The arrest of Red Bank carpenter John Luman is rife with problems visible in the paperwork of a sheriff’s deputy and the grand jury.
His arrest under the freight and shipping statute in what is called a “traffic offense” violates his constitutional guarantees to not be arrested without a warrant, subject to the limitation in a statute that is described as providing “grounds for arrest by officer without warrant” (Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 40-7-103).
The problem of traffic enforcement against people not involved in transportation is that the lawyers and judges and members of the general public make an unspoken agreement about an amazing and largely mythical police power and its operation.
For a constitution-minded stickler and defender of his rights such as Mr. Luman, repeated arrests and charges in Chattanooga, Red Bank and Hamilton County are an increasingly weighty burden and interruption of his labors as entrepreneur and handyman.
The uniform arrest report affidavit of complaint allows for slippages against constitutionally guaranteed rights in favor of convenience and ease of use by state actors.
Officer Timothy Denton checks the box “warrant signed by officer.” How so? Officers don’t sign warrants. Warrants are signed by magistrates or judges.
“It appears that deputy Denton alludes to a warrant that does not exist, in fact,” Mr. Luman says. “If he had a crime, he could say that I signed (or authorized) the warrant. He also knows that the Kangaroo court of Hamilton County, won’t require it to be placed in evidence.”
Officer Denton says that he makes an oath “that the essential facts constituting said offense” on Jan. 2 at 5300 Highway 58 are given in his all-capital letter narrative. However he does not provide facts and factual material, but legal arguments about why he made the arrest.
He states that he “observed a blue in color Ford Explorer with no registration displayed traveling south on highway 58.” The word travel is factual, but the material that follows is all legal presumption and legal argument about travel — and not facts.
The presumption in his allegation of fact is that all traveling by car is driving or operating. But the activity of “driving” is a thing alleged, not the fact itself. The driving is the thing — the first thing in the court — that is to be proven. If he can prove driving, he may proceed to prove lack of valid license, insurance and proof of registration.
Adds Mr. Luman: “Title 55 is also a sub-division of federal statutes, written against ‘residents’ (or those federal persons, in Tennessee).” There is “unspoken, and unwritten tacit agreement that Congress has conquered Tennessee, and is free to persecute ‘residents’ living here, under its plenary power (military dictatorship). Officials of THE STATE will gladly look the other way, in exchange for a paycheck.”
Whence evidence of shipping? The key point
“I then spoke with the driver and owner of the vehicle Mr. Jonathan Luman. Upon advising Mr. Luman deputy’s reason for making contact with him, he advised his property (vehicle) is not registered. Mr. Luman was then asked if he had his driver’s license on him, Mr. Luman advised he did not have a valid driver’s license.”
The officer provides no evidence proving that Mr. Luman was in fact “the driver and owner of the vehicle” or that he is under any obligation to have a driver license, proof of insurance, or valid registration tag on his rear bumper. These proofs are required among parties involved in freight, shipping and transportation. Officer Denton’s narrative has no indication that he obtained evidence of shipping that would put Mr. Luman under proper police power.
He has no evidence, in other words, to support his primary allegation — that the accused is a shipper operating a CMV, a commercial motor vehicle, as a driver and/or operator. The state code in Tenn. Code Ann. Title 65 tells what to look for as evidence and proof of that status:
[A]ny and all bills of lading, waybills, invoices or other evidences of the character of the lading being transported in such vehicle
According to transportation administrative notice, which stands as a judge over Sheriff Jim Hammond and the ostensibly official and legal work of Mr. Denton:
In a traffic stop in Tennessee upon someone involved in transportation for compensation under this part, such enforcement officer “upon reasonable belief that any motor vehicle is being operated in violation of this part” may demand the registration certificate issued to such vehicle, demand “any and all bills of lading, waybills, invoices or other evidences of the character of the lading being transported in such vehicle,” require the operator to “inspect the contents of such vehicle for the purpose of comparing same with bills of lading, waybills, invoices or other evidence of ownership or of transportation for compensation.” If the operator or chauffeur is performing “the transportation service” in violation of this part, the officer may “impound any books, papers, bills of lading, waybills and invoices” as evidence. Tenn. Code Ann. § 65-15-106. Powers of department.
