Fairgrounds activist is a sex offender

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 11:00pm
FairgroundtrackMAIN.jpg
Nashville Speedway at the Fairgrounds.

The spokesman for a group opposing plans to redevelop the Tennessee State Fairgrounds is a registered sex offender who runs an online fantasy gaming site frequented by minors, The City Paper has learned.

Thomas Larry Watson, 62, has issued comments to the media several times in recent months on behalf of the Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group, which hired an attorney in January and filed suit last week against against Metro Nashville and the city's Board of Fair Commissioners.

According to a 1995 newspaper account, Watson was arrested in March of that year in Cumming, Ga., where he was a computer software dealer. As part of a nationwide crackdown on distributors of child pornography, he was charged with "activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of children."

He was convicted in federal court and sentenced in November 1995 to 15 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, court records indicate. In 2005, Nashville authorities arrested him for failing to register as a sex offender, according to Davidson County Criminal Court records. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge the following year and was given a suspended jail sentence. He is now listed in Tennessee's Sexual Offender Registry.

Watson operates RuneVillage.com, a fansite for players of the online fantasy game RuneScape that appears to have more than 40,000 members. Several of the people who have become fans of RuneVillage on Facebook identify themselves as high school students from the U.S. and other countries.

Watson first advanced the argument that it would be illegal for the Fair Board to stop putting on the state fair in an email he sent to board members on Oct. 7 of last year. He cited state laws from the 1920s and earlier to make the case that the board is required to hold a state fair every year at the south Nashville site.

Two citizens who say they will be affected by the fairgrounds' projected closure sued on Friday in Davidson County Chancery Court, relying on legal arguments much like Watson's. Attorney Robert W. Rutherford of Rutherford & DeMarco filed the complaint after the Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group retained him.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Rutherford noted that Watson is "not officially a part of the lawsuit" and remarked that his criminal record, of which Rutherford had not been aware, "doesn't affect the validity of the argument."

Rutherford said: "I'm hoping this boils down to a purely legal argument, and [Watson's past] really has no effect on that. He's not one of my clients. He's a proponent."

Fair Board Chairman James Weaver, an attorney at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP, declined to comment when asked about the revelation of Watson's past on Tuesday.

Reached by telephone Tuesday afternoon, Watson contended his background "has nothing to do with the politics" of the fairgrounds debate.

"Yes, I made a mistake 15 years ago," Watson said. "The idea is that you're supposed to pay your penalty and go and sin no more. You know, try to get back involved with community and citizenship again. Well, that's what I've been doing."

57 Comments on this post:

By: Karl_Warden on 2/17/10 at 3:45

And what, exactly, does this have to do with the merits of the Fairgrounds suit?

He did something stupid and wrong a long time ago. And you seem to be using this to affect current events that have not one thing to do with what he did many years ago. Do you think you ought to be writing the news, or directing the course of current events?

By: nvestnbna on 2/17/10 at 7:58

And what, exactly, does this have to do with the merits of the Fairgrounds suit?

He did something stupid and wrong a long time ago. And you seem to be using this to affect current events that have not one thing to do with what he did many years ago. Do you think you ought to be writing the news, or directing the course of current events?

EXACTLY!!! This does absolutely nothing to bring relevant information to the public.

How about an article discussing why these folks have formed a group to PRESERVE the fairgrounds?

By: WickedTribe on 2/17/10 at 8:10

I thought the point of this story is that he wants to preserve the fairgrounds because they're a good location to cruise little kids.

By: RonHowell on 2/17/10 at 8:48

It's obvious that you are a proponent for The Tennessee Fairgrounds redevelopment. You are using the basis that he is a sex offender to discredit his stand. Sheeesh , and you are a writer? Come on man!!! Be real. Sex offender ... and ????? This paper sucks. Fire this writer.

By: idgaf on 2/17/10 at 9:25

When you can't defend against the facts attack the messinger.

