Cade Cothren

Cothren says records would show he consulted for Sexton on speaker’s bid in 2019

Former House Speaker Glen Casada. (Erik Schelzig/Tennessee Journal)

Cade Cothren, a former top aide to then-House Speaker Glen Casada, claims in a motion filed in federal court Thursday evening that he was a close confidant to current Speaker Cameron Sexton when the chamber’s top leadership position opened up. Cothren also says Sexton was actively trying to help Cothren get a job as a lobbyist. The motion says Sexton’s behavior contrasts with is statements to federal prosecutors that he didn’t want anything to do with Cothren after the latter was forced out of his House job following a text messaging scandal and revelations he took drugs in his legislative office.

Cothren and Casada are facing federal public corruption charges related to the operation of a mysterious political called Phoenix Solutions. The trial is scheduled for Oct. 3.

Here’s an excerpt from the filing seeking an order for Verizon to turn over Sexton’s phone records:

After his resignation, Mr. Cothren remained heavily engaged with Speaker Sexton, who relied on Mr. Cothren’s expertise, especially during the 2019 special session race for the next Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives after former Speaker Glen Casada’s resignation.

Mr. Cothren was one of then-Representative Sexton’s most consistent confidants during his race for Speaker. The requested telephone and messaging records should show hundreds of telephone calls and corresponding messages between Mr. Cothren and Speaker Sexton during that critical time period and beyond.

The records from [encrypted messaging service] Confide, specifically, will show that Speaker Sexton was also regularly communicating with Mr. Cothren and other state employees on the encrypted messaging application during the relevant time period in the Indictment.

Additionally, the requested records will show that Speaker Sexton was actively reaching out to state officials, state employees, as well as third-parties in an attempt to secure Mr. Cothren a job as a lobbyist as well as other opportunities. These communications are integral to Mr. Cothren’s defense in this matter because the government’s case appears to rely—heavily—on its theory that Mr. Cothren’s reputation was so tarnished after his resignation that Speaker Sexton was adamantly opposed to associating or working with him at all, even on administrative matters.

New TNJ edition alert: Intimidation allegations in public corruption case, parents fret about retention law

Cade Cothren, speaking on phone, attends a meeting with lawmakers and fellow staffers on the balcony outside the House chamber on April 29, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is here (a day early because of the approaching holiday weekend). Here is what’s in it:

— Prosecutors allege threats, intimidation in public corruption case.

— Parents fret about kids being held back due to third-grade test results.

—If drag show law is found unconstitutional, AG wants ruling to apply only to Shelby County.

Also: Freddie O’Connell wants “More Ville and less Vegas,” a rival gun rights group wants to “beat political asses” at the Tennessee Capitol, and Cameron Sexton says he’d do it all over again.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Cade Cothren, Steve Gill, and the Tennessee Star take aim at McNally

Indicted former House chief of staff Cade Cothren, controversial political commentator Steve Gill, and the conservative Tennessee Star website are suggesting Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) should resign over Instagram comments directed at risqué photos posted by a 20-year-old Knoxville man.

McNally was lampooned in a Saturday Night Live skit this weekend:

McNally had called on then-House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) “to resign for less,” Gill said in a Facebook post. When a commenter said McNally should resign or be removed, Gill responded: “Correct.”

Cothren, who was indicted along with Casada on public corruption charges related obscuring their control of a political vendor called Phoenix Solutions, was forced out of his legislative job in 2019 following revelations of racist and sexist texts with his boss and for boasting about using cocaine in his legislative office. Casada later lost a no-confidence vote and stepped down as speaker.

Cothren this weekend posted a copy of McNally’s tweets surrounding the 2019 scandal.

“It is painfully obvious to anyone who has watched the confused public responses of 79-year-old Tennessee Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) to the controversy surrounding his inexplicable social media postings that he has lost a step mentally,” writes the Tennessee Star’s Michael Patrick Leahy in a post calling on the speaker’s resignation.

