7/29/22 – ‘Sweet Potato’ case ends with a Guilty verdict

34-year-old Joshua Terelle Gaines was found Guilty of First Degree Felony murder Friday, July 29th, 2022 by a Davidson County jury.  Gaines was convicted in the 2018 shooting death of his aunt, Tivvis Garrison.  The case was referred to by many as the ‘sweet potato’ murder since Lead Prosecutor Debbie Housel was able to show jurors how Gaines fashioned four sweet potatoes as ‘silencers’ for the .38 revolver he used in the shooting death.   Criminal Court Division One Team Leader Wesley King served as Co-counsel for the state, and praised General Housel’s preparation and tenacity as the keys to securing a guilty verdict.  Gaines received life in prison, but still faces a sentencing hearing for additional gun and especially aggravated robbery charges that occurred during the murder.

Friedmann Guilty as charged for Vandalism over 250K at downtown jail

Alex Friedmann has been found guilty of vandalism in the amount of 250-thousand or above after the Davidson County jury heard three days of testimony and watched hours of video surveillance.

Friedmann, 53, was charged with felony vandalism after impersonating a construction contractor, stealing two keys and hiding three firearms and numerous blades in the walls of the Downtown Detention Facility while it was still under construction in 2019.

The jury deliberated for an hour before returning a guilty verdict for vandalism with damages in the amount of $250,000. The crime is a Class A felony and Friedmann faces between 25 and 40 years in prison.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall called the incident a “deliberate, evil” plan and said during the trial that he was sure there would have been massive loss of life if that contraband had been discovered by inmates.

Officers discovered in December 2019 that a maintenance key ring was different from others in the key control room and soon learned two keys were missing — a general movement key and a kitchen padlock key. Video footage revealed that Friedmann had been inside the control room, pocketed a set of keys and removed them from the facility for two hours before returning most of them.

Further footage showed Friedmann bringing tools into the facility, covering up security cameras and repeatedly returning to various areas of the detention center more than 20 times between August 2019 and when he was caught in January 2020.

The DCSO replaced 1,800 locks after the break-in and delayed opening the facility for several months. Authorities estimated the cost to change those locks, and labor to review thousands of hours of video footage, was more than $600,000.

In closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter said the sheriff’s office had two options.

“Either tear down the entire building or replace all the keys,” she said. “It was not a hard choice for them.”

From the beginning, Ben Raybin, Friedmann’s attorney, argued the state was overcharging his client. He said the law is twofold — there first needs to be proof of damage, and then the value of that damage needs to be determined.

The damage was never in dispute. Friedmann dug into the walls and hid weapons there. He did vandalize the facility, but Raybin argued he never damaged the keys or damaged the locks. The cost to change the locks and to review the video footage, the attorney said, was a “collateral cost” and not covered under the law.

“Why did they have to change the locks?” Raybin asked. “Because they were removed, not because they were damaged.”

Deputy District Attorney Roger Moore said no matter which way the costs are dissected, they met the burden of proof that there was $250,000 in damages.

“Once the keys were removed, from that point on, what was the reasonable thing for the sheriff to do at that point?” Moore asked. “What we can prove is that he compromised, tampered and damaged that facility. Was there any other reasonable alternative?  No.”

The Tennessean – July 21, 2022

Nashville DA moves quickly to remove harsh, outdated Drug Free School Zone sentences

Arturo Cardenas looks at attorney Kate Boston Melby as he has his sentence reduced on Friday.

  • A new Tennessee law lets defendants ask for resentencing for Drug Free School Zone violation charges after the legislature in 2020 rewrote the law to remove mandatory sentencing minimums.
  • To date, 21 individuals in Nashville serving Drug Free School Zone enhanced sentences have been resentenced to remove those enhancements with 6 more motions still pending.  That is a savings of 198 prison years for those who had been incarcerated and a conservative estimate of 5.7 million saved taxpayer dollars.

The resentencing is life-changing for people like 49-year-old Arturo Cardenas.   He was resentenced and released from prison almost immediately. “As soon as the judgment hits the Tennessee Department of Correction, he should be released,” Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Jennifer Smith said.  He was convicted in 2009 on multiple charges including an enhancement under the state’s Drug Free School Zone legislation. 

Under mandatory minimums at the time, drug crime sentences were enhanced significantly when the crime occurred within a school zone — at that time described as up to 1,000 feet from a school, library, park, day care center or recreational center. In an urban area, zones that wide can blanket whole neighborhoods.   Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk decried the enhanced sentencing, saying it was unfair and discriminatory, since most urban areas fall within a school zone and arrests occur very rarely (if ever) when children are present.

The new law reduces the school zone radius to 500 feet and allows defendants to be eligible for parole unless the judge finds the offense put children at risk.

