Reporter Phil Williams in a fix over parking ticket

Friday, June 25, 2010 at 2:01am

What recently threatened the health and well-being of a judge? According to his honor, a letter asking that WTVF-Channel 5 reporter Phil Williams’ parking ticket be dismissed nearly caused a stroke.

Apparent from court recordings of a Wednesday morning special hearing with Judge Dan Eisenstein presiding, the judge’s blood pressure spiked at times as he contemplated why a letter was sent to the Traffic Violations Bureau from the police department, on letterhead that included the mayor's name, requesting that Williams’ parking ticket be dismissed.

Eisenstein asked why the department would request that a parking ticket be dismissed for an award-winning reporter who has done stories on fixing tickets.

The issue came up after Williams received two tickets on June 3 for parking in a media parking space without displaying anything indicating he was a member of the media.

Before he worked his way up from the officer who wrote the tickets to the captain in charge of that officer, Eisenstein referred back to stories — particularly one titled “It Appears That Somebody Knows Somebody” — reported by Williams on secret dealings with the police department and judges that Eisenstein felt put him through the wringer for something he didn’t do.

The letter before Eisenstein read, “In the interest of justice the Metropolitan Police Department is asking to intervene in the second ticket that was issued to Mr. Phil Williams and ask that it be dismissed.”

The judge said others told him he was being set up.

“I was being asked to do exactly what I had been accused of doing, which I hadn’t done,” he said.

Metro police spokesman Don Aaron later told The City Paper that police property guards issued the two tickets while Williams was in a meeting with a police captain, and when Williams came out, the guard realized he was a member of the media.

“The police department on its own believed that the issuance of the first citation was proper because it saw no markings on that vehicle, but the supervisors over the property guards determined the second citation should not have been issued, and out of fairness, they should request a dismissal,” Aaron said. “And Williams was told of that. Williams did not ask for anything.”

Before that incident, it was standard procedure to write one ticket and then follow up with another ticket later if the vehicle was still in violation.

Police Capt. Rita Baker, executive officer in the department’s Administrative Services Bureau, the office over the property guards, told Eisenstein she wasn’t aware that multiple tickets were being written.

She said she didn’t believe that was the proper procedure. Once she became aware that was happening, she directed her officers that the proper procedure was one ticket and then the vehicle is towed.

Eisenstein said the only reason the incident made it to the captain was because Williams was the one cited, and he in fact got two breaks that day because his vehicle wasn’t towed and the police department sent a letter requesting one of the tickets be dismissed.

“If I was doing something special for Phil Williams, your honor,” Baker said, “I would have asked that both tickets be dismissed.”

At one point during the hearing, others waiting to take their tickets before a judge were told to move to another courtroom. As they were leaving, one man shouted, “Yeah, I want some of that special treatment.”

Earlier, Eisenstein had referred to a May 26, 2009, directive from Mayor Karl Dean stating, “Each employee of the Metropolitan government shall avoid any action … which might result in or create the appearance of giving preferential treatment to any person.”

Eisenstein said he probably would have dismissed the ticket if it had been addressed in open court but the letter was “highly irregular” and gave the appearance that somebody “got treated differently than all the other people in Davidson County.”

In a 40-minute questioning of Aaron, who said he was blindsided, Eisenstein asked the police spokesman if he told Williams not to worry about the second ticket, and that it would be handled.

Aaron answered, “I told him that we were going to request the dismissal of the second ticket because it was deemed by the administration of the property guards — the officer who supervised the property guards — that the second ticket should not have been issued.”

“Are you serious? Who told you that, Metro legal?” Eisenstein asked, who also wondered why others weren’t told their tickets would be dismissed as well.

Baker, who said she didn’t know Williams, sent the letter. But Aaron, the judge said, getting back to the “somebody knows somebody” theme, knew Williams and Williams knew Aaron.

“I’m sure he said, ‘Alright now, just treat me like everybody else, I’ll pay both of them.’ ‘Stop that. I want to be treated like everybody else.’ Did he say that to you?” Eisenstein asked Aaron.

