City Reporter 

City Reporter

10 Days Not Enough

Domestic-violence group seeks harsher penalties.

By Mary Cashiola

Jennifer Braddock's friends and family, who came together against domestic violence after Braddock's murder, met with representatives from the district attorney's officer earlier this week.

"We met to figure out how to make the system more responsive to victims," said Billy Bond, director of the Shelby County district attorney general office's domestic-violence prosecution unit. "We're always looking at ways to change things."

Pam Davis, Braddock's mother, believes the Police Department -- especially the Citizens Dispute system -- did not effectively handle the threats being made against Braddock by her ex-boyfriend, James Christopher Hudson. Hudson shot and killed Braddock and two friends in her East Memphis home in August. He then killed himself.

In the five years since they were together, Braddock repeatedly reported Hudson to police for vandalizing her property and threatening to kill her and her family.

"The way it is right now, a boyfriend and girlfriend will have an argument that becomes physical. The aggressor will leave and the victim will call the police. They'll come, but there's no one for them to arrest so they take a report, tell the victim they can take them to a shelter ... and then tell them to come down to Citizens Dispute," said Bond.

In September 2001, Hudson was released on bond and began to harass Braddock again, saying he would kill her if she didn't drop the charges against him. Though he violated the protective order against him, he was not rearrested.

Even if he had been arrested, however, it would have meant only 10 days in jail, something both Davis and Bond would like to see changed.

"If someone is really determined to get at you," said Bond, "10 days is not much of a deterrent." The only way the penalty becomes greater is if the abuser assaults the victim. But if they commit vandalism, it's just another 10 days.

Davis plans to work with the district attorney general's office in lobbying for stricter legislation.

"I feel like Billy Bond and [attorney general] Bill Gibbons are really interested in making changes," said Davis. "This is something everybody needs. There's not enough of a penalty. ... What good is a protective order if they're going to break it again and again and again and the maximum punishment is 10 days in jail?"


Special Housing

School board purchases residential facility.

By Mary Cashiola

Jim Mulroy is not sure he's prouder of his child who made an A in calculus at White Station or the one who learned to tie his shoes.

"Learning to tie his shoes or take his plate off the table had a greater impact on my life than calculus did," he said.

One of Mulroy's three children was enrolled at the Raineswood Residential Center, a facility that the school board voted unanimously Monday night to purchase for $1.1 million.

The residential center houses students with autism or pervasive learning disorders; they attend classes at other city schools but live at the facility. The school district had been leasing the building from the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee, but the staff was informed earlier this year of the diocese's decision to sell the property.

Mulroy and other parents, as well as residents of Raineswood, came out to support the decision. If the facility closed, the students would have been placed out-of-state, a cost the district staff estimates at $250,000 per student per year.

Having a child with autism tends to put parents under a lot of stress. As Raineswood parent Jodie Mack said, "When these children are good, they're really good, but when they're bad ... they are awesome."

Dr. Lynn Watson-Crain, director of the division of exceptional children, said having the children in Memphis is great for parents who want to visit their children on the weekends or take them out for an evening.

"The facility is older and not to code," said Watson-Crain. "Our interest is to make the property compliant to code and at the same time meet the needs of these children. The concept is to make it a world-class facility."

She said they would like to do respite care for younger children, as well as build a gymnasium at the facility. The center currently houses 21 students.


The Blotter

Absurd crimes from the local police files.

Another reason for grade inflation: On October 15th, a teacher at Colonial Middle School was working with a student when a parent walked into the classroom and began yelling. When the teacher turned around, the parent approached her in a threatening manner so she was asked to leave. Instead, the parent "threw several paper items" in the victim's direction. "Victim stated the altercation was due to the grade the suspect's child received" in her class "and fears what might transpire in the weeks to come."

Plastic guns don't hurt people; people hurt people: On October 17th, officers responded to a call about a person being wounded. The two victims had "become involved over" a plastic toy gun. First the two victims threw rocks at each other, then one picked up a piece of a glass bottle and struck the other on the head.

Do unto others: Officers responded to a suspicious-person complaint at Bountiful Blessings Church of God in Christ on Mississippi Blvd. on October 17th. A suspect had been writing letters to the church, threatening to harm Bishop Patterson and other members of the congregation. Officers were advised that the suspect leaves "the letters in the offerings on Sunday."

Spoil sport: On October 17th, the manager of a mobile home park received a call about children playing basketball in the street. The caller was not happy about the basketball and told the manager to do his job. When the manager of the park went to the caller's residence, the man told him "he was going to kick his ass if he didn't start doing his job and that he was going to kill him if he caused any problems."

To Catch a Crook

Sheriff's office uses billboards to capture fugitives.

By Janel Davis

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office is serious about catching criminals. To do so they have taken their message higher -- to billboards.

The office has partnered with Clear Channel Outdoor for use of 16 billboards across the city advertising the office's Web site where tips can be left about fugitives with outstanding warrants. Spokesperson Steve Shular said the office already has five of the billboards up.

"The first ones were put into play in February, and up until this point we've had 100,000 hits on the site," he said. "We've found that people like to look at the site in their free time, and once on the site they can see pictures of the criminals."

The tips from the Internet site have netted 500 arrests among the more than 59,000 people wanted by the county's Fugitive Division.

The billboards especially emphasize those wanted for DUI, child support, and drug offenses. They cost the county $27,000, which pays for the vinyl covering. The money came from drug-seizure funds, which can be used by law-enforcement agencies for drug education or drug-treatment facilities.

Additional expenses of more than $270,000, including artwork and installation, have been written off by Clear Channel. The billboards will be rotated to other locations when paid advertisements are put up in their place.

The billboard campaign will run for one year.


Payment Due

Mars Music files for debt deadline.

By Janel Davis

creditors wanting what's due them need to submit required information or lose almost a third. That's the message that the Mars Music company has sent to the long list of companies, individuals, and law firms it owes money to following its Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year.

In a motion presented to a Florida bankruptcy court, the liquidating trustee for the Ft. Lauderdale-based music company requested the court to set a December 1, 2003, deadline for creditors to submit their taxpayer identification number through a W-9 tax form before receiving any distributions.

Representatives from the company's law firm in Miami verified that the deadline had been approved. Bankruptcy laws allow for up to 31 percent of distributions to be withheld by debtors if the tax number is not provided.

Letters had been sent to all of the company's creditors with unsecured claims in August requesting the information, but several still had not submitted the information. A 5 percent distribution had been made to those with completed forms.

Tennessee creditors include The Tennessean newspaper, BSS Audio, Gibson Guitar, and Pearl Corporation in Nashville. Memphis creditors include Belz Enterprises, Trustee Bob Patterson, FedEx, various law firms, and The Memphis Flyer.

Mars Music opened its first store in 1997 and expanded to 20 states. The Memphis store at White Station and Poplar, the 50th in the company's chain, closed in October 2002.


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