VOL. 129 | NO. 116 | Monday, June 16, 2014
Arrests Mark Turbulent Season for Democrats
By Bill Dries
At week’s end, Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks and Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Bryan Carson had been arrested within 24 hours of each other on separate charges.
Carson was attributing his arrest on a bench warrant to political motives, a week after the party made endorsements in judicial races on the August ballot.
Both were among the latest indications that the summer political season remains turbulent for local Democrats a little more than a month before early voting opens. And the votes will determine whether voters agree or disagree with Carson and other Democrats pursuing a controversial assertion as the party attempts to take back at least some countywide offices four years after Republican won every countywide office in the 2010 elections.
Brooks, who is the Democratic nominee for Juvenile Court clerk, was charged Thursday, June 12, with assault after a Memphis police investigation of an argument over a parking space involving Brooks.
Before Brooks was charged Thursday, the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office requested that police forward any report they make to a special prosecutor appointed by the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference.
The reason is part of the budget for the prosecutor’s office is voted on by the Shelby County Commission.
Garry Brown, the district attorney general for the judicial district that takes in Crockett, Gibson and Haywood counties in West Tennessee, was named special prosecutor Thursday afternoon.
It will be Brown’s call on whether to pursue the charges.
A police incident report says Brooks and another woman were both pulling into a parking space at Methodist University Hospital Wednesday, June 11. Brooks got the space and, according to the report, confronted the other woman, began yelling racial slurs, snatched a cellphone away from her and poured water on her.
Brooks, who works for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, was released Thursday after she turned herself in on the warrant. Her attorney indicated she will fight the charge.
Meanwhile, Carson was jailed Wednesday on an arrest warrant for not paying a fine in General Sessions Environmental Court.
Carson posted on Facebook Wednesday evening that his arrest was “ironic,” given the party’s recent judicial endorsements.
“I am headed to jail for this! Democrats please stand up! Vote! Our leadership is tainted. I’m literally posting this in cuffs.”
General Sessions Court records show a bench warrant was issued Feb. 3 for Carson’s arrest on “failure to pay county fine.”
Carson was released on his own recognizance Wednesday evening.
His arrest is certain to renew allegations among some Democrats that Republican political incumbents being challenged by Democratic nominees are targeting Democrats through the legal system.
The allegation surfaced in March, early in the campaign season, when Democratic nominee for District Attorney General Joe Brown was arrested for multiple contempt-of-court citations in Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court on an order of Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person Jr. Magistrate Harold Horne cited Brown for contempt when Brown attempted to argue that Horne wasn’t a valid judge, then argued that Horne could not jail him for contempt but could only fine him $10 for each offense.
Brown, a former Criminal Court judge, was jailed briefly before being released by Criminal Court Judge James Beasley.
The case was referred to a special judge, Paul Summers, who ruled in May that Beasley’s court was not the proper forum for the contempt matter. Summers sent the contempt matter to the Tennessee Court of Appeals but kept jurisdiction of the case until it made it to the appeals court, saying he wanted to make sure Brown was not jailed again by Juvenile Court in the interim.
Carson was among the party leaders who contended at the outset that Brown’s jailing was politically motivated.
Even before Brooks’ arrest, her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos had been sidetracked by a May confrontation at the commission with a Hispanic businessman.
As the commission debated a county contract with a roofing company that had a predominantly Hispanic workforce but few African-American employees, Brooks scolded Pablo Pereyra for comparing his experience as a minority to that of African-Americans and told him, “Don’t ever let those words come out of your mouth.”
The uproar prompted a joint statement by the NAACP and Latino Memphis that the controversy was a distraction from the larger issue of minority business and economic development.
Brooks passed on a Latino Memphis forum for candidates last week that drew a standing-room-only crowd of 100, including numerous Democratic, Republican and nonpartisan candidates.
Touliatos was among those present who didn’t get a chance to speak to the group but spoke individually with those in the organization and other Hispanic voters.
Brooks didn’t show for what might have been one of the most closely watched moments of a race that ordinarily doesn’t get much attention.