By: girliegirl on 2/17/10 at 9:30

Sorry, but one has nothing to do with the other..... and I don't have a stake in this issue. (Just stating the more than obvious)

By: xhexx on 2/17/10 at 9:35

What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? What exactly is the point of this article?

By: Anna3 on 2/17/10 at 9:41

This kind of stuff is whats making folks sick of politicians/Lawyers. Some lawyer/politico/slug threw this out there when it has NO relevance to the issue only to affect the outcome of this debate. This stinks of the type of tactice James Weaver uses....what a low life. Watson is not an elected representative, he's not handling public funds...and he's trying to live right. When we find out who did this...would somebody please post who it was...I'll be the first in their yard with my torch and pitchfork. What a useless piece of destructive crap this piece is.

By: bfra on 2/17/10 at 9:42

Probably just another pimp on Karl's payroll like producer2!

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 9:51

The writer should have put this information out for several reasons!

1. Do you all know how many sex offenders live with in walking distance of the TN State Fairgrounds? Do you know how many sex offenders there are in Davidson County? Go to the TBI sex offender registry and see. I believe there are at or around 1,200 living in Davidson County and about 75 to 100 living less than two miles away from the State Fairgrounds Property. If you look Watson up on the TBI sex offender registry you will see that he lives on Murfreesboro Pike around five (5) miles away from the fairgrounds property. Also, sex offenders are "allowed" to attend or work the two week state fair unless they are still on probation. I'm not aware of a rule by Metro prohibiting them from working or attending the fair. So, if the fair is put on this year by a private entity they should consider banning sex offenders like Watson from attending or working it. This is suppose to be a family oriented safe environment!!!! The two (2) week fair other than the Zoo and water parks is the only outdoor event that attracts children to it by offering rides, games, cotton candy, and etc.in Davidson County. I have not doubt this man knows what he is giving up if the fairgrounds closes.

2. The fairgrounds preservation group is soliciting funds for their Legal Defense through emails, blogs, and etc. If people are giving them money they should know who their members are.

3. The fairgrounds preservation group also held a public meeting on January 20th in which one former council member hosted and I believe two or three more current council members attended. Did these council people or the other people in attendance bother to see who the members of the fairgrounds preservation group were? If they did they might not have attended.

4. Why is a 62 year old man running a video game website with a facebook link on it? He is not making any real money off of it. You can figure that out by looking up his address. Seriously, in my opinion something is not right if you are a convicted sex offender and you are still doing things that lure minors in. Although he is within the law it is not right.

5. The media has failed to properly research this group. Watson has been quoted a number of times in newspapers and on the television regarding the fairgrounds. Sometimes it's good to know a little bit about the people you are interviewing and doing stories about.

Finally, I believe people can be rehabilitated however, if you are for example an alcoholic you will always be an alcoholic despite whether you are currently sober and if you are a sexual predator you will always be one even if you are not currently breaking the law. This man was 47 years old when he was convicted of these two acts in 1995 and from my research a Thomas Watson which may be this Thomas Watson claims to be a former executive with the boys scouts. He was also picked in 2005 for a sex offender registry violation. This man to my knowledge is not a vendor at the fairgrounds, he does not have any kids or grandchildren that he takes to the fair, he does not own property in Davidson County, is not originally from Davidson County, and for the life of me I'm trying to figure out why this issue is so important for him. Maybe someone else can help me out.

By: bfra on 2/17/10 at 10:07

117-acres shy: Where did you get your pretentious babble degree?

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 10:12

bfra not trying to be pretentious just pointing some issues out regarding this discussion that should have been raised a long time ago.

By: bfra on 2/17/10 at 10:18

WHY?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/17/10 at 10:23

The Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group would have done the exact same thing if someone from SNAP or some other opposing group were a sex offender. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm just saying that this debate has gotten so ugly either side would have slug this mud.

By: localboy on 2/17/10 at 10:26

Great photo posted with this article...now where exactly is Mr. Watson standing? He is the focus of the article, right?

