tennessee highway patrol

Putnam County commissioner arrested on child porn charges

Federal prosecutors have charged Putnam County Commissioner Jimmy Ray Neal of Baxter with possession and distribution of child pornography. Neal, who won the Republican nomination for another term earlier this month, allegedly went by the handle “Tennesseemaster” on an app used to share pictures of pre-pubescent children.

According to his Facebook page, Neal is a former Tennessee Highway Patrol lieutenant and deputy in the Putnam County Sherriff’s Department.

“My entire adult life has been in service to my Country and my State and my Community. God, Country and Family are my priorities,” Neal said in the post. “I humbly ask for your support to serve as a new and fresh approach to our complex issues involving our school age children.”

An initial court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Here’s the release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

NASHVILLE A Putnam County Commissioner was charged yesterday with possession, receipt, and distribution of child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Jimmy Ray Neal, 57, of Baxter, Tennessee, was arrested at his home, after FBI and Homeland Security Investigations agents executed a search warrant.  Neal was transported to Nashville and appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge late yesterday. 

A criminal complaint obtained yesterday alleges that Neal was identified as an administrator of a group in the Kik app in which images of child pornography were viewed and shared with other users.  Specifically, the images depicted naked pre-pubescent females with the focus on the genital area.

This long-running investigation by the FBI began in July 2021, and after the arrest of an Oklahoma man on child pornography charges, other users in the Kik app group were identified, including “tennesseemaster,” later identified as Jimmy Ray Neal. 

A preliminary and detention hearing is set for Tuesday, May 31, 2022, at 2 p.m.

If convicted, Neal faces a mandatory minimum of five years, and up to 20 years in prison. 

This case is being investigated by the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Monica Morrison is prosecuting the case.

The charges are merely accusations.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Lee budget assigns 20 more troopers to Shelby County

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address on Jan. 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee says his budget proposal would assign 20 more Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers to Shelby County to help stem crime rates.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced his proposed budget will fund 20 additional Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers for Shelby County as the administration focuses on proven crime prevention methods and addressing law enforcement staff shortages.

Gov. Lee will be in Memphis on Thursday, March 3, to do a ride-along with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and Memphis Police Department with a brief media avail to follow.

“Violent crime has no place in Tennessee, period. To immediately strengthen public safety, we have to invest in evidence-based crime prevention methods and continue efforts to recruit and retain qualified law enforcement officers,” said Gov. Lee. “I commend the Memphis Police Department for their work to protect neighborhoods across the city and look forward to our continued partnership.”

Gov. Lee’s Fiscal Year 22-33 budget proposes key public safety investments, including proven crime prevention methods to directly support Memphis and Shelby County:

— 20 additional Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers for Shelby County funded 100% by the state.

— Creation of a $150 million Violent Crime Intervention Fund for law enforcement agencies across the state to invest in evidence-based programming and resources.

— $30 million to support relocation bonuses for out-of-state police officers seeking to move to Tennessee.

— Expansion of state funding for law enforcement basic training and increasing the frequency of training for new recruits.

— Access to a statewide hiring portal that includes qualified law enforcement recruits from outside of Tennessee who are looking to relocate.

Read more about Gov. Lee’s statewide public safety agenda here.

Protesters blocked from entering Capitol while Senate candidate hobnobs with lawmakers

State troopers rushed to block demonstrators from entering the state Capitol on Monday. Meanwhile on the inside of the building, U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty pressed the flesh with Republican lawmakers inside the building.

The protesters were given several reasons for why the couldn’t attend Monday’s floor session, including that House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) had closed the building to visitors and that the THP was concerned protesters had previously been involved in defacing the building. The Senate side of the Capitol complex has been closed to all visitors since the General Assembly returned from its coronavirus hiatus.

Later on Monday night, 21 protesters were removed from the Capitol complex for violating a camping ban.