Manny Sethi’s Cast of Characters

On Thursday, Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Dr. Manny Sethi released a list of 174 “grassroots” activists supporting his campaign. Spoiler alert: We’re betting his opponent, former Trump ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, didn’t lose any sleep last night.

For instance, the most prominent official on Sethi’s list is State Rep. Bruce Griffey (District 75, Paris) and his wife, Rebecca. The Griffeys recently made statewide news for breaking state Republican Party bylaws in an attempt to intimidate a chancery court judge and ensure Rebecca Griffey’s appointment to the bench. The judge submitted her resignation to Governor Bill Lee after nine days, citing intimidation by the Griffeys.

Rep. Bruce Griffey and his wife, Rebecca, with disgraced former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada.

Elected officials also include State Rep. Kelly Keisling (District 38, Byrdstown.) In 2012, Keisling used his official state email address to share the rumor with constituents that then-President Barack Obama was planning to stage a fake assassination attempt in order to stop the 2012 election.

In a press release,  Forrest Barnwell-Hagemeyer, Sethi’s campaign manager, said, “It’s clear that Dr. Manny is the choice of Tennessee conservatives.”

In addition to the Griffeys and Keisling, those conservatives include:

  • State Rep. Dan Howell, (D22-Cleveland,) whose legislative accomplishments have included voting for Governor Lee’s education voucher scheme, voting to authorize adoption agencies to deny adoption to parents who don’t comply with the agency’s religious beliefs, and voting to allow Gov. Lee to submit a waiver of Medicaid in favor of block grants to “cover” healthcare.
  • Former (Nashville) Metro Council Member Duane Dominy, currently a plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging Metro violated its own laws in the pending deal to place a Major League Soccer stadium at Fairgrounds Nashville.
  • Former Metro Council Member and current TNGOP Executive Committee Member Robert Duvall, who supported the legalization of gun carry in Metro Parks during his time on the council.
  • Dr. Ming Wang of Nashville, lasik eye surgeon.
  • Rick Williams, Nashville, former 5th Congressional District chair of 2016 Trump for President campaign.
  • Helen “Tootie” Haskins, longtime Tennessee legislative aide.
  • Fred Decosimo, Chattanooga, board member of the Beacon Center of Tennessee and treasurer of Lee’s gubernatorial campaign.
  • Marshall County Trustee Scottie Poarch, who in 2017 was nominated by Congressman Scott DesJarlais as the 4th Congressional District’s Statesman of the Year.
  • Dr. Omar Hamada, former chair of the Williamson County Republican Party.
  • Cyndi Miller, state GOP Executive Committee member (D23-Williamson County), who has advocated for the sale of the public Williamson County Medical Center.

For a full list of Sethi’s grassroots cast of characters, go to the Tennessee Journal.

VIDEO: CLIPS From Nashville’s Public Hearing On Lee’s (ILLEGAL?) Medicaid Block Grant Proposal

This week throughout Tennessee public hearings for comments about Governor Bill Lee’s possibly illegal block grant proposal are being held. A Block Grant would hand a giant lump sum of medicaid dollars to a group of people who have already shown they don’t actually care about the suffering of poor Tennesseans, having rejected billions of Medicaid expansion dollars for no non-political reason.

It has cost us BILLIONS. We’re #1 in Rural hospital closures, medical bankruptcies, at the bottom in opioid deaths, infant mortality, the list goes on.  Medicaid expansion would help all of those things. A block grant will only exacerbate them.

The hearing in Nashville was emotional, but Lee and the TN GOP wouldn’t know because they weren’t there, and they didn’t have anyone there to record it or take note of the comments.

We were there though. Below are a few clips.

Rep. Jim Cooper: “I had hoped Gov. Lee’s religious faith would’ve given him more of a heart for the poor, especially as we anticipate the Day of Prayer he has called.”

Cooper exposes Lee’s (illegal?) Block Grant as a bad deal for Tennessee & our most vulnerable:

“These aren’t just numbers. There are real people suffering… This is a faithful state- we should be helping the poor, not hurting them.”

Holler co-Founder Kanew speaks up:

“If it wasn’t for my family there are times I wouldn’t have anything to eat. It’s so humiliating.”

