Tennessee State Prison Inmate Beaten, Denied Medical Treatment, Sustained Permanent Injuries

“I’VE LOST MOST OF THE CONTROL OF MY LEFT ARM”

by Sharon Rondeau

Madison County, TN is one of three counties within the state’s 26th Judicial District, where Jerry Woodall is the District Attorney General.

(May 5, 2015) — On March 22, The Post & Email published an initial article on former Madison County, TN resident Timothy Aaron Baxter, who is currently incarcerated at the Northwest Correctional Center (NWCX) in Tiptonville on a conviction of aggravated assault allegedly committed in December 2010 against Richard Upright.

During testimony at Baxter’s trial, Upright stated that he had suffered “extreme pain” and three broken ribs as a result of the altercation at the gas station on December 8, 2010.  He told the court that he “drove for a living” and had missed “two months” of work as a result of injuries sustained after Baxter allegedly pushed him down to the ground.  However, his medical records, obtained months later after Baxter was convicted and sent to prison, indicated that Upright informed hospital personnel that he was retired.

At the scene of the altercation, Upright refused an ambulance, instead driving himself to a walk-in clinic the following day.  From there, he was referred to a local emergency room “for evaluation.”  Exhibit E2 of the medical record states that Upright reported “discomfort” on his right side which was “sharp” and whose intensity, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst, was a “3.”

Under “Current/former Occupation” on Exhibit E5 appears the response “retired.”  In response to the question, “Presently Employed?” is a checkmark in the box to the left of the word “No.”

Exhibit E8 stated that Upright was admitted to the hospital with “right-sided rib pain after a road rage altercation.”  Other past conditions were evaluated, including “multiple rib fractures.”  “He has had some pain” appears in the summary.

According to the court transcript of a probable cause hearing on February 3, 2011, Upright did not positively identify Baxter as the perpetrator of his alleged injuries.  When the court asked Upright if “Mr. Baxter is the plaintiff,” Upright responded, “Yeah he’s a person all right.” [sic]

Baxter had been in prison once before his current 12-year sentence began.  In attempting to research the Madison County grand juries which indicted Baxter, The Post & Email was met with only silence from the chief circuit court clerk, Kathy Blount. Reportedly, no one else in the office is authorized to speak to the media.

Over the last nearly-six years, The Post & Email has demonstrated that grand juries and trial juries in Tennessee are corrupted by hand-picked members, in particular, the grand jury foreman, who often serves for decades at the pleasure of the criminal court judge.

A 1919 law passed by the Tennessee legislature allowed judges to appoint grand jury foremen from the community at large “within their discretion” until 1979, when it was repealed.  However, the practice has persisted, and grand jury foremen have been found throughout Tennessee serving for years and even decades.  Some, such as Stan Fossick, have served for a period of time, returned to private life, and then been called back by the judge because of their alleged efficiency in running the grand jury.

In an August 18, 2013 article in The Tennessean, a Vanderbilt University professor is quoted as having said, “The purpose of the grand jury is to get the community’s opinion about whether a crime has been committed. If the grand jury foreman were appointed over and over again, arguably you wouldn’t have a totally impartial panel of citizens,” which is the contention of CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.), who is himself incarcerated at NWCX after attempting to present evidence of public corruption to the McMinn County grand jury on several occasions between August 2012 and March 18, 2014.

The Tennessean article additionally reported that “Grand jury foremen, appointed by judges, are given an informal coaching role. They help provoke discussion among jurors, and they rarely vote — only when there’s an 11-to-1 vote, since indictments must be approved unanimously.”

However, a Tennessee law states that grand juries must comprise 13 members. The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference describes a grand jury as having “thirteen citizens chosen from the jury panel. One of these thirteen is the fore person and will preside over the grand jury.”

A brief written by former Tennessee Deputy Attorney General Kyle Hixson in September 2013 states that the grand jury foreman “is not a juror.” By description, only “jurors” are allowed to vote in grand jury or trial jury proceedings.

Defense attorneys, including public defenders, have been found to be part of the government’s plan to convict as many defendants as possible in a prisoners-for-profit scheme.

Page from transcript of probable cause hearing on February 3, 2011 in which Upright appears unable to identify his alleged assailant

Baxter told us in a recorded conversation from prison last week that Upright had initiated the December 8, 2010 confrontation and “backhanded” him first, to which he had responded by striking out at Upright, who then fell back on the pavement at the convenience store where they both had pulled off the road.  Baxter stated that the store’s video surveillance camera recorded the exchange from the beginning but that law enforcers contended that the earlier part of the videotape was corrupted.

According to Baxter, a witness riding with Upright was never called to testify at the trial.

