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BUT WHY NOT JUDICIAL CORRUPTION?
by Sharon Rondeau
The investigation was reportedly called for by District Attorney General Stephen Crump of Tennessee’s Tenth Judicial District, on which The Post & Email has focused over the last five years in its reports on government corruption.
The TBI is not able to say for which candidates the votes were allegedly purchased. Former Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens reportedly lost the August 7 election to Randy White, although Bivens has challenged White’s qualifications.
To the public’s knowledge, the TBI has largely declined to investigate reports of judicial corruption in Monroe County and the greater Tenth Judicial District as reported by audio recordings, sworn affidavits, telephone calls, letters, emails and media reports. However, in 2012, the TBI participated in a joint investigation with the Tennessee attorney general and Office of the Comptroller of former District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb . The probe ended in a declaration from Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr. that Bebb’s conduct did not rise to the level of criminality and that the district attorney general was “answerable to no one.”
Members of the public were unsatisfied with the attorney general’s findings and petitioned the legislature to remove Bebb. Having moved to do so and filed an ethics complaint against Bebb, Bebb was cleared by the Board of Professional Responsibility (BOPR) and wrote a scathing open letter to his accusers.
In April, Bebb was accused by a female coworker of assault and undue dismissal, which the TBI said it would investigate. After several days, the deputy prosecutor was reinstated and Bebb was asked to step down by State Sen. Mike Bell. Bebb resigned at the end of May, three months before he was expected to retire.
The Post & Email has been told by a criminal investigative agent at the TBI that it cannot investigate a judge or prosecutor without a request from the district attorney general. When we posed the question as to what can be done if the district attorney general’s office is the perpetrator of the corruption, the TBI agent said he would need a referral from the FBI, which has also declined to investigate credible reports of jury-rigging, racketeering and human trafficking through the Monroe County and perhaps other jails.
The TBI is also investigating vote-buying in Polk County, one of four counties in the Tenth Judicial District. Crump reportedly asked for the TBI’s involvement during the early voting period prior to the August 7 elections after “dozens of voter complaints” were reported to the Polk County Election Commission.
In 1946 in McMinn County, also in the Tenth District, a brief shooting war ensued when World War II veterans, outraged at the corruption in the elections process by the sheriff’s office absconding of the ballot boxes overnight to rig the outcome, fired shots and threw dynamite sticks into the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Pat Mansfield and several of his deputies escaped and left the county, and the ballot boxes were retrieved.
Voter intimidation and unprovoked violence against people speaking out against the corruption are noted in depictions of “The Battle of Athens.”
One article on the subject reports that “For a long time, they also had accepted bribe-taking by politicians and/or the sheriff to overlook illicit whiskey-making and had financed the sheriff’s department from fines—usually for speeding or for public drunkenness, which promoted false arrests, and they had put up with voting fraud by both Democrats and Republicans.”
The Battle of Athens resulted in the election victory of several non-partisan veteran candidates for office who changed policies to eliminate election fraud and other public corruption in the county. At that time, “reform of county government” was considered a priority by the veterans.
In July 2010, an elections commissioner from Monroe County was brutally killed and the perpetrators never identified. CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.), who researched the murder in depth, described Jim Miller’s murder as “a government hit.”