Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No Arrests Possible for KCSD; Four Arrests by the KPD. JJs Not Looking So Good.

One of the things I find most interesting about the press release is visible only between the lines. While the KCSD and the DA's office are listed as investigators along with the KPD, if you read carefully, you realize that their contribution was the investigation that they said "could not result in arrests or successful prosecutions. Clearly, the KPD did not agree, and using the failures of the KCSD as a springboard, the Organized Crime Unit (Interesting choice of investigative bodies, isn't it?) of the KPD moved forward and got multiple arrests.

One question I've always wanted to ask Sheriff Jones: In the affidavit filled out by Brad Hall in order to get Yolanda Harper's phone records, he stated that he had personal knowledge that she had engaged in drug trafficking and listed the details of the transaction. That being the case, why did the Sheriff's Office continue to refer to Harper as a "Good Samaritan," and never pursue any additional investigations beyond the Granju case? Why was Sheriff Jones content to leave a known drug dealer on the streets for a year?

Maybe we'll get an answer to that question in the trials to come.


Holding the Knoxville News Sentinel Accountable

A couple of days ago, Jack McElroy wrote a column in which, disguised as a series of corrections, he sought to insulate the KNS from deficiencies in their coverage of Henry Granju's death. As I read through the column, I found several statements that were either misleading, or completely inaccurate. I exchanged a series of emails with Jaime Satterfield, the reporter who wrote the article in question, and with Tom Chester, the News Editor for the KNS. The tone of the emails, along with statements made by Satterfield, contradict portions of McElroy's column. I'm including the full email conversation, as well as the relevant portions of McElroy's column.

From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Wed Aug 03 13:54:38 2011
Subject: The Henry Granju Case files

Hi Jaime,

I just left you a voice mail and wanted to follow up with an email because I know how busy you are. I met you when I was blogging the KNS's coverage of the Sunshine/Knox County Commissioner flap.

I'm going to write a blog post, or possibly a free-lance article if I can find somebody interested in publishing it, detailing what happened to Henry, how local law enforcement reacted, and how the media covered it. Right now, I'm working through the Henry Granju case file, trying to reconcile the information there with information Ms. Granju has shared publicly over the last year, and in the course of doing so, I've found several discrepancies in the case files, and in your reporting. For example, in your Sunday article, you reported that Dustin Rush is 30 years old. The case file contains two different birth-dates for Rush, one in 1980, and the other in 1988. His actual age is 22.

Also, you state in your article that there was no indication of bruising on Henry's chest in the medical records, yet the emergency room admissions report clearly notes ecchymosis, the medical term for bruising, on his chest, as well as bleeding from his ears, two black eyes, and Battle's sign. These injuries were not apparent on the 26th, when he got into Houser's van, which begs the question: Where did they come from?

I also noted that the phone records from Yolanda Harper and Randall Houser's land lines were incomplete. Despite dozens of calls listed for the 25th and the 27th, there are no calls recorded to or from that number on the 26th, the day Henry was given methadone by Yolanda, and then taken to their home.

Were you aware those records were left out of the case file?

I've found other records missing as well.

My wife Lissa remembers you from when you covered the murder of her brother, Scott Norman, and she speaks highly of you. I'd like to talk to you, to show you some of the discrepancies in the record that I've found, and get your take on them, as well as the investigation itself. The case file appears to raise more questions than it answers. If you could, please give me a call at 865 xxx xxxx.

Thanks,

Rich Hailey


I identified myself, my purpose for the email, laid out my questions, and asked for a response. Two important notes. My email was sent to the KNS on Aug 3, just a few days after Satterfield's story enveloped the Sunday paper. In it, I identified the error concerning bruising, specifically mentioning the medical terminology used. This was well before the Granju family ever met with McElroy. Yet here is how McElroy characterizes the error and how it was found:

Afterward, I received a letter from the Granju family strongly objecting to many aspects of the story, which they described as "full of half truths, inaccuracies via omission, out of context quotes and information presented as original reporting, and flat out untruths."

I met with staff members involved, and in reviewing the file, one specific error quickly was identified. The story had said that Henry's medical records did not "detail bruising on his chest or broken bones." In fact, there was a record of a bruise on his chest, which had been overlooked because of the medical terminology used.


This is a flat out lie. The KNS knew the story was inaccurate in this respect on August 3, well before the Granju family sent their letter. They didn't bother to correct it until forced to do so.

Here is Satterfield's response to my email:
From: "Satterfield, Jamie"
To: rhailey9
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 5:47 PM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Good luck in your pursuit of this story. If I had Rush's age wrong I'll correct it but I stand by the rest of the story. Katie reported clear signs of kicks to the chest. The records did not bear that out. The ME attributed bruising around the eyes and blood in his right ear (see follow up email from UT to Katie on this issue) to the overdose. My story did not say that Henry had no injuries. It said that his friends saw little or no injury. The question my story sought to answer is this: is there a prosecutable case? The answer, at this juncture, is no. I won't debate the merits of Katie's arguments but I have experienced discrepancies in some things she told me and then later said or blogged.


