“A HUGE MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE”
by Sharon Rondeau
While incarcerated at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution last year, White was indicted by the Shelby County grand jury of taking part in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine along with his girlfriend, Kristina Cole.
On the evening of February 3, 2016, Cole was arrested by the Bartlett Police Department after retrieving a package from her porch.
According to White’s mother, Kimberly White, Cole is innocent and her son has been wrongly accused not once, but twice since the spring of 2016 while he was in TDOC custody.
Located in the far-western part of Tennessee, Shelby County borders the state of Arkansas and encompasses the city of Memphis. It is designated as the state’s 30th Judicial District, where the chief prosecutor, Amy Weirich, was reprimanded for misbehavior in the courtroom, albeit “privately,” last year.
A Harvard University study of prosecutorial conduct covering the years 2010 to 2015 in the states of Tennessee, California, Louisiana and Missouri found that Weirich committed the highest number of “ethical violations.” On July 13, 2017, WMC Action News 5 reported, “Weirich has been Shelby County’s DA since 2011, and she has been a prosecutor in the office since 1991. Fair Punishment Project found that Shelby County had the highest number of misconduct findings–with more than a dozen–and the most reversals in Tennessee.”
After Weirich’s private reprimand, pending disciplinary action on the part of the Tennessee Supreme Court were abandoned against both Weirich and Assistant District Attorney General Steven Jones associated with the Noura Jackson case.
In late 2013, Shelby County ADA Thomas Henderson was censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court for failing to divulge exculpatory evidence in a murder trial. According to the Memphis Flyer, Weirich planned to take no internal disciplinary action against Henderson.
In its now eight-year coverage of Tennessee’s corrupt judicial system, The Post & Email has noted that the state Board of Professional Responsibility (BOPR) rarely metes out discipline of an attorney or prosecutor, even in what appear to be some of the most egregious instances of professional misconduct.
Over the last 14 months, The Post & Email has received letters from at least three dozen Shelby County inmates alleging corruption; incarceration without trial for more than a year in some cases; prosecutorial misconduct on Weirich’s part; unhealthy conditions within the jail; and objections to the longstanding grand jury foremen.
In an interview on Monday evening, Kimberly White related that her son’s attorney, Claiborne Ferguson, accused Jason of trying to choke him in addition to conspiracy charges leveled in a “straight indictment” by the Shelby County grand jury in April 2016. “The judge forced my son to trial with Claiborne Ferguson, depriving him of his constitutional right to adequate counsel,” White said.
White said her son was brought to trial with Ferguson as counsel, with Judge Robert Carter presiding, despite her son’s request for Ferguson’s removal given Ferguson’s assault allegation.
According to White, the package Cole received in February of last year contained crystal methamphetamine and was shipped from Visalia, California. “The meth was sent from Detective Adam Collins in California via UPS to the Bartlett Police Department, who in turn hand-delivered a repackaged FedEx package to her porch even though it wasn’t addressed to her address.
“The package was originally dropped off in Visalia, California to FedEx. FedEx opened the package and called Detective Collins, who went and picked up the package. He contacted the Bartlett Police Department, and then he took the package from FedEx and put it in a UPS box and shipped it to Bartlett. Bartlett then put it in a FedEx box and put it on Kristina’s porch,” White said.
“Detective Collins broke the chain of custody, and no one from California had to testify,” she added.
“The Bartlett Police Department detective lied in his sworn affidavit to get the search warrant that the original destination was Kristina’s address: 2552 Jenwood, not 2552 Linwood, as was on the FedEx shipping label. So it was never sent to her address in the beginning,” White said.
Discovery documents in the case can be read here: Jason and Kristina Case Info188
White said that a TDOC inmate, Montez Mullins, admitted to Cole’s first attorney, Mark McDaniel, that he had arranged for the shipment of the contraband package. According to White, Mullins received a 30-year sentence at 60% after trial and conviction.
A mother of three children, Cole was tried, found guilty and sentenced to 13.5 years in prison, a harsh sentence enhanced by the location of her home within 300 feet of a school zone. Kimberly White reported that Cole had “never been arrested or in any type of trouble” before.
She also said that text messages were sent from Cole’s phone after she was booked into the Bartlett Police Department which later appeared to incriminate her in the conspiracy. Documentation of the time she was booked into the precinct is contained in the discovery package.
Many inmates have related to this publication that the incarceration of large numbers of Tennesseans results in financial rewards for the jailers. In early 2015, Fitzpatrick reported that NWCX had attempted to force him to enroll in a class whose criteria he did not meet in an obvious “prisoners-for-profit” scheme later echoed by inmates Jerome L. Johnson and Grenda Harmer.
White said that Cole is completely innocent of the charges and that her son was named in the “conspiracy” as a result of his photograph being present on Cole’s nightstand and spotted by officers who appeared at her door shortly after she picked up the package from her front porch, unaware of its contents.
“A TDOC officer claimed that he saw flush a phone in prison, but he showed no evidence during the trial,” White said.
As a result, Jason White was charged with violations of TCA 39-12-103 and 39-17-434, and his indictment was reportedly signed by grand jury foreperson Pat Vincent and Weirich.
[Editor’s Note: TCA 39-17-434 is titled, “Manufacture, delivery, sale or possession of methamphetamines.]
Of the trial and convictions, Kimberly White told us:
They took the three of them to trial. They played a recording of Montez Mullins confessing.
Assistant District Attorney General Chris Scruggs lied to the jury and said, “I did not know about Montez Mullins; he came out of the woodwork this year.”