A March 31, 2015 letter from Timothy Baxter provides details on his history and continuing attempts to seek redress from the government for what he claims is “fraud” and deprivation of due process.

A plaintiff in a child custody case involving Judge Christy Little reported that Little is often drunk on the bench and protected by “The Godfather,” described as a “powerful donor to Tennessee congressmen, state legislators, and judges.”

A report on the topic of “Oversight of Judicial Conduct in Tennessee from 1971 to 2011” begins with:

 

 

An undated press release announcing Baxter’s 2001 arrest stated that “On September 27, 2001 officers of the Metro Narcotics Unit and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department conducted a search warrant at #10 Hays Branch Trail after a joint investigation with the Dickson County Sheriff’s Department.  A clandestine meth lab was discovered at the residence.  Seized during the search were hazardous chemicals, hazardous waste and apparatus related to methamphetamine manufacturing.  Officers also seized a quantity of methamphetamine, LSD, marijuana, a variety of pills (including, morphine, Xanax, and Valium), a handgun and over $3,200 in cash.  Timothy A. Baxter, the resident of that address, and one other person have been taken into custody as a result of the investigation…”

However, Baxter did not reside at that address.  When we asked him if he was involved in any way in manufacturing meth, he responded:

No, I wasn’t.  We practiced over there at the house.  The guy who owned the house went to the store for about three hours.  I came over and got my drums.  When he left, his brother-in-law was there.  So I was packin’ my drums up, and they raided his house and took me and his brother-in-law to jail.

What reason did they say they had?

They didn’t.  They just busted in the door…I was sitting there puttin’ my drums in the cases, and they handcuffed me and threw me in the car.  “What the hell is goin’ on?” I asked. “It’s for your own safety,” they said.  Then we got down to the jail and they told me to take off all my clothes, and they charged me with manufacturin’ methamphetamine.  Then they issued this big press release and said they busted me with a big clandestine meth lab.  But if you look at the paperwork that was in my discovery that the prosecution withheld for almost 12 years – we finally did a sneak attack when Al Earls wasn’t in his office.  XXXXX shot up there, and this file was behind his desk on the shelf; it wasn’t in the regular storage room – the meth lab they found was from Dickson County, up around Nashville.

And they tried to pass it off as in your county?

Yeah, they issued this big press release like I was busted with this meth lab.  There was nothin’ in the house.  If you look at the inventory sheet, there were like 2 grams of weed on the counter, three Valium pills in a shoe or something…but it was just little misdemeanor stuff.  But they issued this press release that they had busted me with this working manufacturin’ lab.

What was crazy is that they had three guys – two guys and a girl – got caught in all this meth lab stuff:  Ricky Alexander, Christie Flatt, Chris Golden – Chris Golden was busted seven or eight times with a meth lab.  I never understood why they came and arrested me and charged me with manufacturing when they had proof that there was no lab there.

So that press release was generated on a raid in another county?

Yeah, and they also lied and said that was my address.  If you look on there, it says “Timothy Baxter,” “resident of that address.”  They didn’t even question the owner of the house, Keith Ford.  They had the warrant signed with my name on it at his address.

Are you sure there was no meth lab in that house at all?

I’m positive.

Was Jerry Woodall the District Attorney General at that time?

Yes.  It’s that whole office.  Al Earls…Jerry Woodall’s been there so long; he just keeps getting re-elected and re-elected.  They are so corrupt there.

The Post & Email then related how Tenth Judicial District, District Attorney General Stephen Crump was quoted in The Cleveland Daily Banner as having described the grand jury as a bulwark between the citizens and the government during a radio interview late last year.  After The Post & Email wrote to Crump about the proven corruption in the grand juries in his district, the Daily Banner article disappeared from the web, although the url remained.

We received no response from Crump, not has he ever answered any of our phone calls.

It really is a crime against the Constitution, and they’re knowingly doing it.  It should invoke the Department of Justice.

The Post & Email then shared with Baxter that it has contacted the FBI in both Chattanooga and Knoxville as well as FBI Director James Comey about the systemic court corruption in Tennessee and received no response.

Since the FBI’s refusin’ to address this, and the State of Tennessee is refusin’ to address it, this might be a Supreme Court question.  I’ve got bold-faced lies from the appellate courts, which are tryin’ to cover it all up.

Remember I told you that I wrote them a letter in 1998, when they tried to get me to “flip” on them…I had told them I would and I never did, and they were mad, and I think that was the start of a bad problem.

How old were you then?

I was like 18 then.

Do you think that because of that, they began to “target” you?