“Everyone agrees the intent of this was because we don’t want people to sell drugs to kids,” Sunny Eaton, director of the Nashville District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, told The Tennessean. “But the application of law was unfair at its heart.”

“We’re not eliminating convictions. This is not about innocence or going back in time,” she said. “This is about getting people out of prison who should have been already released — or at least giving them hope for parole.”

In May, a Nashville woman became the first person in Tennessee to receive a reduced sentence under that new law.

But during a May court hearing, Nashville Judge Steve Dozier agreed that Gant didn’t pose a threat to any

children because her drug deal happened during the summer when kids weren’t in school.

Gant apologized to her friends and family and thanked the court for her reduced sentence.

Eaton says Gant’s case was “symbolic” of the type of “unfairness” caused by drug-free school zone laws.

“None of Ms. Gant’s offenses occurred at a time or a place where children were actually exposed. They

were in the summertime. They were at night. They were on her own property,” Eaton said. “I think you’ll

find in any metropolitan area, particularly in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, people live near


Eaton says Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk is committed to addressing injustices in the community.

“These laws were applied and these arrests were made in ways that illustrated injustice that frankly lead to

abuse and over-policing and contributed to mass incarceration,” Eaton said.

Nashville DA says he won’t prosecute abortion cases after Supreme Court decision

Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk vowed not to prosecute women who seek abortions or doctors who perform them after last month’s Supreme Court ruling. 

“In 2014, the people of Davidson County elected me to enforce the laws while exercising discretion to promote the public good,” Funk said. “I will use my constitutional powers to protect women, health providers and those making personal health decisions.”

 Tennessee officials also filed an emergency motion in federal court immediately after the high court’s ruling to lift an injunction on a 2020 law that would ban abortions after six weeks.

Funk said in a news release that despite the court’s decision, he would not prosecute abortion-related cases, reiterating a statement he made two years ago after the state legislature passed a law requiring doctors to share controversial information about medication abortions.

“I will not prosecute any woman who chooses to have a medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy or any medical doctor who performs this procedure at the request of their patient,” Funk said.


Mosley Gets More Than 140 Years in Jail

The man convicted of killing two young Williamson County men and severely injuring a third outside a Nashville bar in 2019 will spend the rest of his life behind bars.   Criminal Court Judge Angelita Dalton handed down her sentence this week against 25-year-old Michael Mosley.  Mosley was convicted in late March on all counts for the stabbing murders of 22-year-old Clayton Beathard and 21-year-old Paul Trapeni, along with the injury to a third victim, A.J. Bethurum.

On Wednesday, Mosley was sentenced to two life sentences in prison (51 years each behind bars) to be served consecutively for the first-degree murders of Beathard and Trapeni,  40 years for attempted first-degree murder of Bethurum to be served at 85%, and felony assault of a fourth man injured in the brawl.

Mosley’s sentencing was determined by the court as he was classified a “career offender” with an extensive criminal history.  Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk praised the work of his prosecutors on the case, Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter, along with Criminal Court Division II Team Leader, ADA Jan Norman.   Funk stated:  “We appreciate the ruling by Judge Angelita Dalton regarding convicted killer Michael Mosley.  Nashville and all of middle Tennessee is safer because of last month’s conviction by our office and this week’s ruling by Judge Dalton.”

Kidnapping and Assault Suspects found Guilty

Two people attempting to take the law into their own hands have been found guilty of Especially Aggravated Kidnapping and Aggravated Assault.  Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter, along with Assistant District Attorney Luis Casas presented the case last week on behalf of the state in Division VI Criminal Court.   The suspects, Charles Johnson and Pauline Spalding, approached the victim in a Nashville grocery store parking lot on July 4th of 2018, holding guns and demanding the victim’s cell phone.  The suspects were acting as if they were law enforcement officers searching for a specific person that they believed had been involved in drug activity, but it was a case of mistaken identity.  The victim was not the person the two suspects were seeking.  After taking photos of the victim’s phone and personal belongings, the two suspects left the scene and were later apprehended by Metro Police.  Along with the aforementioned charges, they were also charged with Impersonating a Police Officer.   The jury found both suspects guilty on all charges.  Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter commended ADA Luis Casas and Metro Police for preparing a difficult case.  Sentencing for Johnson and Spalding will be August 25th, 2022 in Criminal Court Division VI.

Thank You to these long-time DA Employees

The Nashville District Attorney’s office recently said goodbye and ‘Happy Retirement’ to two long time employees.

Wilma Buchanan stepped down after serving an astounding 49 years in the DA’s office.  ‘Ms. Wilma’, as she was affectionately called, began her tenure as a receptionist in 1973 and went on to serve in a variety of leadership roles for three different elected District Attorneys.