First, as of today, the age of Dustin Rush is still listed as 30 years old in the story. So much for follow up by Satterfield. Second, notice that Satterfield did not address the missing phone records, and once again repeated the error that there were no records of bruising noted in the medical records. Next, notice her attempt to impugn Katie's credibility. Finally, and now we're back to McElroy's spin, Satterfield says that the purpose of her story was to determine if there was a prosecutable case. Here's how McElroy cast it:
The story was written in a narrative style intended to vividly portray the problem of prescription drug abuse and the presentation was meant to convey to the reader that the information was from the investigative file and not independently gathered by the newspaper. The responsibility for that approach was mine, and to any who were offended or confused, I apologize.

So, which was it? A story to portray the problems of prescription drug abuse, or a story to determine whether there was a prosecutable case?

Apparently McElroy and Satterfield don't talk much.

Here is my response to Satterfield:
From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Wed Aug 03 16:17:54 2011
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Thanks for your quick response. Just to be clear, I'm noting the following:

1. You did not notice that there were two different birth-dates for Rush in the file.
2. The absence of any calls in the Harper/Houser phone records on April 26th does not seem unusual to you and warrants no comment.
3. Your article claims that the medical files do not mention any bruises to Henry's chest, yet the medical file clearly notes that bruising on his chest did exist at the time of his admission to the emergency room.
4. Henry was brought into the emergency room with significant injuries; injuries that his friends did not see prior to his entering Houser's van. You have no interest in determining the cause of those injuries.
5. Your only interest in writing/publishing the story on Sunday was to determine if the file presented enough evidence for prosecution, not to determine whether the file was accurate, or whether the investigation was, as the KCSO portrayed it, thorough and exhaustive.
6. You have no interest in pursuing discrepancies in the case file, or potential shortcomings in the investigation.

If I'm wrong in any of the above points, please let me know.

One more quick question: Who else reviewed the file along with you? Was it just you or was there a division of labor?

Thanks again for your response.


The points I raised were directly from her email, which ignored most of the issues I raised based on the released files, specifically addressing only one issue, that of the age of Dustin Rush. Point 1 is important because it is a measure of the thoroughness of the KNS review and the follow up question springs from that as well as the failure to recognize ecchymosis as a medical term for bruising.

I was still professional, but I intended to challenge her to speak directly to the issues I was raising. Her response:
From: "Satterfield, Jamie"
To: rhailey
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 7:36 PM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

You are wrong on several points but you are free to blog whatever you choose. I am simply not going to debate with you.

Challenge rejected! The most useful part of this email was her permission to blog whatever I wanted, which is why I am comfortable posting these emails in their entirety. My response:
From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Wed Aug 03 18:48:52 2011
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Jaime, I'm not looking for a debate and I'm sorry if it comes across that way. I'm just looking for information from the perspective of the KNS. You are a reporter with two decades of experience and I was looking for your input on aspects of the case file that I find questionable. I'm sure you've seen dozens of case files, and I was looking for your guidance as to what was normal and what wasn't. I wrote the summary of your responses because I do not want to mischaracterize you or the KNS, not because I wanted to provoke a debate.

Again, if I am incorrect on any of the six points I outlined, by all means let me know and I will correct them.

I want whatever I write to be accurate.

Thanks again,
Rich

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Can I re-establish a dialog?
From: "Satterfield, Jamie"
To: rhailey
Sent: Thursday, August 4, 2011 8:30 AM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

The ME has opined that injuries initially believed by UT to be beating injuries were instead attributed to the overdose and the file shows UT now concurs.
Henry's cellphone records show calls from Harper's cell to Henry's cell on April 26 so there is nothing missing. If you look at the summary preceding the records you will see that KCSO made note of a particularly long call between Harper and Henry on the 26th.
The Granju family told reporter Don Jacobs Henry had a broken jaw and broken ribs (see our archives) but the ME found no evidence of that nor did UT.
My purpose in the story was to show what the file shows and what it doesn't show about what happened to Henry. To say I didn't care or seek to determine what happened is patently false.
Harper called the DA's office this week and said a man came to her trailer claiming to be working with me on this story. No one has been working with me on this story. The DA is investigating so if that was you, I would suggest you contact Kevin Allen. If it was not you I apologize for raising the issue.
All I was trying to say yesterday is that what I hoped to do in the story is lay out what evidence exists so readers can judge not only what may or may not have happened but also the veracity of both KCSO's probe and Katie's claims.
Let me share one example that has troubled me about the manipulation going on here. On the day the file was to be released at noon, I was notified at 11 am it would not be ready for several hours due to the time it was taking to copy onto discs. I immediately notified Katie. She said she was going to arrive at noon anyway. So the notion that KCSO made her wait 5 hours is not entirely accurate. She knew there would be a lengthy wait before she arrived. She also later told me (I'm not sure why) that during her wait she never asked for the file but instead repeatedly asked to see Martha Dooley. She was given a copy of the file before any were distributed to the public.
I'm not suggesting KCSO's treatment of her throughout this contentious probe was appropriate. But both sides have engaged in spin so I have sought to remain squarely in the middle as a reporter should. I hope this clarifies.