After a previous hearing regarding the tickets, Aaron said he told Williams it looked like the tickets wouldn’t be dismissed, and Williams said he would pay the two tickets.

“There’s no explanation as to why in the interest of justice this should be dismissed,” Eisenstein said.

“The reason I’ve gone through all this … is the best disinfectant on anything that smacks of impropriety is truth and openness. That is the only disinfectant. Trust me; I’ve learned that in six years of being on the bench.”

Aaron said the department believed it was doing everything “above board” by sending the letter.

Eisenstein refused to dismiss the ticket and said that wouldn’t happen without a full hearing on the matter.

34 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 6/25/10 at 6:17

From reading the story twice it appears that Eisenstein wants a little
Judicial revenge against Mr. Williams. His statement that "In the interest
of justice" is so laughable. Mr. Aron's statements during the 40 minute
hearing gave a reasonable explanation as to what happened. Most
Judges refuse to discuss these type cases, but in this case Judge
Eisenstein must have called in select reporters or issued his own
Press Release to open Mr. Williams up to ridicule in a story just
such as this. Do the rules of Judicial Conduct allow Judges to
behave in this type manner? Judge Dumas should be appointed
to hold another hearing or Discovery on such a "serious" matter!

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 7:19

A second ticket for the same offence is sleezy and reeks of revenue production.

As for the threat to tow , do they tow for overtime meter parking? Or issue a second ticket?

While a media spot can have justification they are not emergency vehicles and blocking that spot should not be subject to towing for blocking it? Do they tow for handicapped spots?

This judge sounds like the idiot that found me guilty of a traffic offence that doesn't even exist and should be removed from the bench for not haveing the common sense to dismiss the second ticket when it was found out that Williams was indeed a media person entitled to park there.

One ticket for forgetting to put up his sign is enough to jolt his memory for the next time. Technically speaking even that ticket should be voided. While the police property guards (what are they and why do they have authority to write tickets?) didn't know it was a media car once they found out it should have been dismissed/voided as he was entitled to park there.

By: fdanshep on 6/25/10 at 8:14

Eisenstein ain't no Einstein, that's for sure. I would hate to think two tickets for that offense was appropriate and me thinks that Eisenstein is being pretty foolish. I don't care for Paul Williams for the arrogance he displayed to my neighbor when Williams was asked why he had staked out in front of his home for two days in a row but in this case, I don't think he should have been ticketed the second time.

By: wolfy on 6/25/10 at 8:16

I agree that the second ticket should be dismissed. However Williams is guilty of the first offense and should pony up. Shame on the Mayor's office for issuing that letter requesting dismissal since they were the ones who wanted to shy away from the"appearance of giving preferential treatment to any person” in the first place. Williams is a pot-stiring hack who deserves to be in the same firestorm he's created for others. I always dread the sweeps period just because of his arrogance.

By: richgoose on 6/25/10 at 8:21

Is there anything about government politics that is not sleezy? This should not have ever been a story. As soon as the officer found out that Williams was a legitimate part of the media he should have torn up the tickets and given Williams a warning that unless he displayed in a prominent place his credentials for his automobile that the next time he saw the vehicle he would ticket the car and let Williams handle it from there.

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 8:23

Technicall he wasn't wolfy. The violation is for parking in a media spot and he is media. Furthermore the sign itself may not even be legal.

Judicial discretion and common sense would have gone a long way in this case. What is that old saying about opening your mouth and proving you are an idiot?

Eisenstein ain't no Einstein as fdanshep said.

He should be removed from the bench for making this such a big deal and summoning Arron from his job and wasting his and the taxpayers time and money.

By: govskeptic on 6/25/10 at 8:38

Wolfy apparently doesn't like Investigative Journalism or maybe he's been the subject of a deserving story. Must admit I'm a fan of Mr. William's work, especially since he's the only Journalist in Nashville that goes after more than just petty stories as many of the others do!

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 8:46

Williams is not the crusader people think he is but in this case he is right even though he didn't instigate this. The police department did and rightly so.

Really using the argument I made could you find him guilty of the offence according to law? (assuming the sign is/was legal?)

