Opinion: Racist practices are costing us dearly in legal fees

Jul 02, 2020 at 11:13 am by Michelle Willard

Do you want your tax dollars to pay for lawsuits?

Seems like our local governments are going above and beyond to prove that they are, in fact, racist. And they are wasting taxpayer money to do it.

According to accidental human right reporter Scott Broden, the Candy Crush debacle has cost Rutherford County, Smyrna and state of Tennessee more than $134,000 in legal fees alone.

That doesn't include any possible settlement with 17 owners of 23 stores who have sued after they were arrested and charged with selling a legal substance.

In February 2018, DA Jennings Jones obtained indictments for 21 individuals and charged them with felonies for possessing and selling a schedule VI drug, in the form of cannabidiol, a.k.a., CBD. The charges were dropped but the ramifications continue.

In an opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District, the owners claim their Constitutional rights were violated when they were falsely arrested and unlawfully prosecuted for selling products containing CBD. They also alleged a civil conspiracy to violate those rights.

In the opinion, the appellate court found that Rutherford County attorney General Jennings Jones, ADA John Zimmerman and Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh are not entitled to quasi-judicial and qualified immunity, meaning they are legally responsible for their actions in "Operation Candy Crush."

This was because the court found evidence that the case was championed by Zimmerman despite officers and the TBI being hesitant to continue because of CBD's legal status.

"A reasonable officer would know that the mere presence of CBD in products, without any indication as to the products' origin or THC percentage, did not provide probable cause for violations of Tennessee’s controlled-substance laws. Concluding otherwise was objectively unreasonable," the opinion said.

What's more damning and what will likely cost all the law enforcement agencies in Rutherford County a pretty penny is this: "Notably, an officer informed Zimmerman that Amazon, the online retailer, was also selling similar CBD products. Zimmerman laughed in response and said, 'we aren't going aft[er] Amazon,'" the opinion said.

So why did Zimmerman choose to target these businesses?

All but two of the stores were owned by minorities. Most are of Middle Eastern descent. One is owned by a white lesbian couple.

According to the opinion, it's because Zimmerman "believed the plaintiffs would be more likely to pay baseless fines and forfeit property in order to avoid costly litigation."

Did he believe this because they were minority-owned? Only he can answer that question.

But the question hangs heavy. Especially when you add this to the host of lawsuits facing Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron, the Hobgood arrests, and the likely lawsuits from when the Murfreesboro Police Department used chemical weapons to disburse a crowd of protestors.

If you can't see that the systemic racism in the judicial system is costing taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees alone, I don't know what to tell you. 

Where are all the libertarians who scream about government waste when it comes to food stamps? Shouldn't they be marching in the streets to save their dollars from being spent on lawsuits challenging racist practices?

These tactics are costing valuable taxpayer dollars.


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