Also retiring recently was Assistant District Attorney Deb Smith.  General Smith served the people of Nashville for 29 years in the DA’s office.   She is credited with co-founding the Cherished Hearts program, which has helped hundreds of victims of human trafficking find a better life through this innovative, rehabilitative initiative.  General Smith has served in countless leadership roles in the DA’s office, most recently as Team Leader for the General Sessions Division.

We thank both of these fine employees for their combined 78 years of service to the District Attorney’s office and the people of Nashville, and wish them a very happy retirement.

Waffle House Trial ends with 16 Guilty verdicts and Life Without Parole

Travis Reinking, who killed four people in 2018 when he opened fire with an assault-style rifle at a Waffle House in Tennessee, was sentenced Saturday, February 5th, 2022 to life in prison without parole.  Reinking, 33, was found guilty the day before of all 16 counts, including eight first-degree murder charges. 

District Attorney General Glenn Funk, and his team, have been preparing for the trial of Reinking for years. “This was a long process,” Funk said. “There’s a frustration anytime that a case takes four years to get to trial especially one that has this many causalities.” Frustration fueled the prosecution who poured over evidence despite disruptions and delays.  “Mr. Reinking changed lawyers. He had to have mental health evaluations. Then we’re almost ready for trial and COVID rolls in,” recalled Funk. 

The 10-day-long trial focused less on if Reinking pulled the trigger, as he was seen on surveillance camera doing so, but instead, his mental state. “This was one of the rare cases that when the report came back, at first, the words that were used made it appear that they were saying that Travis Reinking could not understand the wrongfulness of his act,” said Funk. “Which is why we study these reports and don’t just look at what does the headline say.” In doing so, Funk said the finding revealed multiple layers of planning. “In 2017 [Reinking] had said he wanted to commit a mass shooting and that when he did the shooting he was planning to make people think he was insane at the time. Before he drove to the Waffle House, he had packed an escape bag that not only included a gun and more ammunition but also included some silver bars that he would be able to exchange for cash on the road so he wouldn’t have a trace of a credit card. After he got done, he went home. He took a shower. He changed clothes. He rearmed himself and he went and hid and tried to get out of the area,” Funk explained. “He clearly knew the wrongfulness of this mass murder.”   The jury heard from relatives of the four people who were killed. The four victims were all under 30 years old.

Jury returns all guilty verdicts for Waffle House shooter who killed four people

The two fatally shot outside the restaurant in Antioch, southeast of downtown Nashville, were Waffle House employee Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, and customer Joe R. Perez, 20.  Inside, the gunman killed two more people: 23-year-old Akilah DaSilva, a student pursuing a musical engineering career, and 21-year-old DeEbony Groves, a college senior majoring in social work who had been out with her sorority sisters that night.
Funk also applauded the victims, and their families, for facing the gunman who changed their lives forever.  ‘They all had courage. They had strength. They had perseverance. They had character,” Funk said. 
The Nashville District Attorney says the guilty verdict is a message to all of Nashville.  “We want to make sure that anybody who thinks that they can have a weapon, shoot someone else, get away with it because either the prosecutor’s office isn’t going to be focused on violent crime or because they think it will be excused by some mental health condition that they may or may not have,” Funk assured. “This behavior will not be tolerated.”

NY Times article: DA’s new Conviction Review Unit frees Joseph Webster

In November, 2020, Joseph Webster became the first person whose First Degree Murder Conviction was vacated by the Nashville District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit.  Webster had been 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.  The Nashville District Attorney’s Office set up a unit in 2016 to review cases that might have been decided wrongfully. Members of the new unit collaborated with defense lawyers in an investigation that produced new witnesses and evidence.

Sunny Eaton, who runs the conviction review unit, said her office had been created because of District Attorney Glenn Funk’s commitment to have truth-finding as the central role of the prosecutor’s office. “I believe that the overwhelming feeling is one of pride to be part of a district attorney’s office that puts its money where its mouth is,” Ms. Eaton said, “and is actually transparent and takes the steps toward self-reflection and accountability and getting things right that may have been gotten wrong before.”


Imprisoned Nearly 15 Years, but Now Cleared of a Murder He Didn’t Commit

New York Times article  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/us/joseph-webster-nashville.html

A Nashville judge vacated the conviction of Joseph Webster after a collaborative investigation produced new witnesses and evidence.

Joseph Webster greeting his mother, Marie Burns, as he was released from prison on Tuesday after serving nearly 15 years of a life sentence for murder.

