Pages

Saturday, 9 January 2021

FBI raids offices of four Tennessee state reps - one of whom is accused of sending sexually explicit texts and 'trying to buying votes'

 Federal prosecutors in Tennessee said Friday that FBI agents have searched the homes and offices of several state lawmakers, but have not yet revealed what prompted the raids. 

U.S. Attorney´s Office of Middle Tennessee spokesman David Boling confirmed the searches included the homes of Rep. Glen Casada, the former GOP House Speaker, and state Rep. Robin Smith and Casada's former chief of staff, Cade Cothren. 

The office of Republican Rep. Todd Warner was also searched, according to House Speaker Cameron Sexton.

FBI agents carried out raids on the homes and offices of Tennessee State Rep. Glen Casada (pictured on January 2020) and other politicians and their aides on Friday morning

FBI agents carried out raids on the homes and offices of Tennessee State Rep. Glen Casada (pictured on January 2020) and other politicians and their aides on Friday morning

In addition to raiding Casada's (front) home and office, they raided the home of his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren (in circle)

In addition to raiding Casada's (front) home and office, they raided the home of his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren (in circle)


Boling declined to provide any further information regarding the nature of the searches and how many lawmakers were involved.

A spokesman for the FBI referred all questions to the U.S. Attorney´s Office.

Casada, a Republican, resigned from his GOP House Speaker post in 2019 after a vote of no-confidence from the House Republican Caucus, following recent revelations he and Cothren had exchanged sexually explicit text messages about women in 2016. 

There were also claims that Casada had been involved in vote-buying attempts on a key education voucher bill in April 2019. Casada has denied the claims, which stemmed from his refusal to accept a tie vote that would've killed the voucher bill for nearly 40 minutes, until a Republican flipped and the bill was passed 50-48, Local 24 reported.   

Casada was reelected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in November 2020. 

Nearly 12 federal agents were seen entering the Cordell Hull legislative office building in Nashville just before 8am, spending several hours inside various offices before leaving them carrying boxes, the Tennessean reported.  

The newspaper reported that one of the FBI agents told a building facilities manager that the agency was executing search warrants and an agent was seen standing guard outside Casada's office. 

The FBI agents were seen walking through the fifth floor of the Cordell Hull legislative building and were seen carting away evidence from Smith's office, WPLN reported. 

FBI agents are seen carrying boxes of evidence in the fifth floor of the Cordell Hull building

FBI agents are seen carrying boxes of evidence in the fifth floor of the Cordell Hull building

The home and office of Rep. Robin Smith was raided by the FBI Friday morning
Rep. Todd Warner's office was also raided

The home and office of Rep. Robin Smith was raided by the FBI Friday morning, as was Rep. Todd Warner's office, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton said

Casada stepped down from his GOP House Speaker position in 2019, following a series of controversies
Rep. Kent Calfee's office was also searched by FBI agents Friday

Casada (left) stepped down from his GOP House Speaker position in 2019, following a series of controversies. Rep. Kent Calfee's (right) office was also searched by FBI agents Friday

FBI agents were seen arriving at the Cordell Hull legislative office (pictured) in Nashville Friday, shortly before 8am, to carry out searches of the lawmakers' offices

FBI agents were seen arriving at the Cordell Hull legislative office (pictured) in Nashville Friday, shortly before 8am, to carry out searches of the lawmakers' offices

Facility staff were also seen in Rep. Kent Calfee's office, using a drill to help agents unlock a desk inside. 

Calfee told the newspaper Friday morning that he 'didn't have a clue' and 'hadn't heard' that FBI agents had been in his office. 

Sexton said that his understanding was that Calfee 'is not part of the investigation,' the Tennessean reported. 

NewsChannel 5 reported that an FBI agent was seen leaving Smith's office while carrying a box.

Smith is a former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party and reported to be a close ally of Casada's.  

FBI agents were said to have arrived at Casada, Smith, Warner and Cothren's homes at about 7am, the news station reported. 

Agents were seen leaving Casada's home carrying a couple of boxes of potential evidence, with the lead agent leaving his home about four hours after arriving at the scene. 

FBI were also seen carrying boxes of evidence out of Cothren's home, while former  Casada aide Holt Whitt was seen being driven down the street from his home, talking to agents in the back of an unmarked car and later giving them his smartphone.   

Whitt is Sexton's interim chief-of-staff and Casada's director of legislation. Unlike other Casada former staff members, he remained in the speaker's office after Casada left.    

Republican Gov. Bill Lee told reporters Friday that he had spoken to Sexton, a Republican from Crossville, Tennessee, about the searches, describing them as 'FBI raids.'

'It´s certainly very concerning. I know very little about that. There´s been no FBI outreach to us,' Lee said. 'But I have confidence that Speaker Sexton is on top of the situation and we´ll learn more as this unfolds.'

Sexton later told reporters that he was in 'full cooperation' with law enforcement authorities, adding that he had been made aware of an ongoing investigation into several lawmakers since taking over the top leadership seat in mid-2019. 

He declined to provide details about the nature of the investigation.

'I think this day is a sad day for Tennessee and the General Assembly,' Sexton said. 'As we move forward, friends and colleagues, I´m not going to sit here and hypothesize about what is or what isn´t based on past actions. I´m just here merely talking about the actions of today and how we´ve been cooperating and we´re asking the rest of our colleagues and members to do the same.'

The House speaker later said there was no ethics investigation currently launched against the lawmakers whose offices had been raided by the FBI.

Sexton said three staffers were also subject to Friday's FBI search and were put on paid administrative leave.  

They are his interim chief-of-staff Holt, Calfee's legislative assistant Nadine Korby and Casada's legislative assistant Carol Simpson. 

In addition to his role in the controversy that led to Casada stepping down from his GOP House Speaker position in August 2019, Cothren was also the center of other controversies

Cothren allegedly used cocaine at a legislative office years prior to becoming Casada's chief of staff and supposedly used racist language to describe then-Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and made inappropriate towards advances toward ex-interns, staffers, and lobbyists. 

Cothren was also on the receiving end of allegations of doctoring emails from black student activist Justin Jones to make it seem as if Jones had violated bond conditions following his arrest at Casada's office in February 2019. 

Cothren and Casada have denied allegations of doctoring the emails.  

Casada and Cothren did not immediately respond to text messages seeking comment. Smith and Warner did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

While no legislators or staffers were reported to have been taken into custody in connection with the Friday raids, Tennessee Sen. Katrina Robinson was arrested and indicted on 24 counts of theft and embezzlement from government programs and 24 counts of wire fraud in July 2020. 

Robinson is accused of using federal grant money from her for-profit nursing college to buy a car for her daughter, as well as pay wedding and honeymoon expenses legal fees for her divorce and other purchases, according to the Tennessean. 

It's unclear if there is any connection between the Friday raids and Robinson's charges.  

No comments:

Post a comment