This email shows a gross misunderstanding of the information in the case file. Let's take each one in order.
1. The ME has opined that injuries initially believed by UT to be beating injuries were instead attributed to the overdose and the file shows UT now concurs.While the UT doctors concurred that the cause of death was an overdose and not trauma from the beating, in no way did any of the doctors at UT agree that there was no trauma. That there were no fractures as they suspected and recorded in the medical files? Sure. But no trauma? Nope. Here is a quote from the ADA summary of the case:
"On Sept 17,2010, I spoke again with Dr. Hecht, who had conferred with Dr Ryder, HLG's neurologist, and after reviewing the ME's report, he believed the ME was correct that the non accidental trauma did not contribute to HLG's death."

First, Dr's Hecht and Ryder agreed with the ME that the cause of death was hypoxia due to an overdose. Nobody argues that. But nowhere in this statement does either doctor agree that there was never any trauma from the attack. In fact, the statement explicitly recognizes the presence of trauma from the attack as the "non accidental trauma." The overdose was an accident, as ruled by the ME. The trauma unrelated to the overdose was related to the attack. Additionally, the medical files as released by the KCSO are incomplete. Katie has scores of documents showing the doctors describing the trauma as Henry was admitted and being treated.Henry's discharge papers from UT note"He did have pericardial effusion (buildup of fluid in the membrane surrounding the heart) from his assault. He did have raccoon eyes. He did have multiple traumas..." Also from the case file is his initial emergency room exam, which notes both head trauma and Battle's Sign. I could go on but it is clear that the evidence that Henry sustained a major assault came not from spin from Katie and her family, but from the assessment of the medical professionals treating Henry.
2. Henry's cellphone records show calls from Harper's cell to Henry's cell on April 26 so there is nothing missing. If you look at the summary preceding the records you will see that KCSO made note of a particularly long call between Harper and Henry on the 26th.The missing data comes from Harper/Houser's land line, a phone that saw extensive use both before and after Henry's stay. Why were the calls to and from that phone missing? Why can't Satterfield even acknowledge that there is a significant gap in the records as presented by the KCSO? Why does she think that the presence of cell phone records somehow magically accounts for the missing 36 hours of land line records?
3. The Granju family told reporter Don Jacobs Henry had a broken jaw and broken ribs (see our archives) but the ME found no evidence of that nor did UT.When Katie Granju reported that Henry had a fractured skull and a broken jaw, that came directly from the treating doctors. The fact that the ME found no evidence of fractures 6 weeks later in no way invalidates what Katie was told at the time.
Again, from the case file as released by the KCSO: "Radiology Report 05/06/10 Results: Indication: Trauma. Right skull base fracture. Evaluate for cortical or watershed injury." And once again from May 5th: "Although CT scan of the bones of the basal skull could help with making a diagnosis of fracture I think it is clear enough clinically that it is not needed..." In short, while the ME found 6 weeks later that Henry did not have a fractured skull, he presented the doctors treating him at the time of his admission and throughout his stay at UT with all the signs they needed to clinically needed to diagnose him with one. Satterfield's statement that UT found no sign of skull fractures is not consistent with the medical records in the case file, which clearly show that doctors at two hospitals recorded symptoms of a skull fracture. More to the point, whether there was a skull fracture or not, the observations of the physicians who treated Henry in the ER and the ICU make it clear that he was hit hard enough in the head to exhibit all symptoms of a fractures skull, and hard enough in the chest to damage the pericardium.
At this point I began to believe that Satterfield never read the report, instead relying mostly on the executive summary from the ADA.
4. My purpose in the story was to show what the file shows and what it doesn't show about what happened to Henry. To say I didn't care or seek to determine what happened is patently false.As demonstrated above, if her mission was to present what was in the report accurately, she failed miserably. If, on the other hand, her mission was to validate the KCSO and the DA, she did a masterful job. Additionally, she might want to take this up with Mr. McElroy, who, as quoted above, specifically commissioned a story that looked only at the evidence gathered by the KCSO, and not by the paper itself. I'm curious, what steps did Satterfield take to determine what actually happened? According to McElroy, she wasn't authorized to take any.
5. Harper called the DA's office this week and said a man came to her trailer claiming to be working with me on this story. No one has been working with me on this story. The DA is investigating so if that was you, I would suggest you contact Kevin Allen. If it was not you I apologize for raising the issue. I'm not sure what this was about, except maybe an attempt to intimidate me. It failed.
6.All I was trying to say yesterday is that what I hoped to do in the story is lay out what evidence exists so readers can judge not only what may or may not have happened but also the veracity of both KCSO's probe and Katie's claims. Again, this is not consistent with the article she wrote. There was no critical thinking, no analysis of the records, just a stenographic recitation of selected bits and pieces from the case file, presented in a way to reinforce certain conclusions while ignoring evidence that supported alternate views.
7. Let me share one example that has troubled me about the manipulation going on here. On the day the file was to be released at noon, I was notified at 11 am it would not be ready for several hours due to the time it was taking to copy onto discs. I immediately notified Katie. She said she was going to arrive at noon anyway. So the notion that KCSO made her wait 5 hours is not entirely accurate. She knew there would be a lengthy wait before she arrived. She also later told me (I'm not sure why) that during her wait she never asked for the file but instead repeatedly asked to see Martha Dooley. She was given a copy of the file before any were distributed to the public. What is troubling about this? Katie posted frequently that she had never once met with anyone from the Sheriff's Department during the entire ordeal. The KCSO had already released case files, including the preliminary autopsy to the press without notifying the family; surely she was justified in taking measure to make sure it didn't happen again. And while she waited, she tried to meet with someone, anyone, from the Sheriff's Office.

