minutes after the story went up on NEMS360.com, I got a call from the attorney’s assistant. She was a little bit ruffled about how I acquired the documents, since they were supposed to be sealed. And anyway, why didn’t I call somebody about that?
Lady, I don’t have ESP, I said somewhat politely.
She asked me to call the court in Houston, which I was happy to do, after explaining to my boss, Mike Tonos, what had happened.
The poor woman on the other end of the conversation in Houston sounded completely distraught to know all the stuff had gone throughout the Cyber Universe. I told her I was very sorry, which I am, for whatever repercussions may occur from writing about the exhibit.
I’ve made bad mistakes, too. They just never feel very good, especially when you can’t do anything about them.
Guess we’ll see how this all plays out. Stay tuned to “From the Front Row” for developments and to NEMS360.com for my other reports.
You also can find me on Twitter as RealNewsQueen and as myself on Facebook.
I’ll try never to waste your time.
– PRB 7/17/09