DEVASTATING testimony from a woman who lost Medicaid to a paperwork snafu. Governor Lee’s proposal will lead to more of these stories, not less:

The ICE-Man Cometh: The Disturbing History Of ICE Agent Bradley Epley

The ICE-MAN COMETH:

The Disturbing History of Bradley Epley, an ICE Agent Involved in the Shooting of Jose Fernando Andrade-Sanchez, an Undocumented Man in Tennessee

By Alexandria Huff

This Post was first seen in Die Barliner – The Bard College Student Blog

As activists around the United States mobilize against the unacceptable conditions inside of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, the agency continues its operations on the ground in American cities. On September 5th, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers shot Jose Fernando Andrade-Sanchez in his car as he attempted to leave the Food Lion parking lot in Antioch, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville.

The shooting, which occurred in broad daylight at a heavily trafficked intersection, left the 39-year-old Mexican man alive but with bullet wounds in his stomach and his elbow that required surgery at a Nashville area hospital. At the end of the day on September 6th, local students were so disoriented that their teachers rode home with them on the school bus. “There was such a concern and fear in the community because children didn’t know what they were coming back to [after the shooting]. And it’s all because of this one ICE agent who has no accountability to anybody,” Brenda Perez of The MIX, said in an interview with Democracy Now.

Bradley Thomas Epley, a 49-year-old former Border Patrol officer, was one of the two Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents present in the Food Lion parking lot on September 5th. Though ICE spokesperson Brian Cox told reporters that Andrade-Sanchez drove towards the officer as he fled the scene, video footage shows an agent drawing his gun and following the vehicle, and firing two shots through the windshield.

A closer look at Bradley Epley’s history as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent reveals allegations of illegal activity, violence and at least two cases of mistaken identity. Epley was named in two federal lawsuits alleging illegal search and seizure in 2010. Both lawsuits were settled out of court.

In 2017, Epley arrested Faustino Rodriguez Hernandez in a Nashville courthouse on federal immigration charges. Hernandez had appeared in court that day to settle a traffic violation. In July of 2019, Epley was in the news again when he and another ICE official attempted a warrantless arrest of a Hendersonville man and were blocked by a human chain of the man’s neighbors. Many Americans, including some politicians (after being pressured by directly affected communities), are seeking to abolish ICE. The cruelty and incompetence of the agency is illustrated by taking a closer look at the public record of an agent like Bradley Epley.

The first federal lawsuit in which Bradley Epley appears was brought by David Tapia-Tovar and Ana Maria Vazquez. Epley was named as one of several ICE officers who forced their way into Tapia-Tovar’s home, grabbed him by the arm and forced him into his living room as other officers then searched the house without a warrant. A complaint filed on Tapia-Tovar and Vazquez’s behalf in Nashville district court reveals that not only did the ICE officers force their way into Tapia-Tovar’s home without a warrant, but that Tapia-Tovar was not the intended target of the search:

53. As he sat handcuffed on the couch, David asked the first ICE agent why he and the others had entered their home.

54. In reply, one ICE agent held a file folder a few feet in front of David’s face. Attached to the front of the folder was a large photograph of a man of Latino appearance.

55. The man in the photograph bore no resemblance to David. His skin was darker, his nose was wider, and his eyes were set differently.

56. No reasonable person could mistake the man in the photograph for David.

57. Printed on the cover of the ICE folder was the name “David Tovar-Najera.”

58. David and Anna had never known or even heard of a person named David Tovar-Najera before this encounter. [*1]

Tapia-Tovar, an undocumented immigrant, was removed from his home and taken to the ICE office where deportation proceedings were initiated. His complaint alleges that Epley lied to the immigration court about how ICE agents were able to enter Tapia-Tovar’s home. Epley also stated that “[Tapia-Tovar] had entered the United States at an unknown time of day and at an unknown location,” which is the “policy and practice of the Nashville ICE Office…when completing ICE database processing of suspected aliens ICE agents encounter,” the complaint states. The lawsuit calls Epley’s statement “[another] utter and transparent fabrication.” The lawsuit, which was filed by Ozment Law, was settled out of court.

The second lawsuit Epley appeared in that year was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of fifteen plaintiffs, including American citizens, who lived at the Claremont Apartments in South Nashville. They were illegally detained by Epley and other officers when they raided the complex without a warranton October 20, 2010, leading to the arrest of twenty people. Lindsay Kee of the ACLU of Tennessee described the scene:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents began hitting objects against the bedroom windows, trying to break in. Without a search warrant and without consent, the ICE agents eventually knocked in the front door and shattered a window, shouting racial slurs and storming into the bedrooms, holding guns to some people’s heads. When asked if they had a warrant, one agent reportedly said, “We don’t need a warrant, we’re ICE,” and, gesturing to his genitals, “the warrant is coming out of my balls.” [*2]

The lawsuit alleged that Epley and the other ICE officers at the Clairmont Apartments physically and verbally abused the plaintiffs, including pointing guns at the heads of two men, Jesus Villalobos and Javier Deras. The city and federal government settled the lawsuit for $310,000.

