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Public defender to defend hearsay-only warrants in meeting with magistrate victim

Tamela Grace Massengale and Shameca Burt are victims of Hamilton County’s abusive arrest warrant policy. Each was arrested from unsworn, unverified complaints by cops getting one side of the story. (Photo David Tulis)CHATTANOOHGA, Tenn., Monday, May 24, 2024 — Public defender Steve Smith plans a meeting Tuesday with Tamela Grace Massengale, arrested under a bogus and illegal arrest warrant policy in Hamilton County that put her, a Venmo refund scam victim, behind bars.

By David Tulis / Copperhead Radio Network

Steve Smith, elected public defender

“That was an unreasonable, unlawful seizure,” says Miss Grace says of her arrest under a longstanding practice that Mr. Smith’s office apparently intends to support.

How is it reasonable that Chattanooga police officer, Brandi Siler, without sworn statement from the alleged victim in a disputed Great Dane dog sale swears out an arrest warrant before magistrate Blake Murchison and has Mrs. Massengale arrested at commercial traffic stop, her car seized and lost to R&D Wrecker for poverty-caused inability to redeem it?

According to Mrs. Massengale, Mr. Smith phones her and says he heard a message the disabled welfare beneficiary had left on the phone of judge-assigned public defender Tori Smith on May 15. 

[CORRECTION: The phone call from the public defender’s office was to arrange a meeting with Mike Little, one of Mr. Smith’s lieutenants.]

Mike Little, assistant public defender

He said he “want[s] to go over some things” with Mrs. Massengale and would she give him an hour Tuesday? ‘You’re not going to try to convince me that you’re not violating my civil rights; I said, why did she put in an objection to him [Judge Larry Ables, sessions court] continuing this case when he didn’t have jurisdiction to do that, or authority to do that, when it’s a void case? There was no due process in the warrant. He [Mr. Smith] said, ‘Ma’am, your due process is being followed. You’re having a trial, and you have counsel.’ And I said, ‘Not counsel of my choice.’ And he said, ‘Ma’am, they haven’t violated your due process.’ I said, ‘I beg to differ.’”

Mr. Smith’s office, supposedly, intends to defend her due process rights. “He was on their side. ‘We are not violating your due process.’ He said, ‘Your due process rights have not been violated.’”

The arrest warrant custom is for no member of the public to have access to a magistrate to swear out an arrest warrant. Magistrate Lorrie Miller says only cops and deputies have an open door for warrants. That’s the “doggie door” in the main door in access to justice, locking out the citizenry.

The constitution, state law and the rules of criminal procedure demand that fact witnesses and victims be the basis of arrest warrant, swearing out their claims before the magistrate, who examines the proposed warrant for sufficiency and rejecting any that are insufficient.

Mrs. Miller doesn’t just allow hearsay, permitted in the 1960 supreme court ruling, Jones v. U.S., 362 U.S. 257 (1960). She requires hearsay as the basis of arrest warrants, effectively forbidding sworn affidavits by eye-witnesses, fact witnesses and actual crime victims, their allegations filtered through the most reliable and honest people in the county and state, that being the sworn government employees in uniform, bearing weapon, handcuffs, taser, badge and qualified immunity.

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