Nashville DA says recording system akin to residential Ring cameras

Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk is likening the security system outside his office to Ring cameras used at residences around the country.

WTVF-TV reporter Phil Williams has been running a series of stories questioning Funk’s management of the office, including a report Monday that Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti’s office had opened a criminal investigation into whether audio recordings made by security cameras violated the state’s wiretapping statute.

Funk in a letter to Skrmetti last week, said he had been in discussions with one of his deputies, Janet Kleinfelter, for three months about security measures at his office before receiving an email from the AG raising concerns.

“We have never conducted any unauthorized audio or video recording of any area where a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy,” Funk wrote. “We know what the law allows and what the law prohibits.”

Funk also notes that he and Williams have tangled in court cases over previous coverage.

Even if Skrmetti’s office conducts an investigation, it’s unclear what authority he have would have to prosecute a criminal case. The AG’s office in Tennessee generally deals with civil matters, and its criminal division is largely dedicated to handling legal appeals. But the AG is appointed by a Republican state Supreme Court and counts on the GOP supermajority in the legislature for his funding. GOP lawmakers are often upset by Funk’s declarations that he won’t go out of his way to prosecute people for crimes related to abortions, transgender issues, or possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Lawmakers in 2021 passed a law to give the AG the authority to seek the appointment of a special prosecutor if the elected DA declares a blanket refusal to make cases against certain crimes.

Here is Funk’s letter to Skrmetti and Deputy AG Scott Southerland:

Dear Generals Skrmetti and Sutherland,

Members of the Nashville District Attorney’s Office work hard to promote public safety in Nashville and across Tennessee. These jobs are dangerous since we are on the front lines of the criminal justice system. We often receive threats. Some of these threats are credible, imminent and life threatening.

Recently, an Assistant District Attorney received threats of death and violence from an individual who said he knew what time she walked to court. As warrants for these threats were being served, this individual proved so dangerous that he engaged in a 10 hour standoff with law enforcement, fired shots at members of the Metro Nashville Police Department and set an apartment building on fire.  ·

Just two weeks ago, two Assistant District Attorneys were threatened with sexual and physical violence by a former defendant. He even went so far as to demand they let him into our Office and stated he was waiting for them just outside the building. His actions were so dangerous that he was arrested before he could carry out his threats.

Threats come into this Office frequently. The security guards at the main entrance to our Office have discovered a variety of deadly weapons carried by visitors.

I will never forsake my duty to provide a safe working environment for the 160 members of my Office. One of our security measures is to have essentially “Ring cameras” at the front doors of our office. We have discussed our security measures with Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter of your office and have worked with her over the last 3 months responding to FOIA requests without compromising security.

The letter you sent Friday via email at 5:17 p.m. questions our security procedures. We have never conducted any unauthorized audio or video recording of any area where a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy. We know what the law allows and what the law prohibits.

I called General Sutherland at 5:44 p.m. and again at 6:22 p.m. Friday to request clarification of some of your preservation requests. I left a message with my personal cell phone number and have yet to receive a response.

The current Phil Williams story, which has been broadcast by Channel 5 and promoted on social media platforms, was designed to make viewers believe that our security violates the law. However, their reports do not contain any information that our measures improperly audio or video tape any protected areas.

Your comment that “[W]e are aware of the allegations and take them very seriously” is being used to validate their baseless slander and undermine trust in the District Attorney’s office.

Phil Williams and Channel 5 previously broadcast a story claiming I had solicited a bribe. After four years of litigation, they issued a retraction and admitted they “never had any proof.”

Any concerns you have regarding Nashville District Attorney’s Office security practices will quickly be eliminated by a visit to this office to inspect our practices. This is simple and straightforward. Because public trust is essential to our work, I am asking you to come TODAY and then immediately put in writing that our security measures do not violate any Tennessee statute and are in fact prudent measures for public safety.

General Sutherland has my personal cell phone number. Please call me upon receipt of this letter to clarify portions of your letter and to schedule your visit to my Office.



Glenn R. Funk

cc: Director David B. Rausch

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation


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