By: bfra on 2/17/10 at 10:27

Wonder how many, with a checkered past, would show up if a thorough investigation of our current politicians was done?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/17/10 at 10:31

bfra, it happens all the time. i established a neighborhood group a while back and people who didn't want to see things cleaned up (those with nasty histories themselves) tried to find dirt to sling at me. i've never been charged or arrested for anything in my life - heck i don't even have parking tickets! but it didn't stop them from trying. the worst thing they could come up with is that i drink beer on my front porch and that is very "unchristian" of me. LOL

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 10:35

The fairgrounds heritage group has established themselves as a public interest group which in my opinion is no different than a politician. If you are going to put yourself in the public like they have then you better have some thick skin. Had Mr. Watson just been a member of this group and not the spokesperson/chairman then this might not have ever come up but he did and I feel like this information should have been put out there. It is no different than a news reporter writing a story about John Edwards having a child out of wedlock.

By: girliegirl on 2/17/10 at 10:35

...and we're assuming that ALL offenders have been "convicted"...puh-lease.. you haven't even tapped that mine source yet and you know it. The majority of offenders most likely never even get caught.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/17/10 at 10:39

i'll agree with you on that, girliegirl. or they find a loophole or technicality.

By: bfra on 2/17/10 at 10:41

Blanket - Reminds me of "thee without sin, cast the first stone". Just saying!

By: Kosh III on 2/17/10 at 10:43

Who else is in this group?
Can we check the registry for fraud offenders? White collar crime offenders? WallStreetcrook offenders? Liars? Cheats? Hypocrites?

I don''t want a convicted felon like Martha Stewart or Maury Davis around children!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/17/10 at 11:00

i agree, bfra.

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 11:00

Comparing Martha Stewart who was convicted for tax invasion is a little different than Mr. Watson who was convicted for dealing depictions of minors engaging in sexual acts i.e. "Kiddie Porn" and is now trying to save an event that is mainly for children.

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 11:04

I'm a sinner and I admit it.

By: bfra on 2/17/10 at 11:12

117 - Since when are ALL events at the fairgrounds "mainly" for kids? Do you not even know of all the events that take place there? Even during the fair, other than the midway, most events are for adults.

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 11:18

The two (2) week state fair in the past has tried to attract families with children. Please see the link to the two (2) week schedule of events from last year's fair below. I said event which I meant fair.

http://www.tennesseestatefair.org/pdfs/schedules/dailyschedules.pdf

By: bfra on 2/17/10 at 11:26

As I stated before, you don't sound like you have ever been to the fair! Maybe visited the midway a time or two.

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 11:34

bfra. I love the fair especially the food and all the expo events on the property. I hope the city will find an alternate location for it as well as the expo events. I do agree with all the studies that have been done that this is not the best location to continue operating the fair and especially the racetrack. Hopefully, the City will work on finding a better location for these events.

By: bfra on 2/17/10 at 11:55

You could just admit that your main objection is the racetrack. I gather you own property somewhere near the fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds needs improving, I agree to that. But this is The State Fair & Nashville is the State Capital, where would you prefer it be held, KY., GA., or maybe somewhere in AL?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/17/10 at 12:01

how about somewhere other than the edge of downtown?

By: girliegirl on 2/17/10 at 12:29

As long as we can still have the Lawn and Garden Show! Woohoo! (here ...fishy fishy fishy)

By: Kosh III on 2/17/10 at 12:31

117
So at least you agree that Maury Davis should not be around other people. Why is there no registry on cold-blooded murderers? I don't want a murderer, or a wallstreeter living near me or near children.
Where's the registry for every other crime? Can we punish Davis for the rest of his life?

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 12:39

bfra I think the City ought to look at the area of Davidson County where the May Town Center project was purposed and consider relocating the fairgrounds there. If the City gets rid of the racetrack and gives the fairgrounds some much needed TLC and offer some open green space I have no problem with the City doing that.

I did not know who Maury Davis was but that would be absurd for me to agree with you on that. As far as your registry ideas you need to pitch that to the General Assembly or Congress.

By: bfra on 2/17/10 at 12:47

117 - I have no idea who M. Davis is or what registry you speak of. Maybe you should reread the messages.