Ok, so it should be obvious that I have a serious disagreement with Satterfield over both her story and how she's justifying it. Also, since I was at the Sheriff's office when Katie picked up the records, I wanted to correct any misinformation that might have been floating around the newsroom. So I responded:
From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Thu Aug 04 08:51:27 2011
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Jaime, once again, thanks for your response and the clarification. While I disagree with you on whether there are missing records or not, I believe I understand where you are coming from, both as an individual and as a reporter for the KNS.

As for the person who interviewed Yolanda Harper, that was not me. I'm still digging through the case file and won't be ready to do any interviews for a while yet. When I do start interviewing people connected with the case, I will do it exactly like I did with you, identifying myself and my purpose right up front. Even then, it's doubtful that I will approach Harper or Houser, as I consider Houser to be a fairly dangerous man. But thanks for the heads up.

Finally, I do want to clarify the events at the Sheriff's office when Katie went to pick up the records, not to start a debate, but to give you additional information that may remove the perception of spin, at least in this case. I can tell you what happened because I was there the whole time.

First, Katie told us that she had been informed by a reporter that the records were going to be released at noon the next day, and she asked for people to be there with her. Lissa and I took time off work to be there, and arrived about 11:50. Katie got there at about the same time and told us, and the reporters that were there, that she had been told by the same reporter that the release of the file had been delayed, and that we would have to wait for awhile. She then went to the Records window and asked to see Martha Dooley. She didn't ask for the case file, or even mention it. She was told to take a seat, that Ms. Dooley would be paged and would come out to meet with her.

An hour went by.

Katie went back to the records window to get an update on when Ms. Dooley would be coming out to meet her. At this point, she was told that Ms. Dooley wasn't in her office that day, that her husband was in the hospital and she was there with him. Katie asked why she hadn't been told that in the first place, and the woman at the window had no answer. Katie then asked to speak with Ms Dooley's assistant, and was told she could do so, and to go to the Sheriff's office.

Katie went to the Sheriff's Office and asked to see Ashley Haynes. She was asked if she had an appointment and when she answered that she did not, was told she would have to wait. The receptionist immediately phoned somebody and told them that Katie was there, along with reporters.

We waited calmly for a couple of hours. There was a brief, ugly encounter with a Sheriff's office employee, but nothing of note happened until Martha Dooley came into the office and had an extended conversation with Katie. There is video of that conversation linked at the justice for henry site. If you watch the video, remember that this is the first time Katie has met face to face with anybody from the KCSO.

We moved back to the records waiting room at 4:30, and by 5:30, Katie had her disk and we left.

I do want to single out one KCSO employee who went out of their way to make Katie and the rest of us comfortable. As the Sheriff's office was closing, Capt. Dan Henderson came through to secure the office. He spoke very graciously to Kaie, and the rest of us who were waiting, expressed his sympathy to Katie, apologized for the long wait, offered to get soft drinks, and in general, treated us like human beings instead of obstructions. He provided a human face that the office lacked up until that point.

Some important things to note, at least in my opinion:
At no time did Katie ask for the records; that was an assumption on the part of the KCSO.
At no time did Katie receive notification from the KCSO that the records were going to be released.
The only reason Katie received the records before the media was that she was tipped off by friend in the media and was there to get them. Had she not been there, the case files would have been released to the media first. Given that this happened with the preliminary autopsy, she was understandably concerned that it might happen again.
Katie said several times to anybody who would listen that she was waiting to speak to somebody from the Sheriff's Office; she never mentioned the case file. (In fact, the only time Martha Dooley was speechless was when she realized that Brad Hall had never spoken to Katie or Chris face to face, and that nobody from the KCSO had done so until that day.)

Sorry for the long post, and once again, thanks for clarifying your position. I will do my best to convey it accurately in anything I write.

One last question, and this is more of a general attitude thing, and not specific to the case. You wrote that since both sides were spinning, you were aiming to stay in the middle, as a reporter should. My aim in this is to get to the truth, whether it is in the middle, or with one side or the other. I'm not trying to construct a narrative at this point; just trying to get to the facts that can be verified. Katie has reported things that have turned out to be wrong, for example the timing on Savannah Aderholt's 911 call, but there are also problems with the KCSO files. I am vetting Katie's reports just as thoroughly as I am the KCSO case file. Once I have facts that I can rely on, then I'll look for a narrative that fits the facts.

Is this the correct approach?

Once again, thanks for your time, and I hope I haven't taken up too much of yours.

Take care,
Rich


Once again, straight forward, polite, and I hope, professional. Here is Satterfield's response:
FROM:Satterfield, Jamie
TO: rhailey
Thursday, August 4, 2011 1:27 PM
If I were close enough to one side in a story to accompany her to the sheriff's office I could not ethically report on the case as a reporter. Maybe the rules for bloggers aren't as stringent.

And we're back to that again. I'm asking questions without easy answers, so now I'm unprofessional and lacking standards.

My response:
You may our may not have noticed, but I did not report on Katie's trip to the sheriff's office. Instead I provided an eye witness account to a reporter who wasn't there and who had voiced misgivings about how the incident was portrayed by one of the participants.

