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Boy's Love For K-9s Lives On

Cody Landers’ smile warmed the hearts of all who knew him. The little boy’s dream of being a K-9 officer when he grew up lived on this week in a fundraiser to benefit the Greene County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit.

Cody died two years ago in an all-terrain vehicle accident. His bright outlook on life was exemplified in T-shirts worn at the “Cody Landers Kindness Day” fundraiser and again on Wednesday at the check presentation.

The fundraiser held Monday at Pizza Inn raised $3,192.47. Cody’s family and teacher presented the check Wednesday to the Greene County Sheriff’s Department.

Written on the back of the T-shirts, in the uneven script of a 5-year-old, was a reproduction of a message the Nolachuckey Elementary School pre-kindergarten student wrote just days before the fatal Sept. 14, 2017 accident: “I want to be K-9 officer — Cody.”

Cody’s fascination with all things K-9 came after two sheriff’s department deputies and their canine partners visited his school. He told teacher Beth Sutton afterward he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“He said, ‘I want to help people and keep them safe with my dog,’” Sutton said.

Mother Ashley Landers said Cody was just as enthusiastic about his goal at home.

“Cody’s dream was to be a K-9 officer. (Deputy) Bill Carr came with his dog Duke and it inspired him,” she said.

Deputy Michael Ball and his K-9 Simba also visited the school and made an impression.

“He was in love with them,” she said.

Cody’s 4-year-old sister, Makenzie Landers, is now in Sutton’s pre-K class at Nolachuckey. Her class talked about the meaning of community on Wednesday.

Makenzie helped lead the discussion.

“(She) said he wanted everybody to be friends and have love for each other, and he wanted everybody to be kind to each other, because he was kind to others,” Sutton said.

Cody’s dream will not be forgotten, Sutton said.

“It’s phenomenal the way the community comes together to support our K-9 officers because of Cody’s love for others,” she said.

Sheriff Wesley Holt accepted the check on behalf of the K-9 unit. Holt said he and the K-9 deputies are very appreciative of the efforts of everyone who helped make the fundraiser a success.

“It means a lot to us. Those K-9 officers work real hard and they’re always on patrol and to earn extra money to get necessities like chew toys and leashes and (protective K-9) vests, it really helps us out,” Holt said. “It keeps (Cody’s) memory alive, and that’s something he wanted to be, a K-9 officer. We thank the family.”

Cody’s bright smile and kind nature was known through the community.

“He would do anything to help anybody,” Ashley Landers said. “We just appreciate everybody who helped us do (the) benefit and the community supporting us.”

Makenzie Landers displayed the same ready smile and friendliness her brother was known for throughout the community. Makenzie shook hands with Holt and others Wednesday at the check presentation.

“She talks about him all the time,” Ashley Landers said.

The check donation to the K-9 unit marks the second year of fundraising in Cody’s memory. Efforts last year provided upgrades to playground equipment at Nolachuckey Elementary School.

“Cody had the biggest heart of any child that I have taught,” Sutton said last week. “He was always smiling, and he would do anything to bring a smile to your face. He wanted to see people happy and wanted to help others.”


Local_news
Lee Allen Britton Trial Continued To 2020

A January 2020 trial date has been set in Greene County Criminal Court for Lee Allen Britton, charged in 2017 with attempted first-degree murder in connection with the shooting of Baileyton neighbor Carmen Weems.

Judge John F. Dugger Jr. last week set a Jan. 21, 2020, trial date for Britton, 49, of Jud Neal Loop. Britton remains held on $400,000 bond in the Greene County Detention Center.

Britton is also charged with felony counts of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon involved, aggravated rape, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated burglary and aggravated assault.

Weems required a lengthy recovery period from injuries suffered after Britton allegedly fired a shotgun at close range in her direction early on the morning of July 9, 2017.

Presentments served on Britton in 2018 provide some details of the attack on Weems, who lost part of one leg from injuries suffered in the encounter. Britton had known Weems for 20 years before the incident.

The presentments state Britton, who was at Weems’ house, left and then returned with a 12-gauge shotgun. He acted “with the intent to commit and assault where (Weems) suffered serious bodily injuries,” according to the especially aggravated burglary presentment.

The aggravated assault presentment states that Britton knowingly caused a minor also in the house “to reasonably fear bodily injury” or death by his allegedly firing the shotgun at the victim. Weems said in a 2017 interview that her 3-year-old daughter was sitting next to her on a couch when she was shot, but the child did not suffer any physical injuries.

The 43-year-old mother of two suffered a severe leg wound that required amputation of part of her left leg.

According to a Facebook post after the incident, Britton allegedly told Weems that he was going to kill her and pointed the shotgun at her. At the last moment before Britton allegedly pulled the trigger, Weems wrote that she got up and redirected the gun blast, which struck her leg.