I think karl need to get off his high-horse and realize he isn't a king or emperor!

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 1:16

Sorry bfra i meant to reply back to Kosh II.

Has anyone heard from some1else today? Oh some1esle where are you....

By: racer84 on 2/17/10 at 1:32

Story is as totally irrellevant as the poster 117acres.

State Fair will be ran by an outside group, and will be more successful than it has been in years. Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Reba as headline acts will bring in loads of cash to insure the future of the Tn State Fair stays in Music City at it's current location.

Dean only has a year left and once he's gone then so will the talk of giving the property to developers.
From News channel 4.....
Until now, it seemed as though the more than 100-year tradition was finished. Then, two private entities started to express interest in taking over the fair in its current location this year and keeping it in Nashville in years to come.

"I think there is a good chance the board will have some good proposals, and if they are good, reasonable, and we can accommodate them, I think the board will be inclined to approve it," said Buck Dozier, executive director of the fair and fairgrounds.

For that to happen, the fair board would have to approve one of the two expected proposals. The private entities would have to offer a reasonable amount of money to use the Metro-owned fair property. There would also have to be a lease agreement for the 10-day event.

The mayor's office said it will support the board's decision as long as it doesn't cost the city any money.

Three groups have shown interest in operating the racetrack this year. Any serious proposals will also be presented at the board's meeting next Wednesday.

117acres - Post all u want to try to discredit facts, You're posts are always full of misinformation, while trying to sound like an expert....You aren't fooling anyone....except some of your neighbors....lol

By: gdiafante on 2/17/10 at 1:47

The state fair has sucked for years in that location. My kids have never been there, nor will they. They do love the Williamson and Wilson County fairs though.

By: BigPapa on 2/17/10 at 1:48

you actually think Dean will not be re-elected?

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 1:53

Racer 84 don't believe everything you hear on WSMV. They are little lazy on researching. They did a story on 9.9.2009 about the the fairgrounds preservation group and did not even bother to research their members. As you will seen their leader Thomas Watson is featured in the video. See link below

http://www.wsmv.com/video/21036996/index.html

I'm aware of all the interest parties in the leasing the fairgrounds.

I'm all for the fair but as you know I think the weekly racing series needs to end and you all should considering support Little Bobby in helping him build up his track and weekly racing series. However, I would consider supporting two races a year at the fairgrounds if they would bring in enough people to fill up some hotel rooms and sell the races out. You could do an ASA race in the spring or early summer and maybe another one in the fall. I will continue to fight against a weekly racing series. It is just unreasonable to expect us to continue to listen to the noise on any given night of the week and on the weekends when you all are racing for a couple of hundred fans. I personally like racing but I do feel that this is not the best place to continue a weekly racing series if any racing at all. I would consider working with you all if you wanted to just do a couple of races as opposed to one every Friday and Saturday night.

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 1:54

Racer 84 don't believe everything you hear on WSMV. They are little lazy on researching. They did a story on 9.9.2009 about the the fairgrounds preservation group and did not even bother to research their members. As you will seen their leader Thomas Watson is featured in the video. See link below

http://www.wsmv.com/video/21036996/index.html

I'm aware of all the interested parties involved in the fairgrounds.

I'm all for the fair but as you know I think the weekly racing series needs to end and you all should considering support Little Bobby in helping him build up his track and weekly racing series. However, I would consider supporting two races a year at the fairgrounds if they would bring in enough people to fill up some hotel rooms and sell the races out. You could do an ASA race in the spring or early summer and maybe another one in the fall. I will continue to fight against a weekly racing series. It is just unreasonable to expect us to continue to listen to the noise on any given night of the week and on the weekends when you all are racing for a couple of hundred fans. I personally like racing but I do feel that this is not the best place to continue a weekly racing series if any racing at all. I would consider working with you all if you wanted to just do a couple of races as opposed to one every Friday and Saturday night.