My standards are just fine.


And that ended my exchange with Jaime Satterfield.

But not my exchange with the KNS. When Satterfield got huffy the first time, telling me I could "blog whatever I wanted", I sent a copy of the emails to date to Tom Chester, the News Editor:
From: Rich Hailey
Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 10:26 PM
To: Chester, Tom
Subject: Fw: The Henry Granju Case files

Mr. Chester,

First, this is not a complaint about Jaime Satterfield; she is a good reporter and does good work.

Second, this is not an attack on the credibility/capabilities of the KNS. When I blogged the Knox County Commission Sunshine trial, and when Jack McElroy allowed me to blog from the newsroom about how a paper gets put together, I saw nothing but fairness and professionalism from everybody there.

I just have some big questions about the contents of the case file, and before I start writing about what I'm finding, I want to get the KNS perspective so I can present it accurately.

As I pointed out in my initial email, I've found some errors in the case file, and at least one very significant omission.

When I looked at the phone records for the Harper/Houser land line, I saw that there were no calls to or from that number from just before midnight on the 25th until after 10 am on the 27th. There were dozens of calls recorded on the 25th, and also on the 27th, but none for the critical 36 hours. There are two possibilities. Either for 36 hours, that phone never rang, or the records are incomplete. Given the traffic on that phone shown by the records for every other day, I find the former supposition doubtful, to say the least.

Am I crazy? When the KNS reviewed the file, did you notice this gap in the record? Did you ask the KCSO about it? If so, what was their response? Does anybody have an unexpurgated copy of the phone records for that number?

As I wrote to Jaime, my goal is to make sure that anything I write is accurate and complete. Any information you can give me from the KNS perspective will help me to meet that goal.

Thanks for your time,

Rich



----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Rich Hailey
To: "Satterfield, Jamie"
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 9:48 PM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Jaime, I'm not looking for a debate and I'm sorry if it comes across that way...(the rest of the chain is deleted for space)


Again, polite, reasonable, and what I think are valid questions about the case file. Here is Mr. Chester's response:
Rich,

Thanks, I received your note.


He's a taciturn man, isn't he?

So, what is the takeaway from this? Basically, that just about everything the KNS has written about Henry Granju has been in service of an agenda, not informing the public. They have spent almost zero time in fact checking, and as McElroy said himself, have done no independent investigations of their own. Instead, they've just accepted what the KCSO has told them, without critical analysis, and without verification. Whenever Katie has presented information that does not conform with the KCSO version of events, they imply that she is 'spinning' the truth, and 'manipulating' the media while all along, as anybody who takes the time to read the case files can tell you, it is the KCSO which is doing the manipulation.

There are people I like at the KNS, and there are people I respect as well. But as a whole, I no longer trust what I read there. I was at a football game the other day and I heard a couple of people talking about the Sentinel.

"Did you see the story in the Sentinel this morning?"
"Nope. The last time I bought a News Sentinel it was to use to house train my dog, but the paper was so full of crap already, there was nothing left for the dog to use."


Irony is Sweet

On the very day when Jaime Satterfield writes about how Katie's efforts to get Harper and Houser arrested go "to no avail," the KPD goes out and and arrests Harper and Houser, and Laurie Pelot Gooch as icing on the cake. It will take a while before the Knoxville News Sentinel cleans the egg of its collective face.


KPD Press Release On the Arrests

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Prescription Drugs targeted by Local Law Enforcement
September 20, 2011 – Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, Knox County Sheriff J.J. Jones, and Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols today announced the arrest of four Knox County residents on multiple drug charges. The arrests stem from several interrelated investigations over the past year by the KPD, KCSD and Knox County DA’s Office, culminating in today’s arrests led by the KPD Organized Crime Unit.
The charges in these cases are part of the focus of law enforcement here and across Tennessee on the scourge of the illegal use prescription drugs. Evidence on these charges was presented to a Knox County Grand Jury by the DA’s Office. Based on that evidence the Grand Jury returned indictments today.
Four individuals were indicted by the Knox County Grand Jury on 10 Felony drug charges.
1) Yolanda Meza Harper DOB: 12/20/1973 Tarklin Valley Road address
Charges:
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Adderall), a Class C Felony
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Methadone) in a School Zone, a Class B felony
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Methadone) in a Child Care Zone, a Class C felony
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Methadone) in a Park Zone, a Class C felony
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Methadone), a Class C Felony

2) Randall Ray Houser DOB: 11/20/1970 Tarklin Valley Road address
Charges:
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Adderall), A Class C felony
3) Laurie Pelot Gooch DOB: 5/16/1961 Ainsworth Drive address
Charges:
• Three Counts of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Oxycodone), a Class C felony
4) Kasie Westmoreland Robinson DOB: 8/23/1983 Woodbine Avenue address
Charges:
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Oxycodone), a Class C felony
Class C felonies carry a minimum sentence of 3 to 6 years. Class B felonies carry a minimum sentence of 8 to 12 year. School Zone, Child Care Zone and Park Zone cases require day for day service of the entire sentence.
The KCSD assisted the KPD in making these arrests.