I’m pretty sure, yeah.  It gives a basis for what the prosecution has always done, like in the case with Upright.  They withheld this guy’s medical records and then they wanted to act like they didn’t need them. And if you’ve noticed, at the preliminary hearin’ about that, his injuries went from three broken ribs to a collapsed lung and dislocated shoulder.  Of course, they didn’t present no medical records, so they violated probable cause.  It was hearsay, not probable cause.  So fast-forward and all the way to when he signed the sheet ten days before trial, the motion to exclude all the medical records because they had no probative value toward Mr. Upright.  The state filed their response the day before trial, and it said in there that the state still had not received the medical records from Regional [Medical Center.]  That was the day before trial.  Now what they’ve argued here after the fact – of course, [defense attorney] Bradley Owens would not give me the medical records before trial.  He kept saying, “Oh, he had broken ribs and all this,” and I said, “Well, get me the medical records and show me that.”  They came three months after trial, and when I got ’em, of course I could see the fraud.

When did you finally get to see Upright’s medical records?

He withheld them until December of 2011.  There’s an x-ray report that said he had old rib fractures related to chest trauma surgery.  Bradley Owens got on the stand at the post-conviction hearin’ and he said, “Oh, well, he knew he was admitted for a heart condition 36 hours later, but he still had three broken ribs and all this and that.”  Well, if you notice at the trial, his injuries were only “pain in my neck, pain in my hip.”  That’s totally different than what he said at the preliminary.

Now, what you have is him making a contradictory argument after trial sayin’ that he had three broken ribs, collapsed lung, dislocated shoulder.  They didn’t even have that evidence at trial.

There was nothing.

That’s right.  And they got counsel doing a parlay with him to help him argue that point to help him alleviate his ineffectiveness.

Owens took very available opportunity to lie for the state. But I was askin’ the question, “How do you have ’em months before trial and go over ’em with me if the state didn’t even have ’em?

[The Post & Email contacted Owens at the private law firm where he works but never received a response.]

Did the witness have any reaction when Upright backhanded you?

She was still in the car.  She didn’t get out.  That’s the only reason I didn’t just pit-maneuver him, because she was in the car, and for her to get hurt or anything…I could see her over there beatin’ on his shoulder and all this…

Was she trying to get him to stop?

Yeah, she was.

The Post & Email then asked Baxter about his injuries sustained in prison, to which he responded:

What I want to cover is these guys have a longstanding reign of abuse you would not believe.  Oh, my gosh.  They got guys on another crew to say they were on the crew with me, that I was swingin’ at these officers and all this.  All I did was ask the guy to slow down; that was it.  He was drivin’ fast and some fruit guys fell out of the truck and got hurt really bad.  I was waitin’ to go home any day, and for me to start swingin’ on these officers wouldn’t make no sense at all.  These guys started beatin’ the hell out of me in front of 19 other inmates.  They beat me up, beat me down to the ground, the guy hit me in the back of the head with a radio, the guy runs over to his tractor, gets an ax handle, comes over there and tells me, “Go in front of this white truck; we’re gonna talk about it.”  I said, “No, I ain’t goin’ over there with you.”  They were both tryin’ to keep my attention drawn, tryin’ to hit me with the radio again.  The guy was sayin, “Watch out, watch out!” and he tried to hit me across the head with the ax handle, and he hit me across my elbow and just shattered it.

Where were the corrections officers?

Oh, they still work there. One of ’em retired – they forced him into retirement. He was just a hooligan, smugglin’ in drugs and all this stuff.  And the inmates:  there was 19 on the crew with me, and they only questioned the four that were involved with the drug smuggling conspiracy as to what happened.  They never questioned the guys who were on my crew, and they withheld all their names.  I only have a couple of their names.  They kept sayin,’ “Oh, those records are destroyed.”  They lied to the court; of course, the state is deeply-seated with the federal district, too, you know, and the attorney general’s office.  They get favors.  They manipulated video.  When I came back in, they called it “assault on staff.”  After they done whupped me and hit me with the sticks and everything, they brought me in.  Of course, they were thinkin’ I was beatin’ up on these officers… They stood me in the cell, squeezed my handcuffs behind me and killed the nerves in my hands, then let his brother stand there and choke me out.

Then they threw me in the hole and wouldn’t give me any medical attention.  I never seen a doctor.  I kept signin’ up on sick calls and they wouldn’t even see me.  Then after the attorney showed up that my mom hired, they started feedin’ me and everything.  Then they wanted to start an investigation the day he came – this was like 12 days later.

Do you have permanent injuries?

Yeah, yeah, I do.

Are you able to describe them?

I’ve lost most of the control of my left arm now.  How hard he hit me, the angle he hit me…my elbow joint, my shoulder joint is all messed up.  The nerves down into my left hand are all bad.  My right wrist is ruined.  The guy squeezed…you ought to see the pictures; I had black marks for about 15 days.

