CLOSE NASHVILLE JUDGE CASEY MORELANDCasey Moreland to continue earning pension | 0:32
Disgraced Nashville judge Casey Moreland, who is facing federal crimes, will continue to receive his taxpayer-funded pension. State and Metro Nashville law say upon conviction of a crime of malfeasance, he would give up retirement benefits. Stacey Barchenger/USA Today Network – Tennessee
CLOSE NASHVILLE JUDGE CASEY MORELANDCasey Moreland released from jail | 1:27
Judge Casey Moreland’s attorney Peter Strianse is happy a federal judge has released Moreland from Jail. George Walker IV / The Tennessean
CLOSE NASHVILLE JUDGE CASEY MORELANDJudge Casey Moreland charged, taken into custody | 7:55
Federal officials charged Judge Casey Moreland Monday, March 28, 2017 with attempting to obstruct justice and witness tampering. Adam Tamburin / USA Today Network – Tennessee
CLOSE NASHVILLE JUDGE CASEY MORELANDJudge Moreland’s lawyer speaks after Moreland’s arrest | 2:52
The federal government filed criminal charges against Nashville General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland, alleging he tried to bribe a woman to recant her allegations against him. Shelley Mays/The Tennessean
CLOSE NASHVILLE JUDGE CASEY MORELANDBio: Nashville Judge Casey Moreland | 0:59
A brief bio of Nashville General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland Stacey Barchenger / Tennessean
CLOSE NASHVILLE JUDGE CASEY MORELANDPotential discipline for judges in Tennessee | 0:37
The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct, a 12-member body, is charged with investigating and disciplining the state’s judges. If the board finds a judge committed misconduct, here’s what sanctions it can impose. Stacey Barchenger / The Tennessean Stacey Barchenger / The Tennessean
- The five counts in the indictment follow Moreland’s arrest in March. He plans to plead not guilty.
- The counts are related to tampering, bribery and obstruction of justice. Moreland may still face more charges.
- Federal investigators confirmed a Moreland friend and semi-pro wrestler worked with the FBI.
- The wrestler, known as “The Beast,” pleaded guilty to one federal count.
Former Nashville Judge Casey Moreland faces five felony counts related to trying to bribe and frame a woman who says he offered her judicial favors in exchange for sex, according to a federal indictment levied Wednesday. The indictment follows Moreland’s arrest in late March on three federal charges alleging obstruction of justice. If convicted on all five counts, Moreland could face a maximum of 80 years in prison and a fine of $1.25 million, according to the U.S. Attorney for Middle Tennessee. In response to the indictment, Moreland’s attorney Peter Strianse said the former judge plans to plead not guilty.
“The indictment returned today against Judge Moreland is simply an accusation and is not evidence of anything,” Strianse said.
“He will plead not guilty and, like all citizens, is presumed innocent.”
Months before the March arrest, media reports chronicled misconduct in the judge’s courtroom, including how Moreland, 59, intervened in a traffic stop on behalf of a woman who was purportedly a paramour and waived jail time for his future son-in-law. But the charges revealed that Moreland may have tried to cover up allegations against him after the reporting began.
“Public corruption of this nature threatens the public’s confidence in our judicial system and the administration of justice,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matthew Espenshade of the FBI in Nashville said at the time of Moreland’s arrest. “This is why public corruption is the FBI’s top criminal investigative priority.”
Moreland was initially charged with offering a confidential source, who at the time was working for the FBI, more than $6,000 to make a former lover recant allegations she made against the judge.
This right here gets me out of trouble, Moreland said, according to the FBI documents. The indictment focuses only on the conduct included in the original criminal complaint. As noted in the indictment, the FBI originally started investigating Moreland in January to see whether he used his job as a judge to give favors to two women, Natalie Amos and Leigh Terry, with whom he purportedly had sexual relationships. The fact the indictment focuses only on alleged criminal conduct found after the start of the FBI investigation means more federal charges could be on the way.
The five counts included in the indictment are:
Tampering with a witness by corrupt persuasion: This charge is related to Moreland’s alleged attempts to get Amos to recant her statements against him. Amos told WSMV-TV she had sex with Moreland, and he helped clear some of her legal fees and other problems.
Obstruction of an official proceeding: Moreland is accused of trying to hamstring a federal grand jury by attempting to coax Amos into changing her story.
Obstruction of a criminal investigation by bribery: Moreland is accused of offering to pay Amos $6,000 for her to sign an affidavit that said she had given false statements in media reports.
Retaliation against a witness, victim, or informant: In addition to considering a bribe, Moreland is accused of discussing a plan to plant drugs in Amos’ car and having her pulled over by law enforcement.
Destroying, altering or falsifying records or documents: Federal prosecutors argue Moreland’s attempt to get Amos to sign the affidavit amounts to him orchestrating the creation of a false document in the attempt to influence a federal investigation.
