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News briefs from around the state

News briefs from around the state

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011 8:01 pm

Feds say 25 indicted for marijuana trafficking MEMPHIS (AP) — A Memphis police officer and 24 other people have been charged with distributing marijuana and methamphetamine as part of a drug organization that extends beyond Memphis and the mid-South, federal prosecutors said Thursday. Memphis police patrolman Eric Johnson and 24 others were indicted by two separate grand juries and charged with distributing more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, said Edward Stanton, U.S. Attorney for West Tennessee. One man who was charged with marijuana distribution was also charged with distributing methamphetamine. The defendants conspired to possess and sell the drugs from October 2010 to July of this year, the indictment said. Stanton said the arrests were part of a two-year investigation. “It has national implications,” Stanton said of the investigation. The charges carry a penalty of 10 years to life in prison, upon conviction. Johnson, who has been on the force since February 2006, also was charged for failing to reveal his knowledge about the drug distribution ring. Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong declined to say whether Johnson used his authority as a police officer to sell drugs. ——— Arson inmate getting out early for cooperation KNOXVILLE (AP) — A man who confessed to setting dozens of forest fires in Tennessee will be getting out of prison early for helping train forestry officials. John Wesley Irons’ mandatory minimum sentence of seven years was cut to five years Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Tom Varlan, who cited the inmate’s cooperation in demonstrating his firebug skills to the U.S. Forest Service. The 64-year-old Irons will appear in a new training film for the agency, according to The Knoxville News Sentinel. Irons pleaded guilty earlier this year to setting two fires that burned 26 acres of timber on Black Mountain in the Cherokee National Forest. Defense attorney Gregory P. Isaacs said his client has fulfilled most of the five-year term while awaiting sentencing in the March 2007 blaze. ——— Curfew imposed at Capitol NASHVILLE (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is imposing a nighttime curfew on the Capitol complex in response to what it calls deteriorating safety conditions surrounding anti-Wall Street protests. The Department of General Services announced Thursday that the Capitol grounds, the War Memorial Courtyard and the Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville will be closed to those without specific permission each night between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. State workers began putting up signs around the plaza about the curfew Thursday afternoon. Spokeswoman Lola Potter said the policy would be enforced once the signs were up, meaning the Occupy Nashville protesters who had camped on the Legislative plaza the last three weeks could be arrested if they stay overnight because the new policy specifically bans “overnight occupancy.” The plaza is a frequent cut-through for pedestrians and adjacent to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and War Memorial Auditorium, where nighttime events often end after the 10 p.m. curfew. Potter said the policy is not meant to affect people “strolling across the plaza” after a play or concert. “If you’re not creating a disturbance, no one’s going to bother you,” she said. ——— Judge asked to bar media in Russian adoption case NASHVILLE (AP) — A Tennessee mother who sent her adopted Russian child back to his home country wants to exclude the media from court hearings in a lawsuit filed against her by the adoption agency. Torry Hansen was living in Shelbyville in April 2010 when she sent her then-7-year-old son on a plane to Moscow by himself with a note saying she didn’t want to be his mother anymore because the child had psychological problems. The incident sparked international outrage and Russia threatened to suspend adoptions to the United States, but did not. The two countries earlier this year came to an agreement that will increase oversight of adopting families to curtail possible maltreatment. No criminal charges were filed against Hansen, but her adoption agency, World Association for Children and Parents, filed a lawsuit seeking child support in Bedford County Circuit Court. Judge Lee Russell had scheduled a hearing Thursday to decide whether to allow the agency to add Justin Hansen, as the boy was called by his adoptive family in America, as a plaintiff in the case. But Torry Hansen’s attorney filed a last-minute motion Wednesday to place the entire case under seal of confidentiality and bar the media from courtroom hearings on the case. Hansen’s attorney, Sandra Smith, did not return several phone messages left this week by The Associated Press.

Published in The Messenger 10.28.11

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