Joseph Webster greeting his mother, Marie Burns, as he was released from prison on Tuesday after serving nearly 15 years of a life sentence for murder.Credit…Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean, via Imagn Content Services, LLC

John Ismay

By John Ismay

Nov. 12, 2020

On Thursday, Joseph Webster lunched on grilled salmon, which he had longed for while spending almost 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. There was also steamed broccoli and Diet Coke. “It was delicious,” he said by phone on his way to a local TV news station for an interview.

Mr. Webster, 41, walked out of a detention center in downtown Nashville just before 7 p.m. Tuesday, hours after a judge had agreed with a determination by the district attorney’s office that they had lost confidence in Webster’s first-degree murder conviction and had ordered it vacated. Mr. Webster had been serving a life sentence and would have been eligible for parole after serving 51 years.

Mr. Webster’s conviction was the first to be overturned since the Nashville District Attorney’s Office set up a unit in 2016 to review cases that might have been decided wrongfully. Members of the new unit collaborated with defense lawyers in an investigation that produced new witnesses and evidence.

“We’re now in the process of helping him rebuild his life,” Mr. Webster’s lawyer, Daniel A. Horwitz, said Thursday.

Mr. Webster went to prison in 2003 on an unrelated drug charge and was convicted in 2006 for the murder of Leroy Owens, who was bludgeoned to death with a cinder block in a Nashville parking lot on Nov. 22, 1998.

Witnesses testified during Mr. Webster’s trial that Mr. Owens had been attacked by two Black men driving a white station wagon, and they described one assailant as weighing roughly 160 pounds and the other perhaps 200 pounds. Mr. Webster, however, weighed 300 pounds at the time and had 12 permanently installed, very bright gold front teeth. No witnesses recalled either of the men who attacked Mr. Owens as having gold teeth.

“There was evidence that made it pretty clear who committed this crime, and it was not Mr. Webster,” Mr. Horwitz said. “Two new witnesses came forward who saw the murder and were able to give pretty good descriptions of the two people who did it.”

In October 2016, Mr. Webster hired Mr. Horwitz after a failed attempt to have the murder weapon tested for DNA evidence. It was around that same time, Mr. Horwitz said, that the Nashville District Attorney’s Office established what it called a conviction review unit to look at cases that might have been incorrectly decided.

“I believe we were the first case that applied for review from that unit,” Mr. Horwitz said, adding that his client had been freed because of “a building snowball of exonerating evidence coming steadily over the course of a very long time.”

Sunny Eaton, who runs the conviction review unit, said her office had been created because of District Attorney Glenn Funk’s commitment to have truth-finding as the central role of the prosecutor’s office. “I believe that the overwhelming feeling is one of pride to be part of a district attorney’s office that puts its money where its mouth is,” Ms. Eaton said, “and is actually transparent and takes the steps toward self-reflection and accountability and getting things right that may have been gotten wrong before.”

The night he was released, Mr. Webster said, he went to his mother’s house and reunited with his four adult sons, whom he had called multiple times a week throughout his imprisonment. “My mom had cooked me a dinner, and we just caught up, and it was just unbelievable,” Mr. Webster said. “So we enjoyed the moment.”

Mr. Webster was having a busy Thursday. In the morning, he was back in a courtroom petitioning a judge to return his voting rights, which may be restored after Mr. Webster resolves his court costs, Mr. Horwitz said.

From there, the two went to the Tennessee Driver Services office so that Mr. Webster could obtain a new driver’s license, only to find that so much time had passed while he was in prison that he would have to retake the driving test.

After doing interviews, Mr. Webster and Mr. Horwitz were planning to visit Project Return, a local organization that helps people transition from incarceration and reintegrate into society.

Mr. Webster hopes to start a trucking business and drive a dump truck.

“Nashville is growing so much that I just want to be part of the growth,” Mr. Webster said. “And I can contribute a little bit at a time by moving gravel and rocks.”


Dec. 4, 2021 – Thanks to Donelson-Hermitage and Goodlettsville

Special Thanks to all who came out for the Donelson-Hermitage and Goodlettsville Christmas Parades on December 4th.  District Attorney Glenn Funk and several staff members had the privilege of walking in the Donelson-Hermitage parade at 2pm, followed by the Goodlettsville parade at 4pm.   General Funk was honored with ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ award at the Donelson-Hermitage parade for his ‘Christmas Vacation’ themed  wood-grain, antique station wagon with a lighted tree on top.  Melissa Jared, whose late husband Steve helped organize the Donelson-Hermitage parade for the past 3 decades gave the award to General Funk, stating that ‘Christmas Vacation’ (starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold driving an old wood-grained wagon) was her late husband’s favorite holiday movie.   Steve Jared passed away earlier this year, so the award was a true honor in memory of a great community leader.   Thank you sincerely to all who came out and attended both of these wonderful holiday parades!