By: nvestnbna on 2/17/10 at 2:30

Go to the TBI sex offender registry and see. I believe there are at or around 1,200 living in Davidson County and about 75 to 100 living less than two miles away from the State Fairgrounds Prop

hmm? 2 miles?? Last I checked over 50% of the registered sex offenders in the 37203 zip code list the union mission(630 Lafayette Street) as their address. No rush to declare that a nuisance, anyway it's only a block from the under construction Music City Center and about 7 blocks from the Adventure Water Park, not to mention the downtown Library- - yee haw after a little R&R at the mission, let's cruise some kids today!!!

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 2:45

Starting Location
630 Lafayette StEditNashville, TN 37203-4257
Ending Location
625 Smith AveEditNashville, TN 37203
Cancel
Total Travel Estimate: 4 minutes / 1.97 miles Fuel Cost: Calculate

Mission to TN State Fairgrounds. More of an opportunity for sex offenders to harm children for various reasons at the fairgrounds than at Cumberland Science Museum or Music City Convention or Water Park but there is always an opportunity at any of these places. For one I'm not aware of there being security cameras in or outside the buildings at the fairgrounds. Fairgrounds has more land and buildings and is not very well lit at night.

By: racer84 on 2/17/10 at 2:56

117, Enjoy your trip to Highland Rim. Your picture will be posted so the race fans and drivers know who you are. You will be well recieved there.

By: racer84 on 2/17/10 at 2:59

117 - Once again more drivel from you, Now you're an expert in Sex Offenders.....

I've been passed by the TBI background checks more than once, So save your time on me.

By: Rat on 2/17/10 at 3:10

What is the point to all this. Does not mean a hill beans to nothing.

117

Do you always do backgrounds checks on everyone you know?

You must want that property really bad to do something like this to someone.

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 3:19

racer84 seriously if the fair board does not do a weekly racing series will you be racing at Highland Rim? Where will most of the racers go?

Rat. I didn't do anything to anyone. I was as shocked as anyone else to read this story.

By: Rat on 2/17/10 at 3:42

117

from your comments above about your "research" on Watson, you're obviously the one who leaked this to the paper.

you must be in the real estate business in that neighborhood yourself and hoping to make a lot of money to stoop this low to try to destroy the fair and the fairgrounds.

whatever Watson did or did not do, it was 15 years ago, he paid the price, and has worked hard to try to make the community better.

By: racer84 on 2/17/10 at 4:00

117, I am preparing a proposal for a statewide sponsor and I'll have to drive over 200 miles per week to compete at Newport Speedway.

Most racers will lose the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have in racing equipment invested. The majority of the equipment used to race at the Fairgrounds will not work or is able to be changed to compete at Highland Rim.

And mostly, Racers start racing in cheaper cars at Highland Rim with aspirations to compete in the big leagues at Nashville. Not many want to go back once they've left.
Bobby Jr may very well do a wonderful job, I hope he does. It's just not a comparison to the Fairgrounds, Racers know this....You do not.

Just because you can play baseball at Fenway Park or on a sandlot doesn't make the two comparible.

Once again,You just don't understand the argument yet want to make recommendations on what YOU think others should do on numerous subjects that YOU are VERY uneducated about. It's obvious you do not have a hobby or job you are passionate about to be able to relate to. I attended my first race as a baby, 40 years later it's been a part of every single year of my life.......and you want to take that away from me and several thousand others. More jobs and income lost that u refuse to acknowledge.

By: 117_acres on 2/17/10 at 4:30

So do you race to put food on the table or is it a hobby for you that at times is profitable? I understand the differences between Highland Rim and the Fairgrounds Speedway. If you compare this situation to baseball Highland Rim is like Minor League Rookie or A ball and the fairgrounds speedway is like AA or maybe even AAA ball. I'm not hating on racing or the track, I'm just saying this is not the best place to continue a weekly racing series for the residents or the City of Nashville.

If you all rally around Bobby Jr. maybe he can build that track up to the level that you are accustom to and expand the length of the track. If you end up having to go to Newport to race this year Good Luck!