What happens with charges in wake of Occupy Nashville arrests remains in question

Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 10:05pm
By Pierce Greenberg

As politically and emotionally charged discussion continues to swirl regarding the Occupy Nashville protests, more than 50 people still have court dates set following arrests on Oct. 28-29.

Night Court Judge Tom Nelson found no probable cause in the arrest of protesters on Legislative Plaza on two consecutive nights, but Tennessee Highway Patrol officers still issued written citations.

District Attorney General Torry Johnson’s office has the authority to dismiss those citations and is currently reviewing the cases. “We are looking at the charging documents,” spokeswoman Susan Niland said.

“As far as what might happen, it’s premature to say. … We’ll examine the proof that exists, and then we can proceed.”

When a person is arrested for a misdemeanor in Nashville, the law requires they be taken before a magistrate as soon as possible. Then the judge or judicial commissioner decides whether to cite, hold or release the defendant.

According to Nashville criminal defense attorney Kerry Haymaker, if a Night Court judicial commissioner throws out a charge — as in the case of the Occupy Nashville arrestees — citations aren’t typically issued.

“I’ve done this 14 years and I’m not saying it’s never happened, but I’ve never seen it,” Haymaker said.

THP officers were told by an authority, Nelson, that there was no probable cause, but turned around and issued citations stating otherwise, Haymaker said.

A combination of rulings will affect Johnson’s decision, said noted Nashville civil rights attorney George Barrett.

“The state troopers issued citations to the demonstrators after the night commissioner refused to issue warrants, which is not the practice in Nashville," Barrett said. "Subsequently, Judge [Aleta] Trauger issued an order permitting the occupiers to continue. This puts the district attorney general in a difficult position. The DA has broad discretion on such matters. I know that General Johnson is a good lawyer, and a fair prosecutor. Therefore, his review of these issues, in his usual careful manner, and Judge Trauger’s order, will make it difficult to proceed with these citations.”

Fifty-five arrests were made over the two nights, each followed by a criminal trespassing citation.

Two additional citations were handed out for public intoxication and one for criminal impersonation of a law enforcement officer on Oct. 29.

11 Comments on this post:

By: CaptainCatfish on 11/6/11 at 1:46

If anyone knows the law and follows it to the letter... it's General Johnson. Look out Haslam... here comes strike three...

By: fair_minded on 11/6/11 at 4:34

so the troopers issued citations *after* the judge ruled that there was no probable cause??

sounds like contempt of court on that part of the troopers to me.... they should be arrested.

also a violation of the 4th Amendment rights of those arrested, especially since they were not released after the judge's ruling.

By: waters on 11/6/11 at 8:03

I wouldn't trust a word said by Susan Niland or anyone in the DA's office. They may have the "authority" to dismiss the charges but who has to PAY for their mishaps?? The Victim - who can and will be financially devastated with legal fees, emotional distress, time lost from work, the list goes on. But Gov. Haslam, the Police, and the DA's office never take that into consideration. They just bulldoze over justice and what is morally just - doing whatever the feel like doing.

Thank the Press, Jonathan Meador and all the others for continuing to cover the Occupy Nashville story - support them and buy their papers! Maybe this will expose DA Torry Johnson and the MNPD for the corrupt, negligent and unprofessional morans they truly are.

Shame on Gov. Haslam and District Attorney Torry Johnson - what a mess they've created...AGAIN...Just look at how the MNPD and District Attorney Torry Johnson handled another one of their botched cases when they authorized a SWAT Unit to conduct surveillance, then brutally assault a decorated ARMY Combat Medic OIF Veteran and violently and brutally arrest his girlfriend, a former Gibson Guitar and White House Staffer under Pres. G.W. Bush staffer, based on a false police report that was never investigated by the MNPD Domestic Violence "Detectives". And it was Franklin based mediator Diane Marshall, who has a history of legally advising male clients to file restraining orders, who started this ordeal. Read the entire story at justiceforisla.wordpress.com.

By: simplesimon on 11/6/11 at 10:31

simplesimonFear the Government that fears the people.

By: nash615 on 11/6/11 at 7:07

"so the troopers issued citations *after* the judge ruled that there was no probable cause??"

Not only did the troopers issue citations after the judge ruled that there was no probable cause, one of the arrested protestors contacted the court to request a legible citation (as they were all mostly illegible due to being the bottom of 3 or 4 pages of carbon-copy). The protestor was told that "there was no record of the citation", but that if that person wanted to come down to be booked they could take care of it. (mildly amusing) This anecdote courtesy of one of the Occupy Nashville attorneys at a recent General Assembly.

My guess is that the THP decided to push the limits of the jurisdiction of Judge Nelson's ruling in the hope of bringing in protestors before or on the court date for a charge they otherwise couldn't levy. But, who would be shocked to find that THP officers (and presumably this goes up to the Colonel and the Commissioner, as officers won't wipe without permission) were once again breaking the law?

By: Kosh III on 11/7/11 at 7:40

sounds like contempt of court on that part of the troopers to me.... they should be arrested.

Absolutely. Along with Haslam and Ramsey.

By: govskeptic on 11/7/11 at 7:55

Please stop calling this fellow "Judge Nelson". He's no Judge but
a part-time night magistrate. Defined as a lawyer without very many
paying clients that the real judges select to handle the night work!

By: pepawjoe on 11/8/11 at 3:54

Like so many of our elected Government ***OFFICIALS***, they assume that they are "ABOVE" the laws. They become self induced into beleiving they have unquestionabled powers in their own minds. They expect us, the Public citizens, to react only to their commands, no questions ASKED!
IF THE IN-CHARGE LAW WERE TO ACTUALLY "Make an example" of Mr Haslam and his misguided conduct, maybe, if there is a next time, People will suddenly realize, the laws actually are meant for everyone's benefit..
Wouldn't that be a very "WELCOMED" event for All citizens to see that "JUSTICE" still exists. Oh h_ll I know it won't happen, but I can still fantize about what should be done

By: smiless on 11/9/11 at 12:30

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By: tgs on 11/18/11 at 7:07

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By: tgs on 11/18/11 at 7:08

トリーバーチは、アメリカの人気女性デザイナーで、トリーバーチ アウトレット2004年2月にアメリカ・ニューヨークのトリーバーチ靴ノリータ地区にフラッグショップ"Tory Burch"をオープンしました。トリーバーチ バッグその後瞬く間にハリウッドスターをはじめ多くセレブから熱い支持を受け、トリーバーチ 通販今や全世界の幅広い女性から注目を浴びています。トリーバーチ 財布(Tory Burch)は、世界のトップモデルやセレブな方たちがこぞって愛用しているトリーバーチ ハイヒールことでも有名で、その中でもトリーバーチ シューズ、サンダル、トリーバーチ トートバッグなどは、すでに日本でもトリーバーチ ショルダーバッグセレクトショップなどを中心に大人気になっています。トリーバーチ ベルト女性らしい華やかさを感じさせる色使いや光沢感を絶妙に醸し出していますトリーバーチ フラットシューズ。今、アメリカ中で大人気のトリーバーチ 店舗。パリス・ヒルトンや二コール・リッチー、リンジー・ローハンなど多数のセレブにも大人気で、トリーバーチ 激安日本でもじわじわと人気が出て来ています。トリーバーチ 靴 激安フラットシューズ人気の今、トリーバーチは見逃せないブランドです。