False arrest, void case — & magistrate Miller’s reply

Lorrie Miller, the county’s chief magistrate, speaks with Rodney Strong, formerly a fellow magistrate, outside the county commission doorway in the old courthouse in Chattanooga. (Photo David Tulis)
This is an affidavit by Michael James, an innocent man object of police abuse in Chattanooga and put through the judicial ringer despite there being no sworn statement by the alleged victim of a purported aggravated assault.
Michael James is at the criminal court clerk’s office getting the dismissed criminal case against him expunged. (Photo David Tulis)

The constitution requires the presumption of the judge or magistrate that an arrest or proposed arrest is illegal and a fraud and wrong.

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7 FM

The burden of proof is entirely on the accuser — the officer or agent, or upon the victim making allegation of a crime. The magistrate, the first person to deal judicially with an arrest, is the public’s safeguard.

With that burden of proof in mind, Hamilton County chief magistrate Lorrie Miller requires much from officers coming to her with criminal complaints.

Or at least she should.

If the constitutional standard limiting the exercise of state power is respected.

She will be unlikely to allow criminal cases to be created, such as the prosecution of truck driver Michael James, victim of the “911 call from hell,” a case void from inception that was given life by a string of state actors and ratified by magistrate Miller. The first breaths came from police officers. Then the body of a criminal prosecution, created by Mrs. Miller, working in the jail as judge.

Had she followed her duty and been careful about the protections of the people, she would have run Mr. James out of her steel doors as fast as she could have.

Going further, she would’ve ordered officer Lance Hughes to give him a ride back to his car. If officers knew she were one to insist on the rights of accused, officers would not have ordered a wrecker service to seize and tow Mr. James’ car. He had waited in that car for their arrival on the scene after he made a 911 call upon two girls recklessly using another party’s car and crashing it into private building.

With no sworn statement, how could the officers have arrested Mr. James, whose case Judge Gerald Webb dismissed? In a motion and brief, Mr. James showed that the case was so improper it had insufficient power to give the judge subect matter jurisdiction.

With no third-party eyewitness of a felony allegation, and no injury, and no victim willing to swear out a complaint, there is no case.

A police report, though sworn, is not probable cause in the totality of circumstances of the case State of Tennessee v. Michael James, now expunged from the record.

Officer Jonathan Watkins arrested Mr. James without authority. Officer Lance Hughes’ caging of Mr. James in car and jail is false arrest, false imprisonment and kidnapping. Officer Amanda Baldwin, who searched Mr. James’ car without consent and without a warrant is, seemingly, part of the abuse. City and county employees are involved either in torts or crimes, maybe both.

Mrs. Miller in her and in the magistrates’ customs and usages allowed these things to be done BEFORE judicial approval, all without evidence. She found probable cause in a case that, in my analysis, was void from inception.

She acted outside her authority. She made a determination of sufficient probable cause. 

Had Mr. James actually done a crime, that act would have authorized officers to seize him, to ratify the cops’ actions. But there were no actions, and make-believe controlled “the 911 call from hell” case in Chattanooga.

Magistrate Miller points out that “reliable hearsay may be considered for probable cause determination.” Yes, the standard for arrest warrant is less than that required to convict.

Magistrate Miller responds

I send Mr. James’ affidavit of complaint about magistrate Miller to her, and ask her to comment. Here is our exchange.

Mr. Tulis –

Mr. James’ account of our interaction is inaccurate. I suspect he misinterpreted and/or misremembered certain statements I made. As you are aware, we don’t conduct probable cause hearings with officers and victims present. We don’t have prosecutors or defense attorneys present. Indeed, I conduct these hearings inside the secured jail environment. 

Typically, I make probable cause determinations on the sworn affidavit of the officer and any statements offered by the defendant as was the case with this defendant. I certainly don’t direct the jailers with regards to booking procedures. In this case, I did find probable cause based on the proof before me. It appears that the charge was later expunged, so I assume Mr. James’ concerns were addressed at the appropriate stage. I typically don’t give OR bonds on violent felony offenses so I assume he made a compelling case. 

I ALWAYS honor the constitutional rights of any defendant appearing before me and aim to conduct a respectful and professional interaction. 

Respectfully yours, Chief Magistrate Lorrie Miller

On what authority was James Held for 1 minute?

Dear Ms. Miller, thank you for your response.

I ask, however, what value a sworn police report is as to a crime having been committed. Legally, police reports are hearsay unless the officer is a firsthand witness. 

Officer Hughes could not get the teenager / alleged victim to make a sworn statement against the man who called 911 after she crashed a car into a building and fled with her fellow occupant. Mr. James made the call to 911, waited on the scene; the two girls’ narrative turned the officers upon him with allegations that he waved a pistol at them. Without at least one of the witnesses making a sworn statement, how can there be any seizure of the accused? 

Without a sworn statement against the man who called police to the scene, how can Mr. James have been held even for a moment, either by officer or by you?

Should not officer Hughes have let Mr. James go until such time as the girls swore to their initial report? Would not his rights under the constitution require delay by the officer, who would arrest him later under a warrant, since the victims had until then refused to swear? 

Without a sworn statement, how is not the matter against Mr. James void from the first moment he was put into handcuffs and into the cruiser cage and then the jail’s?

Is it not true that constitutional protections require a warrant before an arrest, especially since there is no physical evidence of a crime, and only mere report, and from questionable sources (in this case, minors caught in a misuse of other people’s property, reported reckless use of a car and a crash damaging private property)?

Cop affidavit sufficient for ‘probable cause’

Dear David –

It is not true that a warrant is required before an arrest when the offense alleged is a felony or certain specific misdemeanors. Consider DUIs, domestic assaults, felony drug charges. In all those cases, the person is arrested and brought to jail. 

The arrest report, arrest warrant, and affidavit are prepared after arrest while the defendant waits at the jail. Both constitutional and statutory law require a defendant be brought before a magistrate within a reasonable time to address probable cause and a bond determination following arrest. 

The affidavit I review which is sworn by the officer is sufficient proof for a probable cause determination. Reliable hearsay may be considered for probable cause determination. You did not provide me with a copy of the affidavit in this case and the case has been expunged so I am not familiar with the facts you are discussing.

If an officer disclosed in an affidavit that the witnesses were unwilling to make a sworn statement, then that would certainly be a factor in my determination of probable cause.

If I could review the original affidavit, that would be helpful, but please don’t forward me something without permission from Mr. James as there are strict protections surrounding publishing/sharing records in expunged cases. [Emphasis added]

Sincerely yours, Lorrie


  1. Michael James

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