Gill was once a political writer for the Star before stepping away from the site after spending time in jail for failure to pay child support. He has appeared on Russian state television since the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The calls for McNally to step aside are only coming from the political fringe — at least so far. It remains to be seen whether any members of the Senate Republican caucus begin to make a play to replace McNally in the Senate’s top leadership position.

Cothren attorney criticizes, confirms TNJ reporting on volatile meeting with GOP leaders

Cade Cothren, speaking on phone, attends a meeting with lawmakers and fellow staffers on the balcony outside the House chamber on April 29, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

An attorney for indicted former House staffer Cade Cothren has issued a statement criticizing The Tennessee Journal’s reporting about a heated chance encounter with current members of House Republican leadership. According to lawyer Cynthia Sherwood, the TNJ’s account is “riddled with inaccuracies that would take a total rewrite.” But she then goes on to confirm much of what appeared in the publication — and even expand on what occurred at the Nashville restaurant on President’s Day.

Here are the first three paragraphs of the story as it appeared in the print edition of this week’s Tennessee Journal:

House Republican leaders were caught in an uncomfortable situation when they ran into a controversial colleague and an indicted former top legislative staffer at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in Nashville recently, witnesses recounted to The Tennessee Journal this week.

House Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison of Cosby heard Rep. Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill) was at the restaurant, so he walked over to the booth to say hello. Warner, who had his legislative office searched by the FBI in 2021, turned out to be dining with Cade Cothren, the former House chief of staff, and his girlfriend, Ava Korby. The latter angrily denounced Faison for his role in pushing out former Speaker Glen Casada of Franklin and because her mother, onetime legislative assistant Nadine Korby, had been fired after her computer was searched during the federal raid.

Faison noticed current House Speaker Cameron Sexton of Crossville — Casada’s successor — wandering toward the table and quickly wheeled away to walk him out the door before he could become the target of Cothren and Korby’s wrath. Just as they stepped outside, House Majority Leader William Lamberth of Portland approached the table and was subjected to a dressing down by both Korby and Coth­ren, with the latter shouting a profanity at him.

And here is what Cothren’s legal team had to say about it:

As Cade has promised from day one, he will be taking full advantage of the opportunity to prove his innocence in court, no matter who may find it uncomfortable. Unnamed sources continuing to attack Cade in the media may not find it so easy to spread their lies once they are under oath.

Recently, while enjoying dinner at a local restaurant, Cade was interrupted by Majority Leader William Lamberth and Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison, who barged their way up to Cade’s table and forced their way into his conversation uninvited.

Rather than harassing Cade, a private citizen at a restaurant, or going after a young lady in an anonymous article, I would hope Tennessee Republicans could focus on doing honest work for the citizens of our state.

Correcting the Tennessee Journal article riddled with inaccuracies would take a total rewrite, but for starters:

— Cade never left his seat, nor sought conversation. His own dinner conversation was interrupted when Republican Leadership forced their way in uninvited.

— Contrary to the events imagined in the article, Ava Korby simply reminded Chairman Faison that he knew her mother, and, in fact, trusted her mother enough to babysit his children. Ava criticized Chairman Faison for standing by while her mother was fired for no reason. Chairman Faison assured her “I love your mom” and blamed Speaker Cameron Sexton for the firing.

— Despite previous self-serving statements in the media attacking Cade’s integrity and innocence, Leader Lamberth stepped away from the table and privately told Ava, “I care about Cade, I would love to talk to him … he really hurt my feelings when he left [the legislature in 2019].”

These private comments are directly contrary to House Republican Leaders’ repeated public attacks through the media, which is why my client, Cade Cothren, did indeed tell Leader Lamberth to “go f**k himself.”

It’s unclear which parts of the missive are meant to highlight conflicts with the TNJ account. Cothren’s attorney even confirms he hurled a profanity at Lamberth. Though we hear the f-bomb also invoked the lawmaker’s mother.

New TNJ alert: An awkward coming together, toll lanes on cruise control, booze bill reversal

A liquor store in Gordonsville on Jan. 21, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— House Republican leaders, Cade Cothren, and Todd Warner run into each other in a Nashville steakhouse. What could go wrong?