Whether Epley or the other agents cited in these lawsuits were punished by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is unknown.

In June 2017, in the months following Donald Trump’s inauguration, Bradley Epley arrested 33-year-old Faustino Rodriguez Hernandez in a Nashville courthouse. Hernandez is an Hounduran man who was in the court of General Sessions Judge Lynda Jones for a traffic violation; he had been caught driving without a license. The ICE officials on site took him into custody on an ICE warrant, which was not signed by a judge and doesn’t allow court officers to detain an individual on ICE’s behalf. Assistant Public Defender Mary Kathryn Harcombe told The Tennessean that court employees typically don’t understand the distinction between an ICE warrant and a standard warrant and might have illegally detained Hernandez, who was handed over to Epley while Judge Jones was out of the room. In an admission to The Tennessean via email, Judge Lynda Jones said that Epley nearly arrested the wrong man earlier that day: “The agent [Epley] informed my court officer that the true warranted individual was the ‘spittin image’ of the gentleman who was almost wrongfully arrested. My court officer stated that the ICE agent then said, ‘TRUST ME.’”

On the morning of July 22, 2019, Epley and another officer arrived in the Nashville suburb of Hermitage in a white pickup truck, and pulled into the driveway of an unnamed family home, blocking a van that the man and his son were sitting in. The man and his son locked themselves in their car to avoid the ICE agents, initiating a four-hour-long standoff. The Nashville Scene reports that more than a dozen of the man’s neighbors, as well as local immigrant rights activists, gathered in the front yard with snacks, water, cool towels to fight against the heat and gas to keep the van running. Like the warrant Epley brought to the Nashville courthouse, the warrant on July 22 had not been signed by a judge and did not allow officers to forcibly enter the man’s car or home. The MIX reports that at one point the father and son were told by an ICE agent, “We’ll just call the cops and they’ll arrest you, and then when they’re done with you in the jail, then we’ll get you.” Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) officers were on the scene during the standoff.

Eventually the man’s neighbors made a human chain so he and his son could safely exit the car and re-enter their home. By 10 AM, Epley, his fellow officer, and the MNPD left the scene. The attempted arrest was conducted as a part of President Trump’s Operation Border Resolve, which targeted 2,000 families and resulted in 35 arrests. Local resident Angela Glass told the Scene, “These people, they’ve been living there for 14 years,” Glass says. “They don’t bother anybody. Our kids play with their kids. It’s just one big community. And we don’t want to see anything happen to them. They’re good people. They’ve been here 14 years, leave them alone.”

On 17 September, 2019, less than a month after being shot by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Jose Fernando Andrade-Sanchez was arrested outside Ozment Law, an  immigration law office in Nashville, Tennessee. Ozment Law, which in twenty years has never had an enforcement operation conducted on its property, said in a statement:

“Immigration agents’ decision to make a violent, aggressive arrest on a law firm’s private property sends a chilling message that even those with valid claims to adjusting their status and continuing their lives in this country are at risk.”

Andrade-Sanchez, who has previously been deported, has been charged with illegal reentry into the United States.

The record of Bradley Epley illustrates how Immigration and Customs Enforcement, aided by the Metro Nashville Police Department and Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, has terrorized the Middle Tennessee community for over a decade, traumatizing individuals and families. Increased scrutiny of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Trump administration has caused some Americans to boycott companies like Amazon that provide ICE with facial recognition technology, to call for the immediate abolition of the agency, and to demand that 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates make the abolition of ICE a part of their 2020 platform.

A week after the shooting of Jose Fernando Andrade-Sanchez, theNashville Scene published a two-piece cover package on the deportation pipeline. As the MIX’s Brenda Perez pointed out on Facebook, “I’m glad the Nashville Scene is covering this, I will be more enthused when they center and interview undocumented people on issues that affect us. We have been here and our daily lives are the front lines.”

Bradley Epley is still employed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. He lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Notes:

[*1] http://www.lawreport.org/pdf/ICETennessee.pdf

[*2] https://www.aclu.org/blog/we-dont-need-warrant-were-ice

First a Permitless Hog Farm, Now An AR-15 Giveaway – Is Rep. Holt’s Fundraiser “Door Prize” Legal?

Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) is hosting a “Hogfest and Turkey Shoot” campaign fundraiser at his home this Saturday, and has announced he will be giving away an AR-15 Assault Rifle – the weapon used in tragedy after tragedy in America – as a “door prize”… but is it legal?

That Holt would give away a weapon that even NASCAR won’t feature in ads anymore despite the message it sends to those concerned about the gun death crisis in America should come as no surprise – he is after all the sponsor of a recent bill to weaken our permitting system in Tennessee to make it possible for people to get a permit to carry virtually anywhere in our state without ever actually firing one on a range, simply by taking a quick online class.

But is his giveaway actually legal? It would appear the answer is no.

The Secretary of State’s website is very clear: Raffles like the one described in Holt’s event – where people pay to get in, and are entered to win a prize – are considered gambling in Tennessee, and not permitted by any organization that isn’t a charity and hasn’t been pre-approved.

From the Secretary of State’s site:

Raffles and games of chance are considered gambling, which is prohibited in Tennessee. However, certain charitable organizations are allowed to apply to have one raffle, reverse raffle, cakewalk or cakewheel each year if that event is conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Tennessee Charitable Gaming Implementation Law.

Only a qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization that has submitted an application to the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming and that has been approved by the Tennessee General Assembly can hold a raffle.

When asked about this on Twitter, Holt responded that the AR-15 was a “doorprize”:

But the SOS site makes no exception for such semantic arguments. What Holt describes in his event post is pretty clearly not allowed by law.

Again, from the SOS site:

No. An event is considered a raffle if someone must pay for a chance to win a prize and would be a violation of law. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”

When asked if he had applied and been approved, Holt gave no answer.

There is even a question on the site itself about exceptions for political campaigns, to which the answer is very clearly also a resounding NO:

Are political candidates and campaigns allowed to conduct raffles or other games of chance?
No. The law only allows qualified 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations to hold gaming events. Political candidates and campaigns for public office are not considered 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) tax exempt organizations… If someone is required to pay for a chance to win a prize, it is considered a raffle. Only qualified and approved 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations may hold a raffle. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”

As for the consequences, the site has this to say:

If the Division of Charitable Solicitations is notified of an unapproved event, the Division will notify the local district attorney general. Conducting an unapproved game of chance may be a violation of the criminal gaming statute, and local law enforcement has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for the event… Please contact the district attorney for the county in which you believe the game of chance is taking place or contact the Division of Charitable Solicitations at (615) 741-2555 and the Division will notify the appropriate authorities.

In this case, the District Attorney to holler at would be Tommy Thomas: (731) 364-5513

And here’s how to holler at the Division of Charitable Donations: (615) 741-2555 & charitable.solicitations@tn.gov

It’s worth pointing out that Holt is no stranger to breaking the law and doing things without a permit – he was previously found to be operating a pig farm without one.
He also recently mocked a Republican County commissioner who criticized disgraced former speaker Glen Casada, teasing him about beastiality (all class that Andy!) – and called a constituent who disagreed with him “mentally ill”.
We have heard from someone who was able to get Rep. Holt on the phone, who says she asked him if there is a way to register for the door prizes without buying a ticket for admission. Apparently Holt said he would get back to her, and hung up on her.
The charitable gaming office within the secretary of state’s office said they would look into it and get back to us, but when we followed up we were told all investigations are private until the investigations are closed, and that even whether or not there is an open investigation will not be disclosed to the public until after the investigation is closed.
Now you might be thinking – it’s just a raffle, who cares? And you’d have a point.
But the bigger point here is that laws exist for a reason, and laws that apply to the rest of us should apply equally to lawmakers themselves – otherwise we live in a two-tiered society, which is exactly the opposite of the “all men are created equal” principle.
Surely a “constitutional conservative” like Rep. Holt wouldn’t want to violate that bedrock principle just to give away an AR-15 and trigger some libs, would he?
As for the AR-15 itself, we’ll freely admit we find the idea of giving one away when they have been the source of so much heartbreak and misery feels irresponsible and heartless. We support the 2nd Amendment, but even Justice Scalia said it didn’t allow for “UNLIMITED” right to own and keep any weapon, anywhere, any time.
And even the maker of the AR-15  believed they shouldn’t be in civilian hands. The safety of our children should take precedence.