Think of this case if it was an undercover police car in a police zone. Would this moron find the cop guilty because he didn't put up his sign or dismiss it or find him not guilty.

Bottom line is Williams had a right to park there therfore there was no violation for the offence that the ticket was written for.

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 8:52

Suggested new title for article

JUDGE PUTS FOOT IN MOUTH OVER PARKING TICKET.

By: localboy on 6/25/10 at 8:54

Eisenstein rules!

By: help_computer on 6/25/10 at 8:57

I want to see all the other letters that were sent out requesting a dismissal for multiple tickets. I'll never see these because they don't exist. The proper thing for mr williams to do was to come to court and plead his case, like every other citizen of Davidson County. He however has friends like don aaron who will write letters on his behalf to fix his tickets. The next time I get multiple tickets I'll make sure and bypass the court process and hook up with phil and don!

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 9:00

Williams should plead not guilty and take this case as far as necessary and report on it every step of the way.

By: bringingbackcom... on 6/25/10 at 9:16

"The first ticket he should pay, the second he should get a stay. It is incredible our tax paying dollars are being spent on dog and pony shows, and Don Aaron should have never ever been put on the stand and interrogated for 40 minutes by a metropolitan judge for something this ridiculous; that is a no no and should be dealt with.!" The beauty about all of this is that judges are elected, appointed, and can be removed for cause.

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 9:56

The only reason to pay would be to avoid the agrivation. At best it was an honest mistake but not a violation according to law unless it specifically calls for the cars to be marked.

First thing to do would be to ask for the specific violation number and look it up in the TCA or I suspect in the Municiple code.

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 9:58

FYI TCA and the MC are available at all libraries.

IT Pays to look up the violation even if you THINK it is a violation it may not be.

By: frodo on 6/25/10 at 10:01

Not sure I agree with the logic that "The violation is for parking in a media spot and he is media." ...and therefore Williams' ticket(s) should be scrapped. A handicapped friend forgot her handicap tag one day, but she parked in a handicap spot anyway. The officer didn't care that she is handicapped. The spot is for someone with the proper tag.

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 10:19

Only if it specifically calls for it and I doubt that a media spot calls for it. Best thing to do is to get the actually offence number and look it up.

Yoiur friend I suspect was a victim of mr slurpys quota on the cops and had she went to court the judge should have in a sane world/city excercise judicial discretion and find her not guilty.

The cops and judicial system here considers citizens as adversaries and revenue sources not as their bosses, unless of cource you are an illegal, or at least was until Sheriff Hall got authority to check.

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 10:23

btw frodo I don't think there is any enabling authority to right multiple tickets in the same day for the same offence.

Pattern and practice does not make something legal it just means it hasn't been challenged or people don't bother to research it.

By: wolfy on 6/25/10 at 10:45

govskeptic, no I haven't been the subject of any of this so called "Investigative Journalism". I do cringe at the thought of whats being taught in our Journalism classes across the country. But I fail to see how Mr. Williams telling us that NES crews are eating at Cracker Barrell is Earth shattering news to the taxpayers. Which also reminds me of a story several years back. Larry Britton raked a Metro Dept. over the coals on a Monday then called them on Tuesday and asked if they'd hire his daughter. Maybe Mr. Williams should take the rocks out of his pocket while he lives in his glass house. Does anyone remember a story a few years back concerning Mr. Williams, his wife and Metro Police?

By: BenDover on 6/25/10 at 10:45

What an absolute waste of time this article was.

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 10:59

I don't think its a waste of time, it shows what we have sitting on the bench and who they think they are.

By: calliemimosa on 6/25/10 at 11:16

wtg Judge Einstein!
The article is reporting current event.
I do have a resentment toward Phil Williams! I see him as arrogant and egotistical and this article backs this up!
If you are upset at reporting it should start with the beginning of the costly reporting of Phil Williams! This article would've never been written if he hadn't made such a reputation for himself.
I am very proud of the justice of Metro Nashville government. It is thoughtful and effective. Our trusted officials are human though so I am sure they make mistakes.
The police department should trust our judges to make right decision. They shouldn't have sent the letter.
Judge Einstein is a wise man!

