trial

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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Kelsey gets yearlong delay for federal campaign finance trial

State Sen. Brian Kelsey denies wrongdoing in a video conference call following his indictment on Oct. 25, 2021. (Image: screengrab from call)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) has been granted a yearlong delay before the start of his federal campaign finance trial.

Originally scheduled to begin next month, U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw ordered the proceedings to be re-set for Jan. 23, 2023. The motion to delay the case was made by Kelsey’s legal team and unopposed by the U.S. attorney’s office or codefendant Josh Smith.

The attorneys for all parties met with Crenshaw behind closed doors for 45 minutes on Monday morning while Kelsey and Smith urgently whispered to each other in the courtroom that was devoid of spectators other than two reporters. Upon ending the in camera meeting, the public portion of the hearing lasted about 10 minutes to formalize the new trial date, which Crenshaw described as “firm.”

As previously reported in this week’s Tennessee Journal Kelsey attorney Paul Bruno said in a legal filing he faced a conflict with the original Jan. 18 court date because he is scheduled to go to trial in a quadruple homicide case in Nashville the following week. Bruno added the government has already provided “a significant amount of discovery” in the case and indicated more would be forthcoming. Given the volume of materials in the case, Kelsey and his legal team did not believe they had enough time to prepare for a trial next month.

Prosecutors say Kelsey funneled campaign funds from his state account through other political action committees to the American Conservative Union, the Washington-based organizer of CPAC conferences. The bulk of the money was then allegedly spent on radio ads supporting Kelsey’s unsuccessful bid for the 8th Congressional District in 2016. Kelsey has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has claimed to be the subject of a political witch hunt.

Jury seated in Democratic Sen. Robinson’s fraud trial

Katrina Robinson (Image credit: Tennessee General Assemlby)

A jury has been seated in the federal fraud trial of state Sen. Katrina Robinson. The Memphis Democrat is charged with spending more than $600,000 in federal grant money meant for her nursing school on personal expenses.

Opening statements are expected to take place on Tuesday. The trial could last more than three weeks.

Students at Robinson’s Healthcare Institute gathered outside the courthouse.

“We’re here to support her. She’s been nothing but great and amazing and we’re just going to support her,” Jennifer Taylor told WREG-TV. “But to be here together, standing for her, I’m very proud and very honored to be a part of the Healthcare Institute.”

The judge last week denied prosecutors’ motion to move the trial to Jackson or to bring in a jury pool from outside Shelby County.

Robinson, who was elected to the Senate in 2018, has pleaded not guilty.