We have a letter that Kristina filed with the BOPR on Mark McDaniel, the attorney that Mullins called and confessed to. But McDaniel made no attempts to bring Mullins in for testimony. All he had to do was go to Chris Scruggs, and Scruggs would have brought him in.
Kristina fired McDaniel and hired Michael Scholls. We’ve been writing the BOPR on these lawyers since last year. The lawyer responded back saying that he had talked to Chris Scruggs and told him about Montez Mullins at the discovery point after she was arrested.
So the DA lied to the jury and said that he did not know about Montez Mullins until this year, but this took place in February 2016. So he knew about it. Mullins wasn’t brought in until April 2017 through an add-on indictment with Jason and Kristina. The DA lied to the jury about Mullins because he was targeting Jason due to his labeling by the TDOC as a member of a gang. Scruggs is a district attorney for the gangs. Kristina’s attorney, Michael Scholls, wasn’t interested in the truth or trying to defend, but wanted her to lie and point the finger at Jason, who Kristina kept saying knew nothing about the package.
There was prosecutorial misconduct and judicial misconduct throughout the entire case. The fact that Detective Gaia had planted the text message was brought out when Kristina’s new attorney from Jackson, TN, Kortney Simmons, cross-examined the detective. So the state witness had withheld information that led to the indictment of them all. Without this false testimony and fabricated evidence they wold not have been indicted.
On an indictment, according to Tennessee law, the indictment must be plain and state the details, the word “feloniously” must be in the indictment, but the word “felony” can be used. In their indictment, it wasn’t used. I am not sure how much weight this has but I would think the indictment would be defective due to all of the false information within it.
The Capias issued was based on TCA 39-17-433, but the indictment signed by Pat Vincent and Amy Weirich listed TCA 37-12-103 and TCA 37-17-434, not 433, which is a different charge.
On July 14, the jury came back with a “guilty” verdict for my son, Mullins and Kristina. They were supposed to come back August 25 to be sentenced. However, on August 17, they brought my son back to Shelby County from the prison, and the judge brought him in front of him and consulted him about Ferguson’s conflict of interest. My son told him he wanted to represent himself, but the judge didn’t want him to. My son then said, “Your honor, it doesn’t matter who you appoint me or who I hire; they’re not going to be working for me; they’re going to be working for Chris Scruggs, the DA.”
So at that point, we began diligently working on this case and tearing it apart piece by piece. We found out that Detective Mark Gaia with the Bartlett Police Department had already admitted on the stand that he had planted the text messages on Kristina’s phone. I looked for the evidence after I picked up my son’s information from the Ferguson, which was missing exculpatory evidence. I found Kristina’s booking sheet that showed that she was booked in at 15:30 hours on February 3, 2016. The first text message on the phone that said, “The package is here” went out at 15:38. Another one went out at 15:39 and another about 45 minutes later. Then, about an hour later, there was a three-minute, eight-second phone call on her phone.
We got to looking at the indictment. It’s defective because the witness for the grand jury was Detective Mark Gaia, the same one who admitted on the stand to sending text messages from Kristina’s phone after she was taken into custody. So we got to looking, and on the indictment, it said the original destination of the package was 2552 Jenwood, which was her address. But he lied to the grand jury.
Not only that, the indictment does not contain the word “felony.” An indictment is supposed to be plain so that anyone without an education can understand what it is. “Felony” or “misdemeanor” is not supposed to be in there.
Pat Vincent signed the indictment and Amy Weirich signed the indictment, not the clerk of court.
On my son’s capias – remember that he was straight-indicted, not arrested – he was indicted on a Class E felony for violating TCA 39-17-433, which is “promotion of methamphetamine manufacture,” and promoting meth meant that he was in possession of chemicals to make methamphetamine, which he could not have been while in prison.
This capias was issued on June 2, 2016 and signed by the clerk of court, Richard DeSausseur, and by a judge saying that the indictment was March 31, 2016, but he was not taken in front of the magistrate until June 2, 2016. He was never arrested, but on the capias, signed by the clerk of court, who witnesses all the indictments, it says that he was indicted on a Class E felony, but yet on the indictment that Amy Weirich and Pat Vincent signed, it’s a Class B felony, TCA 39-12-103, which is “Criminal Conspiracy,” and 39-17-434, which is “Promotion of methamphetamine manufacture” and a Class B felony.
So now we have a capias that says the True Bill is a Class E felony, but yet we have an indictment signed by Pat Vincent and Amy Weirich saying that the True Bill of indictment is a Class B felony. So which one is right?
“Was that question ever answered?” The Post & Email asked.
“Oh, no, it hasn’t been answered yet, but we’re just really getting into this; it’s getting intense now,” White replied.
A sentencing hearing for Jason White on Wednesday resulted in a 60-year sentence at 100% decreed by Judge Carter.
As he is now representing himself, White said her son is filing all of his own documents with the court.
Of his sentence, Kimberly White told us:
Despite Jason’s efforts to file petitions and motions with the court to bring awareness of this obstruction of justice, he was sentenced to 60 years at 100%. Technically, he’ll have to do 85%, so he is facing an additional 51 years before he’s able to get out. This entire case is a huge miscarriage of justice. The obstruction of justice in this case alone demonstrates that no party of the Shelby County judicial criminal court process, starting with the police department, the attorneys, the DA or the judges, are doing their job despite the fact that they’re sworn in to uphold justice and protect the innocent.