I have whiplash in my neck from that radio.  He hit me right behind my ears, so I got a little bit of ringin’ in my left ear.  My left eye was swollen shut.  Moffett punched me right in my eyeball, so I got a little bit of blurred vision in that eyeball.

And nothing was done to any of these crew members?

See, the 19 that was on the crew with me, they were never questioned.  When they dismissed the charges against me of “assault on staff,” they found me not guilty.  He tried to say he hit me with a tomato stick in the okra patch.  He minimized it.  “It was a little stick; I had to keep him off of me…”  It was lies.  They never questioned the guys on the crew with me because when I got out, I asked ’em.  Of course, my arm was still swelled up.  He hit me so hard that he busted the bone fragment.  The whole end of my elbow is busted off and moves around.

I asked ’em, “Internal Affairs never came and asked you nothin’?”

But when they finally released the recordings of the Internal Affairs reports, there was a guy over there named Keisler who was whisperin’ to the inmates; they were tryin’ to place him on the crew with me, but they were at a whole other institution across the road.

Keisler is the one who used to be over the Internal Affairs, but if you look at the pleading in the case, you’ll see an affidavit that listed his name – Keisler – before they released the recordings of the Internal Affairs report where I identified Keisler.  This guy had made an affidavit due to his close association with Keisler.  Through administration, he was allowed to abuse prisoners.  He knew that information before I ever got the investigation report, and I said, “Gol-lee.”  He’s been an inmate for like 30 years.

Do you think they get long-term inmates to “do their dirty work?”

I’m pretty sure it’s happened, but these guys – this Robert Moffett and John Moffett and all of them – they tell me stories about beatin’ people with flashlights, puttin’ books upside their heads, stuff like that…he’s witnessed it. They don’t want him testifyin’, though…they don’t want him testifyin’.  What they would do is write inmates up for “assault on staff.” If you look, there’s a report from The Tennessean, Jeremy Finley…did you ever read that report?

No, but I’m familiar with The Tennessean.

He found out with Tennessee Representative John Stevens that TDOC was covering up assaults on inmates with assaults on staff.  It was like a common practice.  They knew exactly what to do, what to say, what to write in their reports, how to do it…

[Editor’s Note:  Finley began his April 25, 2014 article, which was updated on October 24:

Two former top officials with the Tennessee Department of Correction said the agency is deleting cases of assaults in state prisons on staff and inmates in order to improve statistics.

The Channel 4 I-Team obtained records of assaults in a state prison that were later deleted, and an internal memo also indicated that cases of assaults should be deleted because reviews of those cases found them to be something other than assaults.

What is the purpose:  to give inmates they didn’t like more time in prison?

These guys would provoke, just like they did me; they provoked a situation out of nothin’, and then they just beat the **** out of me and then tried to cover it up.  I never once swung at these guys; you can ask everybody on the crew with me. This guy was just drivin’ reckless, sayin’ “I want to drive ’em crazy!” and I said, “Yeah, you was, you almost threw me off back here.”  Well, they turned it around like I told ’em, “If you throw me off that truck, I’m goin’ to whup your ** ***” and all of this stuff.  He was kinda drivin’ fast, and I was the last man on the back of the truck.  If you’re drivin’ 60 miles an hour with 19 people in the back of the truck, that’s a little bit too fast.”

Baxter has filed a federal lawsuit as a result of the assault and the injuries he sustained as noted in his four-page summary above.

[Editor’s Note:  A 2008 report on the use of excessive force by a Tennessee prison warden and Internal Affairs officer in a privately-run facility in Hardeman County stated that following “a violent altercation” between several prisoners and corrections officers, “While questioning prisoner James Ingram, who insisted he had not been involved in the incident, Warden Turner threw him to the ground and punched him several times, causing an injury above his eye. Ingram was restrained at the time.”

After The Post & Email submitted an Open Records request to the TDOC for documentation arising from the incident, we received the following response:

From:  Neysa Taylor (Neysa.Taylor@tn.gov)
Sent: Wed 4/29/15 6:51 PM
To: editor@thepostemail.com
Thank you for your inquiry.  We have reviewed your request and have found that we do not have any public records responsive to your request. 
 
Neysa E. Taylor, M. Ed.
Director of Communication
Tennessee Department of Correction
6th Floor, Rachel Jackson Building
320 Sixth Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37243
615.253.8144
 
TDOC Mission:To operate safe and secure prisons and provide effective community supervision in order to enhance public safety.
 
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Baxter has a pending case in federal court against the State of Tennessee for the injuries he incurred.
——————–
Correction, May 6, 2015, 6:10 p.m. EDT:  The Post & Email originally reported erroneously that Baxter had been in prison twice before his current incarceration.  It has been changed to reflect that he was in prison once before.

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