It was this last charge that particularly peeved Strianse, Moreland’s attorney.
“The speaking allegations contained in the indictment refer to an affidavit that was never used or made public,” Strianse said in the statement.
“Remarkably, at the preliminary hearing conducted last month in federal court, the FBI agent testified that the investigation revealed that the affidavit was to be leaked to the media, not used in connection with any official court proceeding. If that is the case, there is a significant issue as to whether such an affidavit could ever trigger a violation of federal law. A criminal charge is different than an indictment. Federal prosecutors can’t take a suspect to trial without an indictment, but they can seek a criminal charge and have that person arrested if they think the person is meddling with their investigation.
‘The Beast’ and Moreland
Moreland relied on the help of a man to try and bribe Amos and orchestrate her phony traffic stop. Until Wednesday, the identity of the man had yet to be confirmed by federal prosecutors, who used him as a confidential informant against Moreland. But they officially revealed the name of the security guard and part-time semi-pro wrestler who helped obtain evidence that could prove damning to the former judge.
At roughly 9:15 a.m. James Pedigo adorned in a black and white pinstripe suit entered a federal courtroom and pleaded guilty to one felony charge of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. The charging document says Pedigo worked with C.M. to attempt to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede a federal grand jury. The indictment says Pedigo met Moreland more than 20 years ago and was a neighbor of Moreland’s sister, but Pedigo and Moreland reconnected recently when Pedigo wanted help getting a job as a security guard in General Sessions court. When he s not working security, Pedigo wrestles under the name The Beast, according toYouTube videos. In the original criminal complaint against Moreland, Pedigo is referred to as CS-1. He originally denied conspiring with Moreland when approached by the FBI, but eventually admitted his involvement in trying to get a former lover of Moreland s to recant her statement.
Pedigo worked with the FBI in the attempts to give Amos $6,000 to recant some of her damaging public statements made about Moreland. He also told Moreland a friend in law enforcement may be able to plant drugs in Amos car and orchestrate a traffic stop. Pedigo was released with conditions, a signal that he was given a deal on his own crime in exchange for his help in Moreland s case. The Moreland criminal complaint said Pedigo was cooperating in the hopes of receiving leniency.
More charges to come?
The FBI investigated whether Moreland “and others” violated federal anti-corruption laws, including honest services fraud and the Hobbs Act covering extortion under color of official right, according to the criminal complaint. In the context of a public official, honest services fraud typically refers to bribery or a kickback. The government can prove a Hobbs Act violation if it shows a public official received an inappropriate payment from a private person in exchange for an official act, or a quid pro quo relationship.
Moreland was released three days after his arrest to home confinement after tendering his resignation to Mayor Megan Barry. The Nashville Democrat had served as a judge since 1998, winning re-election most recently in 2014. He was one of 11 General Sessions judges, who each earns $170,000. Moreland heard exclusively criminal cases, while other judges also hear civil lawsuits, too.
With Moreland’s resignation, he’s in line to earn a $4,500 monthly pension. But any conviction that’s related to official misconduct would nix future payments.
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Alabama National Guardsmen deploy to Afghanistan during a ceremony on Wednesday. Rebecca Burylo
A deployment ceremony is held for Logistics Team FWD 4 at the Alabama National Guard Headquarters in Montgomery, Ala., on Wednesday April 26, 2017. (Photo: Mickey Welsh / Advertiser)Buy Photo
The red curls on Jenna South’s head bounced as her father swung her up on his hip and gave the 7-year-old up long hug. It might be their last embrace for several months. South’s father, Lt. Col. Allan South was among 20 Alabama National Guardsmen with the Alabama Army National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters Forward Logistics Team Four who was called into active-duty. They readied for deployment to Afghanistan on Wednesday.
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Mattox, South and the rest on the logistics team will deploy to various locations across Afghanistan to teach, assist and advise the Afghan National Security Forces on logistics in order to help sustain their forces. They will work with the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior levels of the Afghan government. Each member of the team is highly specialized in their functional area.
The logistics team will conduct some additional training at a mobilization station before deploying overseas.
Senior Alabama National Guardsmen and officials, like Brig. Gen. Michael Mitchell, Assistant Adjutant General thanked the men deploying and their families for their “quiet sacrifices.”
Lt. Col. Alan South holds his daughter Jenna (7) following a deployment ceremony for Logistics Team FWD 4 at the Alabama National Guard Headquarters in Montgomery, Ala., on Wednesday April 26, 2017. (Photo: Mickey Welsh / Advertiser)
“Thank you for your dedication to our mission and the sacrifices you know all too well,” Mitchell said to the deployment team and a packed room of several hundred other guardsmen. “I’m thankful our Army is made up of good soldiers like you. God speed and best of luck to all of you.”
