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by Dave Todd, ©2012

Does the state of Tennessee have a "culture of corruption?"

(Jun. 21, 2012) — Three major hi-tech commercial marijuana production facilities were discovered and raided in as many days.  According to Tony Choate, the Fentress County, TN Sheriff, about $5,000,000-worth of marijuana was seized.

In an article titled  “Tennessee Citizens Challenge Corruption” published by The Post & Email on February 13, 2012, I attempted to shine the national spotlight on the fact that the Upper Cumberland Plateau is one of the country’s leading producers of meth and marijuana.  There was a very hostile and aggressive over-reaction to that article from some segments of the local population, including name-calling, threats, and intimidation in an effort to discredit me or discourage any further action on my part, some of which can be found on “Jamestown Topix.”  Of course, this is understandable and should have been anticipated because the production of methamphetamine and commercial growing of marijuana provide much-needed income in communities which no longer have a whole lot going for them.  At one time, this area was a major supplier to the poultry and tobacco industries. Today there remains little of that era left, with large empty buildings that can easily and relatively inexpensively be converted to the large-scale growing of marijuana or production of meth.

Most of these facilities are on large tracts of valuable land owned by the more influential and wealthy members of the community, many of whom hold elected or public office or are members of interrelated families of these elected officials. Many other members of these interrelated families are in the private sector and provide the bulk of local employment.   Common sense and logic should be enough to convince most people that under such circumstances the local law enforcement, the judicial system and local media are going to be very reluctant to take any action that might have an adverse impact on their own family members, elected officials or major employers throughout the community.  On the other hand, this kind of situation cannot be completely ignored when it attracts national attention.

The recent headlines in newspapers, on TV and radio about the $5,000,000 major pot bust in Fentress County should have restored my credibility, in addition to creating an illusion that our local sheriff is doing his job.   However, that is not the reality, as this is nothing more than a diversion, an act of deception and clever media stunt.  It is hard to ignore the probability that this was a planned and staged event; the four individuals arrested were outsiders, people of color, of Latin decent who moved in and allegedly established an illegal business in a community that is not very tolerant of outsiders, especially people of color.   The operations appear to be rather small and the value of marijuana seized appears to be highly inflated.  Could a few hundred immature marijuana plants actually be worth as much as $5,000,000?

Many people, including our current president, believe that the growing and possession of marijuana should be made legal, but that is not the current law.  The commercial growing and/or production of any illegal substance or drug has a major adverse impact on any community, as it affects entire families and encourages corruption, abuses on the part of public officials and even the general public, without whose cooperation and involvement such operations could not exist.  It is almost impossible for such illegal operations to exist within such a small community without the knowledge and assistance of the general public as well as public officials.  Every day I hear people who are supposed to be good Christian respectable folks make the statement, “I know there are illegal drugs in the community but I am not directly involved and don’t want to become involved and interfere with what my friends, family or neighbors are doing.”  These folks are the enablers without whom drugs, crime and corruption could not flourish in the community!

Tennessee has a long history of producing illegal substances.   For decades, it was primarily moonshine, but that has for the most part changed as the demand for other substances has increased.  How many remember the 1973 movie “Walking Tall” about Sheriff Buford Pusser’s one-man crusade against corruption in McNairy County, Tennessee—there was even a remake of the movie in 2004.

Tennessee is also in the heart of the so-called Bible Belt—where -the landscape is littered with churches of all kinds and whose parking lots are usually full on Sundays or other days of worship.  We have some very entertaining preachers, shouters, arm-wavers, foot-stompers, rollers, speakers of tongues, and even some who use rattlesnakes in their performances.   The display of Christian symbols is very prevalent here in Tennessee, as is Christian rhetoric in everyday conversations, but is what we see and hear real or just deception and an illusion?  Do a majority of the individuals living in the so-called Bible Belt really attempt to apply Christian beliefs and principles in their daily lives?   One question everyone should be asking himself is, “If a majority of the people in the so-called Bible Belt (especially Tennessee) are truly practicing Christians, how can corruption, immorality and the commercial drug trade be flourishing?  Common sense and logic should dictate that if these people were truly practicing Christians, they would be banding together to force the end of immorality, corruption and the commercial drug business in their communities.

Where were these self-professed Christian citizens when members of Christian Citizens Against Corruption were in their communities attempting to organize branches and/or similar citizen watchdog groups?   Where were these alleged Christians, especially those living in Monroe County, when the local public officials began their campaign of persecution against CCAC?  This persecution campaign has not ended yet, even though the group is no longer functioning since so many members and/or supporters are incarcerated or are currently awaiting trial.  At one point in July 2010, the persecution process even turned deadly in Monroe County with the murder of Republican Committeeman Jim Miller.  Just a few weeks earlier, in the latter part of May 2010, another individual named Fred Birchfield, who was working closely with members of Christian Citizens Against Corruption, encountered an almost identical set of circumstances as Jim Miller, except that Birchfield managed to gain a split-second advantage over the heavily-armed drug dealers who had apparently intended to abduct and/or murder him.  In this instance it was the drug dealers who ended up dead, but because Birchfield managed to survive the attack, he was persecuted and denied legal due process by the local criminal justice system.  In the eyes of the public officials and many members of the community, Fred crossed the line of acceptable behavior twice by first attempting to expose the commercial cultivation of marijuana in the wooded areas near his home bordering and perhaps even on national park land accessible by oil well service roads and logging roads that are rarely traveled.  His second perceived mistake was not to let himself become the victim of threats and intimidation by the drug dealers, as he refused to knuckle under and keep his mouth shut in addition to fighting back when they attempted to abduct and/or murder him.  The local people directly involved in the commercial growing of marijuana and the public official who have been accepted money to provide protection could not afford to allow Fred Birchfield to become a local celebrity and/or hero because that could have encouraged other people to follow his example.  Please read my previous article, “Expose Corruption and Eventually People will come Forward.”   Another interesting fact is that the very first building south of the Birchfield residence is a local church.  One would have thought that members of that church would have had a vested interest in seeing that the commercial growing of marijuana within a few hundred feet of their place of worship was eradicated.

I now have possession of the official transcript of the Birchfield trial, and in a follow-up article I will be presenting hard evidence that will make it extremely difficult for any rational person to ignore the appearance of criminal collusion between the defense attorney, Assistant District Attorney and perhaps even the judge.   There will be little doubt in anyone’s mind that these two or three individuals conspired to deny Fred Birchfield due process.  I understand that this information with supporting documents is in the process of being presented to the Board of Professional Responsibility and the Court of the Judiciary.   The question everyone needs to ask is, “Will they act on the information or will there be an attempted cover up the corruption?”

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