Justice for Henry: One Step Closer

Back in 1964, McNairy County Tennessee had a big problem with corruption. The Dixie Mafia and the State Line Gang divided the county between them, running moonshine, women and crooked gambling out of bars and clubs, and the law, well, they just tried to keep civilians out of the crossfire.

Fear ruled the county until the people elected themselves a 6'6" rawboned former Marine and semi professional wrestler by the name of Buford Pusser as their sheriff. From 1964 to 1970, Pusser cleaned up McNairy County. It wasn't easy and it wasn't quick, and it came at a terrible cost. He was shot eight times, stabbed seven times, and worst, his wife was killed during an assassination attempt.Pusser died in a car accident in 1974 that many still believe was a successful hit on the former sheriff. His story caught the imagination of Hollywood and they made a movie about him called Walking Tall.

Pusser succeeded where others had failed for three reasons. He was tough; he didn’t quit and he never backed down. He refused to compromise or be compromised; he stood for the citizens of McNairy County and he did the job they elected him to do to the best of his abilities. And he had a passion for justice. He was driven by the need to see that those who broke the law were punished accordingly.

Fast forward 40 years and move from the state line to East Tennessee. Things have changed in four decades. Meth labs and prescription pills have replaced moonshine stills and white lightning; human trafficking and sexual slavery have replaced prostitution; and gambling, while mostly still illegal, has been taken over by the state in the form of a lottery.

The criminals have gotten stronger; the crimes have gotten nastier; the thugs have gotten more violent. Knox County has a growing problem with drugs, gangs and violence and Knox County Sheriff J. J. Jones is the man the voters chose to address those problems. So far, Jones hasn't shown much progress in dealing with these issues. East Tennessee leads the nation in meth labs. We’re at the top of the leader board in pill mills and prescription drug abuse. Our schools have more drugs than most pharmacies. So many kids and young adults are overdosing that the DA doesn't even bother trying to treat it as a crime anymore. Dealers operate in the open all over Knox County without fear of arrest. A human trafficking ring operated in West Knox County for over a year without the Sheriff’s office ever even noticing. It seems the victims of the crime were beneath the Sheriff’s notice.were beneath their notice.

Nope, instead of walking tall, Sheriff J.J. is walking small. Instead of kicking ass and taking names, he’s busy kissing ass and playing games. Instead of cleaning house, he's keeping house for his political friends and cronies.

Knox County needs a Buford Pusser; instead, we've got a Barney Fife.

So where are the heirs of Buford Pusser? Where are the men who stand for justice, regardless of the cost personally or politically? Where are the people who will stand and fight against corruption, indifference and incompetence?

Look into the mirror. We don't always have to wait for a new sheriff to see justice done. Sometimes, if we work for it hard enough, if we are tough, if we refuse to compromise, if we show a passion for justice, then we as citizens can walk tall, and make a difference.

Katie Granju is one citizen who walks tall, all 5' 2" of her.

Her son Henry fell into the trap of drug addiction, and once he was trapped, dealers preyed upon him, keeping him addicted, turning him into a dealer and possibly worse, then killing him with an overdose of drugs. The Knox County Sheriff's Office investigated Henry’s death for 14 months and the DA said it was the most thorough, professional investigation he'd seen from the KCSO. Yet after 14 months of intensive investigation, there were no arrests. The dealers who took Henry home, and allegedly gave him the overdose that eventually killed him were called "Good Samaritans” by the lead investigator from the KCSO. He told Henry’s family that they were only trying to help a kid in trouble.

Katie knew better. She knew there was more to the story and she dug it up. She passed on the information to the KCSO, expecting that they would follow up, and use their greater experience and resources to build a case and to take these dangerous people off the street. She knew what had happened and she refused to stand by quietly and let the KCSO sandbag the investigation. She used every means at her disposal to keep a fire lit under those who would have rather just let things slide.

They pushed back. An ADA said she should shut up. The local paper made her look like an obsessed nutcase. The KCSO did their level best to ignore her, refusing to ever meet in person with her, to listen to the information she had. The community was stirred up against her. She was mocked, criticized, and called all kinds of vile names, accused of being a bad parent, told that she should have done something different, that it was her fault that Henry died.
And in the end, the KCSO closed the case, no charges, no arrests, no justice.

Katie could have quit. She could have compromised and accepted the decision of the DA not to prosecute anybody for anything. She could have abandoned her quest to get some very dangerous people off the street before they contributed to the death of another person.
She could have, but she didn't. She kept fighting, kept asking questions, kept seeking anybody who could help.

And she succeeded.

Today, the Knoxville Police Department arrested Yolanda Harper, Randall Houser, and Laurie Pelot Gooch for multiple felony drug trafficking charges. The three key players in the death of Henry Granju are now behind bars, and while the charges are unrelated to Henry's death, the investigation that resulted in these arrests came from the case files that the KCSO made public, along with the information the Katie Granju provided.

These arrests, and any that follow, come only because Katie refused to quit, despite the tremendous personal cost to her and her family. Katie is getting justice for Henry, and she is succeeding for three reasons.

She’s was tough; she refuses to compromise; and she has a passion for justice.

Katie Granju is walking tall.


