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VOL. 132 | NO. 249 | Monday, December 18, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: California Extradition, Corker's Vote on Tax Reform and Post Kirk & Crum

By Bill Dries

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The ex-wife of Tigers and Grizz basketball great Lorenzen Wright is due in a California courtroom Monday morning as extradition proceedings begin following Sherra Wright’s arrest there Friday evening on a Shelby County grand jury indictment here on charges of conspiracy, first degree murder and attempted murder.

This is a superseding indictment that includes Billy Turner, the Collierville man arrested earlier this month and charged with first degree murder. The new indictment says there was an attempt to kill Wright in the months before he was murdered. And there was a third person who is an unidentified, unindicted conspirator, according to the indictment, who was involved in a part of the plot in Atlanta where Lorenzen Wright was playing for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks at the time. Turner allegedly went to Atlanta for that part of the plot and at some point, the allegation is that Sherra Wright and Turner were at Callis Cutoff where Wright’s body was later found and where he is believed to have been killed.

There are still lots of questions about the outline of the alleged plot that will likely emerge at trial or in guilty pleas. But when Memphis Police investigators went directly to a lake near Walnut, Mississippi last month and pulled a gun from the lake that they claim is the murder weapon, it became apparent that someone is cooperating in this for the first time in seven years.

On the eve of the votes on the reconciled federal tax reform bill, Bloomberg on U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s plan to vote for the bill, allegations that a change to the bill benefits Corker personally and a denial by Corker’s office as well as his request Sunday for more details on the particular provision in play here.

Just in time for your Christmas travel plans – a power outage at ATL Hartsfield-Jackson. I don’t mean a blink of the terminal lights before the back-up generator kicked in. I mean BLACKOUT. 800 flights canceled, 500 more delayed as of early Sunday evening.

The last Shelby County Commission meeting of the year is Monday. Here’s the rundown.

Here is the rest of The Week Ahead (cue dramatic musical interlude). And this week includes Winter Break with lots of Christmas festivities. Some of you are just now taking a good look at the calendar and realizing that Christmas is in a week. We have let that be a private moment of panic.

The Memphis-Louisville basketball rivalry isn’t what it was in the days of Kirk and Crum. And basketball – Tigers and Grizz – is living very much in the shadow of Tigers football these days. That’s why you aren’t seeing the wringing of hands you might have seen not too many seasons ago. In fact, the Tigers loss over the weekend at Madison Square Garden is being viewed with some optimism.

“The Cutoff” is the cover story in our weekly “The Memphis News.” And it is about some major changes to that most basic of local government services – connections to the city sewer system. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland announced in August no new connections to that system for developments outside the city limits. The repercussions from that simple act go right to the heart of the relationship between Memphis and the rest of the county – incorporated and unincorporated. For all of the attention that the relationship between the Memphis Mayor and the suburban mayors gets when things get tense, we found that at least one suburban mayor doesn’t have a problem with the cutoff after a shaky start.

When we sat down with the local chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties last week for “Behind The Headlines”Lee Mills and Corey Strong assured us there would be many more candidates than the 60 or so, to pull petitions and file in the 2018 county elections by the Feb. 15 filing deadline for the May primaries. Here is the latest action on that front.

Funeral services Tuesday in Hermitage, Tennessee for Bill Giannini, the former Shelby County Republican Party chairman who died last week in a car crash on Interstate 40 between Memphis and Nashville. In recent years, Giannini had been living in Mt. Juliet, near the state capitol, where he had served until recently as deputy commissioner of the state department of commerce and insurance. Giannini started a consulting business doing business, regulatory and political consulting. He had several food businesses here in Memphis including the popular Little Italy Pizza next to Kimbrough Tower in Midtown. And he was a shredder – a really good guitar player who led a hard rock band that you might have seen in the 80s at places like Stage Stop.

He worked in a lot of campaigns before becoming Shelby County Republican Party chairman in 2007 just in time for the Obama years and the twilight of Democratic dominance in statewide politics. It wasn’t an easy assignment. The state had gone red starting in the 2000 presidential election. But that had not yet become the Republican dominance of countywide offices that would happen in 2010. Giannini was no moderate. He was also skillfully able to bring together elements of the local party that were different shades of conservative by keeping the emphasis on conservative and off the shades.

Giannini won the Republican primary for Assessor of Property in 2008 as he was serving as local Republican party chairman and lost the general election to Democratic nominee Cheyenne Johnson in the race for the seat then held by outgoing Democratic incumbent Rita Clark. With Republicans becoming the majority in the 2008 state legislative elections across the state, the Shelby County Election Commission went, like all of the other county election commissions in the state, to a Republican majority. Giannini became chairman of the election commission after three decades of Democrats calling the shots on the body that controls the conduct of elections in Shelby County.

A turbulent year for Memphis-based Fred’s that began with the idea that the discount retailer would become a large drugstore chain. That didn’t happen as it got cutout of a complex deal. At the end of the year, Fred’s executives are plotting another transformation.

Agilent Tech expanding off Lamar near the state line to do in-house distribution of its life sciences products.

The Memphis News Almanac: Elvis Goes to the White House, The Peabody is Sold on Live TV and Dice Games on Presidents Island.

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