Arraignment night in Soddy-Daisy plows through 62 cases

James Jordan, left, is on the front row in Judge Marty Lasley's city court in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. (Photo David Tulis)

James Jordan, left, is on the front row in Judge Marty Lasley’s city court in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. He is decorated with tattoos. (Photo David Tulis)


Tara Maye walks out of Soddy-Daisy city court after indicating she intends to have an attorney help in her case.

In Soddy-Daisy

In Soddy-Daisy city court, these women face criminal charges and are shackled. Soddy-Daisy is a municipal corporation exercising jurisdiction in criminal matters. (Photo David Tulis)


Thomas and Carol Gaddy already have ferocious legal problems in their hometown of Dunlap, Tenn., where city government is fighting in the wrong court to “inspect” their house. A billing dispute with a Soddy-Daisy diesel garage has thrown them under the shadow of a criminal case.

The reign of commercial government over the people of Hamilton County in Soddy-Daisy persists Tuesday in arraignments involving 46 people and 62 cases before city court judge Marty Lasley.

By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 101.1 FM

Justin Haley, 32, standing with a 4-inch rip his coat, says he lost his license a year ago. “Why?” queries the judge. Mr. Haley says that he was driving on a suspended license — when it was suspended. Mr. Haley says he barely has enough work in remodeling apartments in Dayton and that a relative brought him to the court. Clearly his life is a struggle.

“You need to have more concern to get your license back,” Judge Lasley says. “Why not make it more of a matter of concern for you?”

“I haven’t been working much,” Mr. Haley says. “You have to have a driver’s license,” the judge says, “or show me what you’ve done to get it.” He says the defendant must make an effort to show that he is making payments to courts and the state and making things right to get his license. “You need to get your license back or not drive,” the judge insists, as he does several times this evening in a north Hamilton County small town.

Citizens under a state pile

Bradley Moore hobbles to the podium on crutches. He has F$4,000 of obligations before he can get his driver’s license back. Judge Lasley asks him about why he is having problems and a “failure to appear” charge. Is he working? “Not much.”

Judge Lasley, who practices law at Speek Turner Webb law firm in Chattanooga, asks him to have his attorney, Herbert Thornbury, send his clerk a letter indicating the prospects of a settlement in a traffic accident case of which Mr. Moore is likely to receive a settlement.

Another defendant at the podium says he owes F$5,000 to the state before he can have his driver’s license restored. It’s going to take some time. Judge Lasley gives him two months and points for him a public defender.

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The nearly full room of people chuckle at an exchange between Judge Lasley and a defendant who hasn’t been able to restore a driver license. Judge Lasley says the man no doubt needs a car to get to a job. But the man says he is not sure what he owed to the courts,and seems dragged down by troubles. Judge Lasley explains that if he starts making payments, the state might offer a way to get the state to release his driver’s license.

It all sounds very reasonable as the court discusses the man’s options. All his proposals sound reasonable, just a matter of making a few office visits and phone calls. He could get an insurance company to put in a good word for him. He could approach the state and do this and that. “You have a lot of years left; you might want to get a car,” the judge says. The domestic disturbance charge before the court erupted in a fight between husband wife, his chauffer to and fro. “You gotta to get this solved,” the judge says as guffaws fade.

One woman with a driver license problem is Sydney S. Burton. Explaining the new charges burdening her, she says she was using her car under a restricted license “on a day that was not technically a school day.”

“Don’t be driving until you get your license,” Judge Lasley scolds.

What is an arraignment?

The arraignment part of the regular Tuesday court night in Soddy-Daisy focuses on schedules, the defendant’s understanding of the state charge or ordinance violation, and whether an attorney is involved.

On front row on the left, a row of women prisoners in shackles. On the right, three male inmates wearing yellow prison garb with large block letters on the black. One is waited on by a female attorney with purple shoe soles and a purple handbag. His face is scarred with tattoos, including blades and a swastika.

The case against Charla Daniels focuses on whether she has made restitution in a petty theft. She stole F$160, and Judge Lasley apportions her part at F$80 payable to her victim, Mike Jennings; a partner in crime owes the rest. He demands she return in a month with proof of having paid Mr. Jennings. And, no, he says, a bond payment is not restitution.

James Condra says he has engaged attorney Mike Little in the case against him. John Dye has no attorney. Joshua Austin is given until Feb. 14 to get one. Derrick Burton, facing a misdemeanor charge, has no plans to get one. Tara Lynette May plans to get a lawyer.

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Casey L. Stepp, unlike many others, is exiting the thicket. She shows her auto registration, letting the court dismiss police accusations against her for not having state approval to use her car or truck.

‘Get my car released?’

James Jordan is the inmate with the bald pate, nervy tattoo across skull, neck and face, and a white-looking pupil of his left eye, either diseased or surgically enhanced. After his attorney, one on the state payroll, has left the room, he carelessly motions his desire to speak, and without rising to address the judge, says with a slur, “Is there any way I can get my car released to my fiancee?”

The judge says that is a question not to be asked apart from his lawyer nor apart from claims of the district attorney’s office. Mr. Jordan is held under a “petition to revoke” and with leaving the scene of an accident (TCA 40-35-310.  Revocation of suspension of sentence — Resentence to community-based alternative to incarceration).

Kirsten C. Newman, 22, appears with attorney Bylinda Bell, who runs the Yellow House Law Firm in Soddy-Daisy, focusing on estates and debt collection.

Tonight is the moment for her to unload a plea bargain for possession of a stimulative herb, marijuana, illegal in the U.S. since the time Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs to harass his political enemies and critics of the war. The judge holds over her the worst of terrors: a year in jail — but it is suspended.

A F$250 fine– that is imposed. He also gives her six months of probation, with its warrantless search agreements and random drug testing regime, for which she must  pay separately.

“Are you guilty or is this in your best interest?” Judge Lasley asks.

“I am guilty,” she affirms, plainly.

Notable defendants from afar

Perhaps the best spoken to appear are Thomas and Carol Gaddy of Dunlap who are accused by Gary Smith of Diesel Off-Road Technologies in Soddy-Daisy of aggravated assault and theft over F$500 in her regard and theft over F$500 in his regard after a dispute over a disputed three week-long truck repair.

Rodney Strong is a state prosecutor working in Hamilton County

Rodney Strong is a state prosecutor working in Hamilton County

The Gaddys had filed a motion with the court on Monday to dismiss and an affidavit describing in great detail the dispute with Mr. Smith over the troubled repair work. Mrs. Gaddy is combative in a notorious case in Sequatchie County of governmental abuse and ultra vires court action against the couple’s ownership of a house in town. She says she was in no way combative or threatening to Mr. Smith, whose customers come from far places for diesel work.

The couple in their late 60s and early 70s met with Rodney Strong, the District Attorney’s office rep in the court that day. They claim poverty and requested a public defender be assigned to their case.

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