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 11:23

Of course they should have tried to correct an error/injustice.

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 11:36

what happened? Did they delete all posts?

By: calliemimosa on 6/25/10 at 11:36

lol! I meant Eisenstein!!

By: idgaf on 6/25/10 at 11:37

wow something weird happened with the page. All the comments were gone and it said

Comment box required.

By: brooks53 on 6/25/10 at 12:13

Phil Williams is an ass. Everytime I see him reporting a story I just wish someone would punch him. I don't watch channel 5 news because of him. Channel 5 should get rid of him. I would love for someone to dig some skeletons up on Mr.Williams.

By: brooks53 on 6/25/10 at 12:16

Regarding Wolfy's msg:

I don't remember a story about a metro officer and Phil Williams wife. I could have sworn Phil Williams was gay.

By: dangerlover on 6/25/10 at 3:27

Good God calliemimosa...you are crazy. Lay off the exclamation points.

By: Melstruck on 6/25/10 at 7:03

The proper way to dispute a ticket is to go to court and explain the situation to the judge. "Normal" people can't (and don't) call the police captain to get a ticket dismissed. If the police department felt they were wrong, they should have gone to the hearing and said so, not sent a letter.

By: nixisadouche on 6/25/10 at 11:08

Why would Williams even need to get out of parking tix that I'm sure his station would pay anyway, it's not like it would come out of his pocket. But it doesn't look like the reporter even tried to contact Williams to get his side, from what I've read elsewhere. That's pretty sleazy reporting.

The reporter also left out some great details from the court hearing too. He didn't mention that Eisenstein's badgering of police captain Baker drover her to tears. That Eisenstein was told by another judge that he as violating judicial procedures in the way the hearing was being handled but he brushed it off and continued. That Eisnenstein left people waiting in his courtroom, 4C, for more than 3 hours while he went to handle this apparently personal vendetta against Williams. Or that Eisenstein took over another judges traffic courtroom to hold the emergency hearing, leaving all of those people waiting for hours to have their cases heard. Eisenstein has apparently lost touch with reality.

It also brushed past the fact that this letter that "nearly endangered the life of a judge" as the story stated was apparently a motion from metro legal that was taken to the judge...hardly a clandestine move.

Eisenstein has never seemed concerned with actual corruption going on inside the court, he only seems interested in trying to even a score with the person who brought it to light. Judge, get some help.

By: ckirk on 6/26/10 at 11:10

C. Hunter-Kirk

By: ckirk on 6/26/10 at 11:32

C. Hunter-Kirk I have never posted anything before but in this case i have to be heard. Judge Eisenstein is the worst Judge that I have ever seen. I myself have never been in any trouble, but a friend was. So i have had the unpleasent pleasure of watching Judge Frankeinstein in action. I have watched him cost people alot of money for nothing. He takes what should be simple and turns it into a huge mess. I have seen him tell people to get a lawyer and come back. When he could have made the rulings without that. I went back to see if having lawyers made a difference for those people. It didnt. He didnt listen to anyone. He was rude, arrogant, and egotistical, and of course did nothing but cause more problems. I hope someone high up is paying attention to this man. I hope i never have to deal with Frankeinstein myself. To me he seems to be running a business to make the state more money than he is trying to help those before him. I will be sitting in his court room monday morning to see what happens to these people. I wish I knew someone with some power that could be there also. I hate the fact that my hard earned tax dollars pay this man.

By: wrapitup on 6/29/10 at 11:44

FOLKS TO WRAP ALL THIS UP IN A NUTSHELL ;WHEN DID OUR GOV. AND OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM EVER USE COMMON SENSE? 99.5 PERCENT OF THEM ARE ALL CONS DESIGNED TO DO ONE THING,TAKE ALL THEY CAN GET WHILE THEY CAN GET IT,AND THROW 100 PERCENT OF THE LAWYERS IN THERE WITH THEM.THEY ARE ALL IN BED TOGETHER AND 99.5 PERCENT ARE CROOKS AND CONS AND OUT TO STAB YOU,ME AND EACH OTHER IN THE BACK.