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New York’s medical marijuana program was a boom for lobbyists firms. Yet 17,000 patients out of 200,000 that are eligible have been certified for the program, lohud’s David Robinson reports. Ricky Flores/lohud
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)
Desperate criminals made a daring smuggling run from Minnesota to New York in an armored SUV packed with $500,000 of marijuana oil. Or
Highly respected corporate officers quietly transported state-licensed medical marijuana from a Minnesota-based company to its affiliate in New York. These are the drastically different stories behind a high-profile Minnesota legal battle involving Vireo Health, the parent company of the medical marijuana dispensary in downtown White Plains.
Prosecutors have accused Dr. Laura Bultman and Ronald Owens, the company s former chief medical officer and security officer, of smuggling the drugs 1,200 miles to rescue Vireo from missing a deadline to open up shop in New York in 2016. On the other side, Paul Engh, the attorney for Bultman, has disputed that Minnesota s marijuana law bans shipping the drug across state borders, The Journal News/lohud has learned from court documents, and shifted focus onto why medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law despite being allowed in 28 states.
Engh s stance is detailed in a 12-page report urging a court to toss the felony drug charges against Bultman. It boils down to one question: How is it illegal for a licensed company’s officer to provide a drug to patients as defined by state law?
We believe the law is with us and are hopeful that the court agrees, Engh said, addressing the court documents in response to an inquiry by The Journal News/lohud. Other defense arguments in Engh’s filing touch on everything from a company’s definition as a person under Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that gave corporations protected rights, to a lack of clarity in Minnesota’s marijuana law.
“Any ambiguity as to the law s language and its application is to be resolved in Dr. Bultman s favor,” Engh wrote in court documents.
Still, the Vireo case has underscored why federal lawmakers idleness and a patchwork approach to state marijuana laws have muddled efforts to treat thousands of patients with serious illnesses, such as cancer and epilepsy. Nick Zerwas, a state representative in Minnesota, described the Vireo scandal as a flaw in that state s law.
When this (law) was moved through several years ago, there was a lot of discussion about the methods of delivery and how many dispensaries, he said, but not nearly enough discussion on insufficient legal leverages necessary to regulate and investigate and hold accountable this industry. Zerwas, who voted to legalize marijuana sales in 2014, has pushed new legislation seeking to tighten the law in the wake of the Vireo case.
The looming threat of the U.S. Justice Department closing down Minnesota s marijuana program also influenced Zerwas reform push.
It s incumbent upon us to act swiftly and signify that the state of Minnesota can handle this, Zerwas said. Vireo Health executives have said little about the situation. Andrew Mangini, a company spokesman, noted medical marijuana sales continue in New York, including a recent launch of a home delivery service to eligible patients in New York City.
We take our legal obligations and regulatory responsibilities in this area very seriously, he said. And will cooperate with the relevant agencies while maintaining our focus on patients who suffer from life-threatening and debilitating diseases like cancer and ALS, and who deserve best-in-class medical cannabis products and compassionate care.”
While federal authorities at the Justice Department would not say if they are investigating the Vireo case, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Barbara Carreno spoke to its prior hands-off approach as state marijuana laws piled up since 2013.
The Cole Memo
Traditionally, the DEA has targeted eight criminal activities by marijuana businesses under a policy that says no to drugged driving, sales to minors, interstate smuggling, and using cannabis-based profits in connection to other crimes.
You have seen over the last few years there have continued to be raids on dispensaries in California and Colorado because they had to do with these eight things, said Carreno. It all stemmed from a 2013 policy, commonly called the Cole memo, and named after a former Justice Department lawyer, James Cole, who established federal law enforcement s approach to the states that legalized marijuana, for medical and/or recreational use.
Cole s memo remains in place as feds await the newly appointed attorney general s marching orders for an apparent federal crackdown on marijuana. At a law enforcement gathering in February, Sessions cited the increased legalization of marijuana, an issue he long railed against while an Alabama senator, as contributing to a culture of acceptance, USA Today reported.
“I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if (marijuana) is being sold from every corner grocery store,” he said. Some medical marijuana advocates have voiced concerns about Sessions apparent attempt to lump together medicinal and recreational uses of the drug, despite his lack of policy details and Congress effectively banning raids on state-approved medical marijuana in 2014.
Sessions general tougher-on-crime stance, however, suggests a drastic turnaround from recent efforts to remove marijuana from the discussion of more dangerous narcotics.
“We don’t need to be legalizing marijuana, and we need to be cracking down on heroin,’ Sessions said.
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- ^ VIREO HEALTH: Marijuana smuggling scandal (www.lohud.com)
- ^ MONEY TRAIL: New York’s marijuana lobbying dollars top $2 million by applicants (www.lohud.com)
- ^ LIST: What lobbying firms got from New York’s medical marijuana applicants (www.lohud.com)
- ^ USA Today reported. (www.lohud.com)