What on Earth is happening in Tennessee?
According to a new report from local news station WTVF, civil rights activist Justin Jones claims the Republican Speaker of the House’s office explicitly tried to frame him for a crime, in an attempt to silence him after a long series of clashes with the speaker. Now the Nashville District Attorney General has requested a special prosecutor look into Jones’ allegations.
Per WTFV, Jones—a Vanderbilt University student and activist—and Speaker Glen Casada had frequently fought over multiple civil rights issues, including voting legislation and efforts to remove a bust of Confederate General and KKK founder Nathaniel Bedford Forrest from the state capitol. Jones was also arrested for throwing a cup at the speaker, and was released on bond, conditional upon his having no contact with Casada—something he insisted to the station he’d followed.
“This many months later, I have not had any contact with Casada or have not been at the Capitol,” Jones said. “So I followed the no-contact order.”
Nevertheless, last month Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk attempted to put Jones back in jail, claiming he’d emailed both Casada and the speaker’s chief of staff, Cade Cothren, thereby breaking the rules of his release. As proof, Funk cited what WTFV described is a “photo of an email with the date March 1,” one day after his bail conditions had been set, and later said the photo came from Cothren, himself.
The only problem, Jones told the station, is that he had the original email, which was actually sent in February—well before his no-contact rule.
“You have some of the most powerful people in this state who are willing to file a false report and to file a false paperwork and to manipulate paperwork to take your freedom away,” Jones explained.
“That’s something that’s scary,” he added.
The station also obtained a number of text messages between Cothren and friends, in which the chief of staff disparaged black people as “idiots” and used the N-word to refer to Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston.
Casada, the speaker, told WTFV’s investigative team that he knows “nothing of [Jones’ allegations]—nothing,” while Cothren refused the station’s multiple requests for comment. I have also reached out to the Speaker regarding Jones’ claim, and will update this story if he or his office responds.