After the shot was fired, Britton allegedly grabbed Weems and dragged her into a bedroom, where she became weak from loss of blood during a three-hour ordeal while allegedly being held captive.

Britton then went home and told a relative that Weems had been shot, according to a sheriff’s department report. The relative called 911.

Another child of Weems was not at home the night of the shooting.

Britton “did shoot (Weems) with the intent to kill her,” a sheriff’s department warrant said.

Britton will be represented at trial by the Office of the Public Defender. A jury trial scheduled to begin on Sept. 24 was rescheduled to the January 2020 date by Dugger.

Assistant District Attorney General Ritchie Collins said Wednesday that prosecutors were ready to proceed this month with the trial, which has been continued three times.

Todd Estep, assistant public defender representing Britton, said the continuation was granted by Dugger at his request.

"My office still needed time to work on the case. We're still actually investigating and we needed more time to prepare," Estep said Thursday.


Local_news
Election Commission
Union Temple Church OK'd As Polling Place

Voters in the West Pines precinct in northern Greene County will have a new place to cast their ballots in upcoming elections.

This week, the Greene County Election Commission approved Union Temple Freewill Baptist Church as the new voting location for the West Pines precinct.

The new voting site is needed after closure of West Pines Elementary School at the end of the last school year. The school had served as the precinct’s polling place.

Two locations were recommended to the commission, and both were explored. Justin Reaves, election office staff member, said that both were churches — Union Temple FWB and Pleasant Hill.

Pleasant Hill had limited parking as well as issues with handicapped accessible entrances and exits, Reaves said.

The church is located atop a hill, and voters would need to drive through the adjacent cemetery to reach the building. Permission to use the church would be required from not only the church, but the organization that governs the cemetery, he said.

Union Temple was found to have a large fellowship hall that could be used for elections. It also has a large, marked parking lot and handicapped accessible entrances and exits, Reaves said.

Union Temple’s pastor has said that the congregation would be pleased to be able to provide the community service and asked for a schedule of election dates over the next few years to ensure the fellowship hall would be open for use for elections, election commissioners were told.

Union Temple church is about 150 feet outside of the voting precinct, but state law allows voting locations to be up to a half mile outside a precinct’s boundaries.

TOWN ELECTION COSTS, BUILDING UPDATE

In other business, the commission approved an invoice to be submitted to the Town of Greeneville for reimbursement of expenses for the municipal election on Aug. 1. The invoice totaled $19,334.

The commission also OK’d a list of items to request that the county government dispose of as surplus.

As the Election Commission prepares for moving to new offices in the former Consumer Credit Union building off East Andrew Johnson Highway, it is identifying items that are broken that need disposal, Reaves said.

The Greene County Commission approved purchase of the former credit union building at its August meeting to meet space needs of both the Election Commission and Greene County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

The building that currently houses both on North Main Street is in need of repairs, and the Greene County Commission will consider giving it to neighboring Walters State Community College. The resolution proposing the donation states that the property’s value is less than what is needed to make all the repairs, which include a new roof, rewiring and sewer work.

The election commission also reviewed a sampling of the 307 new voter registrations that have been received since Aug. 13.


Local_news
'Ed' Kershaw Law Practice Resumes

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility of the state Supreme Court has reinstated Greeneville lawyer Edward “Ed” Kershaw to the practice of law.

Kershaw was formally suspended on Aug. 2 from practicing law by the Supreme Court of Tennessee for a period of four months, with one month served on active suspension and the remaining three months on probation, according to the BPR.

Earlier, the BPR upheld Kershaw’s suspension. In earlier appeals hearings, Kershaw maintained he already had served the suspension period.

The board suspended Kershaw’s law license in connection with a heated courtroom verbal exchange in 2017 with General Sessions Court Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr. The judge found Kershaw in contempt of court. Subsequent comments that Kershaw paid to have published as advertisements in The Greeneville Sun and posts he made on social media were also reviewed by the BPR, which oversees oversees the ethical conduct of attorneys statewide.

Kershaw, 49, has two unrelated driving under the influence charges filed earlier this year by Greeneville police pending.

A Dec. 18 trial date in Greene County Criminal Court is set for Kershaw in those cases.

BPR ORDER

Kershaw practices law at 131 S. Main St. He maintained at an April appeal hearing that he already served a law license suspension imposed last year by a BPR panel appointed to review his actions.

A hearing before a BPR panel was held in August 2018. It ordered in September 2018 that Kershaw’s license to practice law in Tennessee be suspended for four months, including one month served on active suspension, with the three remaining months on probation.

An order filed Aug. 2 reiterates the finding that Kershaw “made comments toward the court and asked questions of a witness which were intended for no other purpose but to embarrass the witness and disrupt the judicial proceedings” and also published statements in The Greeneville Sun about the court “which Mr. Kershaw knew were untrue and were intended to call into question the judge’s qualifications and integrity.”

