A black activist in Nashville, Tennessee is accusing the top staffer for Tennessee’s House Speaker of framing him to try and put him in jail.

Justin Jones, who is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University’s divinity school, has been trying to get a meeting with House Speaker Glen Casada (R) in order to have a bust of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest — the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan — removed from the state capitol. However, according to Nashville-based Newschannel 5, Casada has refused to meet with him and other activists about the bust.

The tension between Jones and Casada escalated earlier this year in late February, when Jones was arrested on assault charges for allegedly throwing a cup into Speaker Casada’s elevator. After signing an agreement stating that he would have no further contact with Casada, Jones was released on bond. Should he have any further contact with the speaker, Jones’ bond could be revoked and he could go back to jail.

However, Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk filed a motion to do just that, justifying it by citing an email — allegedly from Jones to Speaker Casada — dated on March 1, after the agreement was signed, which would be a violation of the no-contact agreement. But Jones showed Newschannel 5 a copy of the original email, which was dated February 25th — prior to the signing of the agreement. Newschannel 5’s Phil Williams tweeted a copy of the email DA Funk’s office received from Cothren, with the March 1 date on the email that Jones actually sent on February 25.

Jones alleges that Speaker Casada’s chief of staff, Cade Cothren, altered the date on the email, framing him in an effort to send him back to jail.

“This many months later, I have not had any contact with Casada or have not been at the Capitol. So I followed the no-contact order,” Jones said. “If this would have went through to revoke my bond, I would be in jail right now until my court date. So this is not something I take lightly.”

“You have some of the most powerful people in this state who are willing to file a false report and to file a false paperwork and to manipulate paperwork to take your freedom away,” he added.

In addition to allegedly framing Jones, Cothren also sent racist text messages that a “former acquiantance” of Cothren provided to Williams. One said “black people are idiots,” and another text apparently referring to Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston contained the n-word.

Neither Jones nor Casada immediately responded to Grit Post’s requests for comment. This article will be updated in the event of a response. DA Funk has requested a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations.


Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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