My TAN is a provisional authority to which the people might make appeal until the sheriff’s department changes direction and opts to follow the law rather than obeying judicial policy that abuses the state’s 6.77 million citizens, firstly African-Americans and secondly the poor.
The notice’s 12th page describes the authority given in the law to the department of safety and homeland security to enforce Tennessee highway safety regulations. That department’s paramilitary wing, the Tennessee highway patrol, has sole authority for the enforcement of highway and roadway safety regulations.
How Sheriff Hammond obtained a delegation of authority under these federal transportation covenants is unclear. Very possibly there is no such a delegation of authority, as Mr. Luman suggests.
True to state theory, indictments omit key fact
The Luman indictment is little better than the officer’s sketchy report. It bears the name of Mr. Denton as “prosecutor.”
It says that Mr. Luman “did unlawfully and knowingly operate a motor vehicle over and along one of the public roads, highways, streets or alleys of said county, without having obtained from the department of finance and taxation of said state, through the county clerk, the license required for such motor vehicle, and without having a fixed on the rear of said motor vehicle the state of Tennessee license tags or number plates required by law, the defendant being the operator of said motor vehicle, and being at the time a resident of the state of Tennessee, in violation of Tennessee code annotated 55-3-102, against the peace and dignity of the state.”
The district attorney’s office and Sheriff Hammond, despite each being under transportation administrative notice, have done little since mid-2018 to be more specific in their charging instruments and state the facts of the offense in terms of the statute.
In a separate indictment regarding Mr. Luman’s use of his car in a privileged activity, the grand jury says he “did unlawfully drive and operate a motor vehicle” after “the defendant’s operator’s license had been canceled, suspended, or revoked as provided by law, in violation of Tennessee code annotated 55-55-04, against the peace and dignity of the state.” In a second count, the “duly summoned, elected, impaneled, sworn and charged” grand jurors overseen by judicial favorite foreman Jimmy Anderson say that Mr. Luman “did unlawfully fail to comply with the financial responsibility law while driving a motor vehicle on the highways of this state,” in violation of Tennessee Code Ann. § Title 55-12-139.
These charges would all be well and good — if Mr. Luman were involved in freight, shipping and transportation. But he is a carpenter, hotly employed in the booming credit economy. As he tells it, his principal place of business is the job site, not the roadway. Use of the road is incidental to his trade, calling and profession, and he stands in his integrity outside the scope of the “motor and other vehicles” statute and Title 55.
Hearing before Judge Poole
“Because you weren’t there last time, Judge Poole took the liberty to ratchet up a little extra coercion on me hiring a lawyer, and he even said in open court that, while, you know, I’m last today, if I were to hire a lawyer, I could get called up sooner. I felt like saying, Jeez, is that justice for sale, your honor? *** They don’t do this when you’re there.”
“We need to start calling them out on the fraud that they do, in the courtroom and in the hallway, too.”
Who, he wants to know, testified that he is a resident of the state of Tennessee? Mr. Luman insists he is among the people of Tennessee, but not legally a resident. Mr. Luman is always aware of the due process rights violation in having a member of the grand jury (the foreman, Mr. Anderson) who is not randomly selected, but a favorite of Judge Poole and the county’s two other criminal court judges.
Deputy Denton “just decided that I was a resident. How can he tell I’m not a black woman? He has this amazing power to just look at someone and determine whether they are a resident. And does he have authority to do that? *** Does he have that amazing power? Does he have the authority for that amazing power. Does he have to put the uniform on to get the power, and does he have the same power if the uniform’s off? *** The police power. What is it? What is it? D’you mean to tell me these guys who work for the municipal corporation, because they get a paycheck, they acquire the power to beat me about the head and shoulders and put me in their car and into a cage any time they want to? Or, if someone offends them, hey, I’m a cop, and I can do what I want with this guy.”
Deputy Denton’s arrest of Mr. Luman is done despite transportation administrative notice, done in his personal capacity, with the leave of Sheriff Hammond, in violation of Mr. Luman’s God-given rights as noted by his bill of rights, and outside the scope of the statute, ultra vires.
Public servants sure do a lot for the people, but to take on the burden of operating personally, in their own private persons, is sure more than the people of Tennessee and the people in Hamilton County deserve.
“I’m tired of being on this merry-go-ground,” Mr. Luman says.