- Law Cases
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 4, 2013) — After an investigation commenced last August, Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr. has found that District Attorney General Robert Steven Bebb’s actions did not rise to the level of criminal prosecution.
Bebb was placed under scrutiny after a series in The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported multiple allegations of misconduct in his office and with its work on the Drug Task Force., Bebb is chief prosecutor for the Tenth Judicial District, which encompasses the counties of Bradley, Polk, McMinn and Monroe.
The Attorney General stated in his report that his office had received complaints about Bebb from the media and “other employees of the 10th Judicial District.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) was assisting in the investigation along with the state comptroller’s office, although several months ago, none would confirm that an investigation was ongoing to The Post & Email.
However, state legislators from both chambers have now requested documents in the possession of the TBI related to Bebb after constituents from Bradley County indicated they were not satisfied with the attorney general’s conclusions. Chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee Tony Shipley reportedly “said in a statement that the General Assembly has oversight authority over district attorneys general” after Cooper’s office justified its conclusions by citing a Tennessee Supreme Court opinion that the district attorney general is “answerable to no superior and has virtually unbridled discretion in determining whether to prosecute and for what offense.”
An editorial in The Times Free Press supports the contention that constituents are not satisfied with the attorney general’s conclusions and calls for Bebb’s impeachment.
Constitutionally, a district attorney general or any other public official is “answerable” to the constituents he serves.
Unlike most other states, Tennessee’s attorney general is appointed by the state Supreme Court. In 2011, Sen. Mae Beavers introduced a proposal to make the office one that is elected by the people. Cooper, a Democrat, had refused to join 25 other states to challenge Obama’s health care bill, having stated that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution superseded state law. However, Republican legislators have just passed the “Balance of Powers Act,” intended to protect Tennessee against federal overreach.
The Constitution also guarantees a “republican form of government,” which refers to the concept of federalism, or states’ rights.
Cooper was appointed in 2006 for an eight-year term.
The Post & Email has long reported on prosecutorial, judicial, and grand jury malfeasance in the Tenth Judicial District and greater Tennessee. Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) has named Monroe County court employees and Bebb as “criminals,” citing jury-rigging, intimidation, tampering with court transcripts, defamation, and dishonesty on the part of judges and their support staff.
Grand jury foremen have illegally served in their posts for years and sometimes decades in Tennessee.
Fitzpatrick has called numerous state legislators, including his own, who to date have not taken action on the judicial corruption within the district. Fitzpatrick has specifically named Bebb as “a criminal.” Last May, Fitzpatrick discovered that laws passed in 1984 ordering the county criminal courts to reorganize into districts were never implemented. Last August, when Fitzpatrick challenged the McMinn County Grand Jury to prove that it functioned legally, the foreman was unable to address the issue.
Two grand jury members had stated that a member of Bebb’s staff had unduly influenced them to dismiss a complaint against a local sheriff, but Cooper dismissed the claim because “the investigation did not uncover any evidence” that Bebb had communicated with members of the grand jury.
Fitzpatrick has shown that grand juries within the district are controlled by the prosecutors and the grand jury foremen are public employees rather than performing their Fifth Amendment function.
Cooper’s report also mentions the case of John Edward Dawson, about which Tennessee state inmate Todd Sweet has reported at length to The Post & Email. Cooper identified Pat Henry as a McMinn County detective and the person who posed as an attorney in an attempt to elicit a murder confession from Dawson while he was incarcerated in the Monroe County jail, although Henry depended upon Sweet to carry out the scheme. The appeals court referred to Henry as a Monroe County detective.
Dawson’s guilty pleas were vacated by the court because of “the egregious actions of the law enforcement officers” involved in perpetrating the hoax against him.
Sweet was not optimistic that Cooper’s office would thoroughly investigate Bebb and claimed in a letter that the TBI “knew full well what illegalities Monroe County Officials were doing in the John Dawson case.” Sweet told The Post & Email that Henry had “forged” letters to Dawson in posing as his attorney. Henry was not prosecuted but no longer works as a detective in Monroe or McMinn County.
The TBI has refused to investigate multiple reports of judicial corruption, and the Tennessee legislature has not taken steps to enforce the 1984 laws.
Tags: Balance of Powers Act, Bradley County, federalism, Fifth Amendment, John Edward Dawson, McMinn County, Monroe County, Paul D. Rush, Polk County, Robert Steven Bebb, supremacy clause, TBI, Tennessee, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper, Tennessee Comptroller's Office, Tennessee legislature, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Post & Email, Todd Sweet, U.S. Constitution, Walter Francis Fitzpatrick III