Ownership of seized car becomes mystery, despite bill of sale

As Jon Luman and I meet at Panera Bread store downtown for an interview about that afternoon court date, we encounter an admirer, Ronnie Gillam, a homeless man who reads this website and calls Mr. Luman, left, “a hero.” (Photo David Tulis)
A flatbed such as this one of Cain’s Wrecker Service took Mr. Luman’s car from his possession at the orders of Sheriff Jim Hammond by agency of a deputy. (Photo Yelp)
This caps-lock narrative by Deputy Gregory Carson says Mr. Luman is “travel[ing]” in his Ford Explorer at the time of his arrest. Mr. Luman says Title 55 of the Tennessee code annotated gives police authority to stop people who are involved in transportation and shipping, but not private citizens minding their own business. (Photo David Tulis)

Kenny Burke is having none of my questions as I sit next to his desk in his cramped, cluttered office shared with a tractor dealership.

The operator and owner of Cain’s Wrecker Services on Cherokee Boulevard says he is not going to comment about the John Luman car and that I must get out of his office and never come back.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

As I stand up and get my phone and papers together I explain why I am following the Luman story. I’m there because the story is about the sheriff’s department and Cain’s Wrecker seizing possession and control of a car outside basic due process rights.

Mr. Burke sees in this framing of the custody arrangements of the car a threat, an accusation.

He says he cannot release the car except to the owner, and the owner is not John Lumen, but apparently the party who sold the car to John Luman. He asks me if I own the car that I drive. I said I didn’t. He says that if it were in his custody he would not be able to release the car into my custody if I did not own it. (All personal cars in my family are in living, or inter vivos, trusts, and I was visiting him in a borrowed blue pickup.)

Cain’s Wrecker holds the Luman car even though Mr. Luman keeps on his dashboard an affidavit of ownership and the bill of sale of the car from the seller. Those documents taken by the sheriff’s department, they are by the doctrine of agency delivered upon Mr. Burke, as well, as agent. Under the doctrine of legally imputed knowledge, Mr. Burke has all the necessaries to validate a claim of ownership of a piece of property, possession of which (up until the moment of arrest) is practical proof thereof.

Luman tells about seizure of car

Luman demands Hammond, Cains Wrecker Service restore his seized car in traffic stop.

Posted by NoogaRadio 92.7 FM on Friday, June 14, 2019

This interview by David Tulis tells of Jon Luman’s distress at the hand of Sheriff Jim Hammond and his contracted roadway maurader.

In my efforts Friday to find out how people such as Mr. Luman are treated by the engines of justice, I pay a visit to the local state prosecutor.

Melydia Clewell, spokeswoman for district attorney Neal Pinkston, is on vacation until June 24 (more than a week out). The attorneys handling sessions court. Mr. Pinkston is not available. And there’s nothing the district attorney’s office can say or do right now, says the receptionist. When I inform her I am working on a story about the seeming illicit claims of the state upon a  citizen’s car, she raises her hand as if to say, “Enough already,” as she is in no position to consider anyone’s merits.

➤  At Cain’s Wrecker Service I meet Kenny Burke, who is the owner. He refuses to comment and tells me to get out. He says that because the car of Mr. Luman is registered to the person who sold it to him, that the car can’t possibly be Mr. Luman’s. I say registration is not conclusive about ownership but simply whether the car is registered as a motor vehicle for the use in commerce, with the registration effectively a proof of tax paid.

In our brief meeting of the minds, I tell Mr. Burke that I am concerned about due process, chain of custody of the car, and the rights of the owner to have the car back. He asks me what I had heard about it. I say that I had seen the affidavit of complaint against Mr. Luman, talked with him in detail about his legal rights, and that as he is my listener that I’m determined to file a true and accurate report as a broadcast journalist on the seizure of the car and whether it is lawful.

Mr. Burke or a colleague at the desk in front of the window asks whether my car is titled in my name. No, I say, after pausing to think. The second man says, “Well, then, you can’t claim it.” Mr. Burke is angry with me as we stand over his desk talking about the Luman car and he says, “That’s enough — get out.”

When I go to the door to go down the rear staircase, I inadvertently make the door slam. Mr. Burke and his colleague leap into action, stand on the porch as I retreat, watch me go to my car. “Those hinges can be expensive,” one of them chortles. As I back up into the street in my borrowed blue pickup truck, Mr. Burke stalks past me to get behind the bed of the pickup to take a photo of the state registration tag on the back.

Luman’s thinking in detail

The following two pages are about 98 percent of the material presented by Mr. Luman in the case by Red Bank against him, a case that the city court sent to the grand jury.


  1. Diana East

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