— Lee’s toll lane proposal on cruise control after clearing key committees.

— How the package of bills targeting Nashville for GOP snub could play out.

— Legislative roundup: Outside counsel for the legislature, a delay on bill to add abortion exceptions, a reprieve for Tennessee State, and the tables get turned on the ready-to-drink cocktails bill.

Also: Andy Ogles says mistakes were made, the House tables a motion to honor a vocal critic, the revenue commissioner’s “big sexy” moment in court, and Bill Lee’s yearbook problem.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Todd Warner wishes you a merry (Dixieland) Christmas

State Rep. Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill) is going back to the well by sending out his Christmas cards through a presorted mail permit that first drew attention to a mysterious political vendor at the center of a federal cases against two former lawmakers and a onetime top legislative aide. Warner’s home and offices were searched as part of the probe, but the lawmaker has not been charged.

During his 2020 Republican primary campaign against incumbent Rep. Rick Tillis, Warner’s mail pieces were sent by his Rainbow City, Ala.-based vendor Dixieland Strategies using a Chattanooga postal permit. What was unusual was when the same permit No. 383 also appeared on attack pieces sent out by an ostensibly independent group called the Faith Family Freedom Fund and another outfit called Phoenix Solutions, which was was sending out literature on behalf of other Republican candidates around the state.

The treasurer of the Faith Family Freedom Fund later testified to the Registry of Election Finance she had established the group at the behest of Cade Cothren, a former boyfriend who had been fired as chief of staff to then-House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) because of sexist and racist text messages and boasting of drug use in his office. Former Rep. Robin Smith resigned and pleaded guilty in March to secretly setting up and promoting Phoenix Solutions to her colleagues. Cothren and Casada are awaiting a public corruption trial in federal court next year.

Warner told reporters following the January 2021 FBI raids he couldn’t remember whom he had dealt with at Dixieland. He again engaged the outfit for his successful re-election campaign last year. When the arrangement caused heartburn among his GOP colleagues, Warner assured them he had cut ties with
the company. But a campaign finance disclosure filed the day after the GOP primary showed he had paid Dixieland another $19,100 to bring his annual total to $55,150.

New TNJ edition alert: Nashville council in the crosshairs and the latest on charters and vouchers

From our building to yours.

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out Here is what’s in it:

— Coming home to roost? Nashville girds itself for GOP retribution.

— Don’t call it a dumb-back: Hilldale-linked charters gear up for another go.

— New bill would expand voucher program to Hamilton County … and maybe Knox and Madison.

— Obituary: Ken Roberts, onetime primary opponent of Howard Baker.

Also:  Jeremy Durham loses appeal on record Registry penalties, mayoral candidate compares Nashville to the 1990s-era Chicago Bulls, Cade Cothren sues burger chain in salary dispute, and the worst kind of RINO rears its head.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

So much for 6 months: Judge reschedules Phoenix Solutions trial for October 2023

Then-House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) presides over a floor session in Nashville on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

As part of his request for delaying his trial on public corruption charges, former House Speaker Glen Casada’s attorney asked for putting off proceedings by 180 days, or six months. U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson nearly doubled that time in scheduling the trial to begin on Oct. 3, 2023.

Here’s the order:

Defendant Casada’s Unopposed Motion to Continue Trial Date and Corresponding Deadlines (Doc. No. 24) and Defendant Cothren’s Motion to Continue Trial and to Extend Pretrial Deadlines (Doc. No. 25) are GRANTED. The trial in this case is rescheduled to October 3, 2023 beginning at 9:00 a.m. The pretrial conference is rescheduled to September 22, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. All lawyers who will try the case shall attend the pretrial conference; as indicated below, the time slot for the pretrial conference alternatively may (upon advance notice to the Court) be used as a change-of-plea hearing, but it is not intended to be a status conference and so counsel should plan and prepare accordingly.

All pretrial motions shall be filed no later than six weeks prior to trial. If a party does not meet this deadline, or any later deadline obtained via a timely motion to extend the deadline, it may be deemed to have waived any right to file pretrial motions. A response to a motion shall be filed within fourteen days after the filing of the motion. A reply in support of a motion, should the movant choose to submit one, shall be filed within seven days after the filing of the response.