Monday, June 13, 2011

The Editorial the News Sentinel Should have Written

Last week, the Knoxville News Sentinel wrote an editorial revealing the position of the paper regarding the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Katie Allison Granju against Randall Houser, Yolanda Harper, and the clinic which sold them the methadone they gave to Henry. In that editorial, the KNS very politely told Katie that while they supported the lawsuit, she really should keep quiet about the Knox County Sheriff's Office, since the investigation was still going on and the wild accusations of a grief stricken mother would only be a distraction. I wrote my feelings about editorial in the comments here, but wanted to take the time and write the editorial that should have been written. This lawsuit does not name the KCSO, the DA, the ME, or anybody else, just the folks who allowed Henry to suffer for hours before calling for help. And so, here's my editorial opinion:

While there are many who believe that the death of Henry Granju was the tragic but inevitable result of his decision to abuse drugs, his mother sees it differently and has filed a wrongful death lawsuit naming the people she believes are responsible for Henry's death.

The lawsuit names Yolanda Harper and Randall Houser as the two people who supplied Henry with the overdose of methadone that led to his death, and the clinic where they acquired the methadone. According to the filing, Yolanda Harper gave Henry the overdose, then she and Randall took Henry to their home in South Knox County, making it impossible for him to get aid on his own for the overdose. The filing goes on to claim that Harper and Houser knew Henry was in grave medical danger, and phoned several people over a period of about six hours, describing his condition in detail, yet refusing to call 911 for assistance.

According to Henry's mother, Henry did not just die from the overdose; he died because the people who took responsibility for him, who gave him the drugs then took him into their home, refused to make a phone call that could have saved his life. Instead they watched as he lay on the floor, slowly suffocating over a period of hours, his brain dying from hypoxia. Granju also names the clinic where Harper and Houser were allowed to take home a 30 day supply of the drug, despite knowing the unreliable nature of addicts. Granju has noted that the most common drug listed in overdose deaths is methadone and she wants to bring accountability to the for profit clinics which make money dispensing the drug.

While we believe that anyone who abuses drugs has to take some measure of responsibility for their actions, we also believe that we as human beings have a responsibility to provide aid as needed for somebody we have taken into our care.

Some believe that since Henry did deal small quantities of drugs to support his habit he deserved what happened to him; what we know is that there were many other people who did not deserve what happened to them as a result of Henry's death.

Henry had a younger brother, who will now live the rest of his life without his older brother's companionship. Henry had three younger sisters, one of whom he never met. She was born shortly after his death. Another sister will only remember him in a wheel chair, in pain, confused, and barely able to speak. The oldest of his sisters will never get to see her brother again. There will be an empty seat at her wedding, at the birth of her children. Henry's parents will live with the ache of a child lost to them forever. Henry's friends will live with the terrible question, "What if?" "What if I had spoken up?" "What if I had kept Henry from getting into that van?" "What if I had done something, anything differently? Would Henry still be alive today if I had just said something sooner?"

There are many people who lost because of Henry's death, many people who were damaged. They all paid a high price when Henry died, and even though some think it was fair for Henry to pay that cost, nobody can say it was fair for them to pay it along with him.

According Katie Granju's lawsuit, they are paying not because Henry decided to use drugs, not because he overdosed, but because two people who took Henry into their home couldn't be bothered to make a phone call to save his life.

We support this lawsuit as a way to bring the facts to light in this tragedy and if those facts bear out the allegations of the filing, we urge the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney to file criminal charges as provided for in Tennessee law.


Unlike the KNS, I'll sign this editorial.

Richard D Hailey


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why is Katie Suing?

I wanted to post this over at the KNS article, but it was too long, and I think it's too important to leave in the comments section. I'm posting it here and at Stability. I've never cross-posted before because I figure most people who read one read the other, but just in case, I'm putting it in both places.

Katie Granju has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the two people she believes gave her son a lethal dose of methadone and the clinic that supplied the methadone. You can see the filing here.

And if you feel like diving into a cesspool, you can read the comments on the KNS story here.

There are people commenting who know nothing about the case, and have obviously failed to read either the filing or the article they are commenting on. Or it could be that they did read it, but were blinded by prejudice, ignorance, and/or hate. What really angers me is how many of these people who claim that Henry got what he deserved also claim to be good Christians who love the Lord.

Apparently they forget that Jesus didn't hang out with folks like them; He pretty much told them that they were headed to Hell with the Pharisees and other hypocrites. Jesus hung out with folks like Henry; sinners who had lost their way and were looking for redemption, the outcasts of polite society. If anyone bothers to read Henry's story, you can't help but see that he was looking for redemption, a way out of the trap that is addiction. Tragically, that search was cut short by two people who took advantage of him, abused him, fed his addiction, and then sat by and callously watched him suffer, struggling to breathe, waiting until they were threatened with police before finally calling for medical help.

It truly is a horrible story, yet there are many who believe that Henry got no less than what he deserved because he was a drug addict, and that his mother is filing a lawsuit to deflect guilt, his and hers, and to try and take financial advantage of Henry's tragedy.

Needless to say, I am not one of those people, and here's my response to them.

First, Henry was not a criminal. He was never arrested for dealing, much less tried and convicted. Remember the whole, "innocent until proven guilty" thing? You might want to look that up; it's kind of the basis for our entire legal system. It says you can't treat somebody like a criminal until you prove they are one in a court of law. No court ever found Henry guilty of dealing drugs; no policemen ever arrested him for it.