Statements Kershaw made on social media “were made with reckless disregard and called into question the qualifications and integrity of all the judges in Greene County,” the order states.

With the 30 days of active suspension complete, the three-month probationary period imposed by the BPR will begin. Probation conditions include stipulations that Kershaw contact the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program for evaluation, and if TLAP determines that a monitoring agreement is appropriate, he will comply with its terms and conditions.

Kershaw is prohibited during suspension or probation from incurring “new complaints of misconduct that relate to conduct occurring during the period of suspension and probation and which results in the recommendation by the board that discipline be imposed.”

Kershaw was also ordered to pay $4,525 in expenses and costs relating to the matter to the BPR within 90 days of Aug. 2.

The panel found in its September 2018 judgment that relative to the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct, Kershaw “violated ethical duties owed by him to the public, to the legal system, and to the profession, and that (he) acted intentionally,” posing “potentially serious injury to the public, to the legal system and to the profession.”

The petition for discipline was filed in April 2018 by the Board of Professional Responsibility. It addressed three separate reports of alleged misconduct.

COURTROOM CONFRONTATION

The first centered on events that took place during a preliminary hearing before Bailey on Nov. 6, 2017, in General Sessions Court involving a client of Kershaw. An exchange of words between Kershaw and Bailey resulted in Kershaw being cited by the judge for contempt of court.

The second involved the content of advertisements taken out by Kershaw in The Greeneville Sun after the preliminary hearing.

The third report concerned Facebook comments posted by Kershaw after the preliminary hearing.

At the August 2018 disciplinary hearing, the primary question under review was if Kershaw’s alleged actions diminished the public’s respect for the judiciary branch.

The Greene County General Sessions courtroom was full at the time of the Nov. 6, 2017, exchange between Kershaw and Bailey. An audio recording of the hearing was reviewed by the panel after the August 2018 proceeding.

At the 2017 preliminary hearing, a woman offering testimony became emotional while discussing alleged abuse by the defendant, who was Kershaw’s client. She was handed a box of tissues. Kershaw said, “Can I get some tissues too, because I have to cry as well.”

“Mr. Kershaw’s statement was made with sarcastic intent,” the petition for discipline states.

Kershaw asked the woman testifying that when the defendant “yanked you into the car, did the angels magically protect you from getting marks?”

Bailey then spoke to Kershaw.

“Mr. Kershaw, you are trying my patience today,” the judge said.

“That goes both ways,” Kershaw responded.

Bailey then held Kershaw in criminal contempt, which resulted in a $50 fine. The contempt finding was upheld on appeal in July 2018 by a Criminal Court judge from another area of the state who was assigned to hear the appeal. Kershaw recently said the conviction has been expunged from his record.

A judge appointed by the state Supreme Court told Kershaw at the April hearing that since the Supreme Court never formalized his suspension from legal practice, it has not been served.

Kershaw maintained at the hearing that there were flaws in the panel’s findings, asserting that he did not act out of order during the November 2017 courtroom confrontation with Bailey or overstep ethical rules for lawyers in subsequent newspaper ads and Facebook posts.

PENDING DUI CHARGES

A Greene County Criminal Court grand jury returned presentments in July charging Kershaw with DUI and other offenses stemming from two incidents earlier this year.

Kershaw was charged with driving under the influence by Greeneville police on two different occasions, March 28 and April 14. He waived his preliminary hearing in General Sessions Court following both arrests.

Waiving the preliminary hearing resulted in a Greene County Grand Jury hearing evidence regarding both incidents, which returned the presentments on the charges. The grand jury’s actions are not judgments of guilt, but indicate sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed to merit a trial.

Presentments were returned on charges of DUI and violation of the open container law stemming from the March 28 incident. On March 28, Greeneville police officers were called to the Lee’s Market on West Summer Street following a call about a car “being driven by an intoxicated male” that had pulled into the store’s parking lot.

When officers arrived at the store, the officers spotted the car in question and saw Kershaw leaving the store carrying a 12-pack of beer, a police report said.

Kershaw refused field sobriety tests. Police said in a report that his speech “was slow and he had the smell of alcoholic beverages about his person.” An open can of beer that was cold to the touch was found in the console of the car, the report said.

Presentments were also returned charging Kershaw with three counts of DUI, a violation of the open container law and a failure to yield to a traffic control device stemming from a traffic stop on April 14.

According to an arrest report filed by Greeneville police, officers responded to a report of a person driving recklessly near Bernard Avenue.

Officers spotted the car on West Bernard Avenue, and it continued onto Park Street and made a right-hand turn onto Unaka Street without coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, the police report said.

Kershaw told officers he did not have anything to drink before the stop, the report said, and he refused to perform field sobriety tests.

Officers saw an open beer container in the car when Kershaw retrieved his insurance and registration, according to the report.

The pending charges have no bearing on the law license suspension order.

Kershaw declined to be interviewed for this report.