Speedy Trial Act

The Defendants have filed waivers of speedy trial (Doc. Nos. 24-1 and 25-1, respectively). The Court concludes that the period of delay is reasonable and is excludable under the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161, et seq. The Court specifically finds that the interests of justice served by granting the continuance outweigh the interests of the public and a Defendant in a speedy trial on the date previously scheduled. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(A), (B). The diminished weight of a Defendant’s interest in a speedy trial is reflected by his choice to submit a speedy trial waiver. Moreover, a Defendant is likely to be prejudiced if he is not adequately prepared for trial despite due diligence, and the public interest will not be served if such prejudice ultimately requires this case to be retried.

Change of Plea

Any plea agreement shall be consummated no later than two weeks before the above-stated trial date, and the Courtroom Deputy so notified. Likewise, if a Defendant opts to plead guilty without a plea agreement, the Courtroom Deputy shall be so notified no later than two weeks before the above-stated trial date. If a plea agreement is submitted or if a Defendant opts to plead guilty without a plea agreement, the hearing to take the plea will take place on September 22, 2023 at 9:00 a.m., or at such earlier time as the Court may schedule upon request of the parties.

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Cothren also wants to punt federal trial date

Former legislative staffer Cade Cothren is following the lead of his onetime boss Glen Casada in seeking a delay in their trial on federal bribery and kickback charges.

Casada requested a delay of up to six months last week, noting prosecutors were not opposed to the motion. Cothren’s lawyer, who recently got the judge to approve pushing back the deadline for a motion by just one week, on Monday filed a similar request to put off the trial originally scheduled for Oct. 25.

Attorneys for both men say they plan to “vigorously defend” against the allegations made in the indictment.

Casada seeks up to 6-month delay for public corruption trial

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) appears before the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance on March 3, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former state House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) is seeking a postponement of up to six months for his federal trial on public corruption charges. Proceedings had originally be scheduled to get underway.

According to his waiver of his right to a speedy trial, Casada wants the trial moved up to 180 days. If the postponement were anchored to his original Oct. 25 date, the trial would be rescheduled for no later than April 23 next year.

Casada’s attorneys write in the motion Friday that the delay is not opposed by federal prosecutors. The document makes no mention of codefendant Cade Cothren.

Here’s is the filing:

The defendant Glen Casada, through counsel, requests that this Court continue the trial of this matter, presently set for October 25, 2022, and all pretrial filing deadlines. In support, the defendant would show as follows:

1. On August 22, 2022, the Grand Jury for the Middle District of Tennessee returned the above referenced Indictment. (Dkt. 3).

2. The following day, Mr. Casada appeared with counsel and entered a Not Guilty plea. (Dkt. 10).

3. By Order entered August 24, 2022, this Honorable Court scheduled the trial of this matter to begin on October 25, 2022. (Dkt. 17).

4. After the parties agreement to the Government’s proposed protective order (see Dkt. 20), the Government produced pretrial disclosures to the defense on September 7, 2022. These materials included documents consisting of thousands of pages, multiple recordings, and contents of various devices seized and searched by law enforcement. Specifically, the production includes 805 files and 151 folders totaling 296 GB. The government’s cover letter accompanying the above referenced information also indicates that additional tranches of evidence will be produced in a later production.

5. Mr. Casada intends to vigorously defend against the allegations in the indictment. In order to effectively do so, both he and his counsel require sufficient time to evaluate and analyze all of the Government’s disclosures (both already made and to be made in the future), conduct his own investigation into the Government’s disclosures, and conduct his own independent investigation.

6. In light of the above, Mr. Casada submits that it is in the interest of justice to continue the trial of this matter so that he can adequately prepare. This request is grounded in Mr. Casada’s constitutional rights to due process, a fair trial, and effective assistance of counsel.

7. A speedy trial waiver is attached to this Motion.

8. Undersigned counsel has consulted with the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding the requested relief. The Government does not oppose the Motion.


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