That being said, his mother has repeatedly and clearly admitted that Henry was using drugs, and probably selling them to support his habit. She's gone so far to write that she had hoped that Henry would get busted so that he might get the help he needed but that never happened. So much for shifting blame.

It seems many believe that he deserved to die for using and/or selling drugs, that because he made some bad choices that somehow justice was done when he was left to choke on his own vomit for 6 hours before the two "Good Samaritans" called for help. (Yeah, the lead investigator told Katie that Yolanda and Randall were just two good people trying to help a kid in trouble. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.)

All of you self righteous parents, who believe that Henry's death may have been tragic, but ultimately his own responsibility, what would your reaction be if somebody let your child die like that, refusing to call for help? Would you tell yourself that your child was using drugs, deserved to die, and then go on with your golf game? Reading some of the comments on the story, some of you just might, which tells me you shouldn't be allowed to have a dog, much less a child. I'll tell you one thing. I'm a Navy vet, like my father and grandfather, and my oldest son is in the Army and just got back from his second tour in Iraq, and the comments I've read on this story make me question whether our sacrifices were worth it. The day after Memorial Day, I wonder if all the men and women who have did in service to this nation died in vain. The hatred shown and the willingness to cast somebody off because they have a problem, or because they fail to live up to some arbitrary standards makes me sick. The worst part is that this attitude is apparently shared by the people in our government who are supposed to rise above this kind of crap and enforce the rule of law impartially, and not as some kind of perverted popularity contest.

"Did you hear? A kid was beaten severely, robbed, and then was taken by two people who gave him a lethal overdose of drugs and watched him choke for 6 hours before calling for medical help. He died a few days later."

"My God! That's awful! How did this happen? Did they arrest anybody?"

"No, apparently, the kid had a drug problem and..."

"He was a junkie! Hell, he deserved what he got! Probably saved the tax payers a bundle by just letting the whole thing go away..."


Really? Is that the way we want our law enforcement to work? One standard for people we approve of and another for those who don't quite make the grade?

The Tennessee law code, TCA 39-13-210, states clearly that anybody who gives a drug illegally to another person is guilty of second degree murder if that person dies as a result of that drug. The medical examiner's report explicitly links Henry's death to the drug overdose. In fact, the KCSO is on record as declining to prosecute the assault on Henry because he died of the overdose. They have not stated a reason for declining to prosecute the murder by overdose. Henry's mother has been forced to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court because for whatever reason, the Knox County Sheriff and the DA's office have declined to enforce, investigate, or prosecute violators of the law.

In short, they don't want to do their job, either because there may be some political ramifications, or because Henry was an addict, an "unattractive victim," as one assistant DA told Katie.

For me, I can't decide which explanation is more repugnant, and the truth is that regardless of which one they claim, they don't get to make that choice. Their oath is to uphold the law, without prejudice, and for whatever reason, political or pragmatic, they have collectively failed to do so.

The hate and intolerance, as displayed in the comments to this story, is giving them the political cover to do so. So let me ask you people something. What happens when you become an 'unattractive victim?' What happens when the powers that be decide that your rights are not worth defending because you don't meet their standards? What will you do then?

In fighting for Henry, Katie is not denying that he was a drug addict. She's not saying that he had no responsibility for his actions; in fact, she held him accountable in every way she could, even after he turned 18 and became a legal adult. They tried in patient and out patient treatment. They tried soft love, tough love, making rules, setting restrictions. In the end, she had to make the ultimate sacrifice of removing him from her home to protect her other children. Not because Henry was a danger, but because his siblings were suffering from his addiction, paying a price in fear and worry that they never should have to pay. I grew up with an alcoholic father, and I know the pain that inflicts on the family so I understand the painful choice Katie had to make.

In fighting for Henry, she's not trying to escape the burden of responsibility for making those choices; as a parent, she feels responsibility for everything that happens to all of her children and she will carry that weight for the rest of her life. Because of Henry's addiction, she had to make a brutally hard decision, and she will carry the consequences of that decision, right or wrong, to her grave with her.

She's suing because no matter how hard she's tried, nobody in the Knox County government gives a damn about Henry and what happened to him, and not only is that unfair to Henry, it means that it will happen again to another young person.

And another.
And another.
And it will keep happening again and again until somebody finally stands up and screams STOP! ENOUGH! You can't kill any more of our children!

And having stood up and said something, then that person must follow up and actually do something.

Our newspapers won't do it.
Our police won't do it.
Our DA won't do it.
Our medical examiner says she doesn't have the time or resources to do it.

So Katie and her family are doing it. Not to take the responsibility away from Henry, but to make sure that this doesn't happen again to any other family. Because Henry is not the only victim here.

For all to many people, Henry was just a junkie. But Henry was a son, a big brother, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, and a good kid. He was a talented musician with a desire to travel and see the world. He was a free spirit with a big heart and a bigger imagination. He was so much more than 'just a junkie,' and Katie wants us to see Henry, and not just Henry but all drug addicts, as who they are, not what they are; as brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives.

As people.

Because until we see them as people, we're comfortable as passing them off as 'just a junkie,' another 'unattractive victim' whose death is something to disregard rather than to mourn.

That's what this lawsuit is about. And that's why I stand behind Katie.


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