Instead of giving away AR-15’s at campaign fundraisers, it would be nice to see Holt working to make Tennessee a safer place, especially considering how unsafe a state we are when it comes to gun deaths, especially of women and children.
If you agree, or even just think laws should apply to lawmakers, Holler at Rep. Holt HERE – or on twitter HERE.

VIDEO: From the Front Lines of the UAW Strike In Spring Hill

“We appreciate the support. We’re in it for the long haul. We’re gonna fight the good fight.” ‬

‪Striking UAW Local 1853 workers in Spring Hill, TN say the middle class is disappearing, it’s the haves and have-nots… and GM wants to keep it that way.

Yesterday some were arrested on the picket lines for “disorderly conduct”, including UAW president Tim Stannard. They are out of jail, but the DA says he will be pressing charges.

Meanwhile GM has CUT OFF the health benefits of the striking workers, another reminder that health care should be a RIGHT in this country, not a privilege bestowed upon us by the wealthy who can dangle our lives in front of us.

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles was out there saying he wants their health coverage restored, but it’s worth remembering Ogles was a leader of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed organization that helped block Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, keeping 300,000 without coverage. Suddenly he cares about folks being able to see doctors?

#UnionStrong #StandWithUAW ‬

VIDEO: Tequila Johnson On Sec. Hargett’s Voter Reg Criminalization Bill

Federal court just BLOCKED Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s “SCHEME” to criminalize voter registration after the Tennessee Black Voter Project registered 90,000. Tequila Johnson of The Equity Alliance tells us they were told to turn in every form, and she wasn’t allowed to testify.

“This was about holding onto power.”

Check out the full PODCAST INTERVIEW on ITUNES.

COLUMBIA STATE STUDENT: “Doesn’t Matter If Senator Roberts Was Joking About Higher Ed, His Words Matter”

Watch Columbia State student Grant Marsh respond to Senator Kerry Roberts, who called for higher education to be removed to “save America” in a rage last week in response to testimony he didn’t like at the Tennessee abortion ban hearings.

He has since told NBC News he was “joking”, but Marsh says that doesn’t matter – his words carry weight, and he also says Roberts is wrong, and invites him to spend the day with him to prove it.

BLOCKED! Sec. Hargett’s Voter Registration Criminalization Bill Blocked By Federal Court

Today a federal court has blocked the unprecedented Tennessee law passed this past session that restricts voter registration drives, subjecting people to unprecedented civil and even criminal penalties simply for turning in insufficient voter registration forms.

The bill was pushed through the Tennessee legislature by Secretary of State Tre Hargett after the Tennessee Black Voter Project registered over 90,000 people in 2018.

A judge had just struck down Hargett’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by voter registration groups earlier this week, undressing the bill as a naked attempt to suppress the vote. READ OUR POST about that HERE, where we went into the back story of the ugly law. In that ruling, Judge Trauger echoed many of the criticisms levied against the bill when it was being debated in the legislature.

This was a big win for the voting rights groups.

Here’s the federal court’s opinion in its entirety. A win for democracy. Hopefully it will hold.

“[T]hat voting is the ‘political right . . . preservative of all rights,’ is not just a comforting aphorism; it reflects … that, in the American system of governance, every decision to grant, preserve, or take away a right can be traced … back to an election.”

VIDEO: Cherisse Scott Fires Back At Senator Kerry Roberts

“Absolutely it was racist… you want folks to stay ignorant so they won’t hold you accountable. It was not a joke.”‬

Cherisse Scott of SisterReach fires back at Sen. Kerry Roberts, who called for an end to higher ed after her #TNAbortionBan testimony.‬

She also said:

“You’ve been able to effectively train your people to believe I don’t care about myself, my baby, my community, and as long as you can keep that going there will never be an opportunity for white Tennesseans to believe they have something in common with black Tennesseans.”

Watch the CLIP below, and the FULL Facebook Live  INTERVIEW HERE.

The AUDIO is also available on our podcast – subscribe on Itunes HERE.

And below you can watch Cherisse read the full testimony she tried to give during the #TNAbortionBan Senate committee hearings before Senator Mike Bell cut her off. He let a man who said he “remembers being born” go on much longer.

FLASHBACK: Senator Pody Also Wondered If We Should Do Away With State-Backed Higher Ed

In the aftermath of his opposition to higher education becoming national news, Senator Kerry Roberts called his heated, triggered rant a “joke” and “hyperbole”… but here’s his pal Senator Mark Pody saying the same things DURING A DEBATE.

Sure seems to be what they actually believe. Why run from it?

Here’s the full video.