Alleged extortion attempt could mean new intern rule - WKRN News 2

Alleged extortion attempt could mean new intern rule

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - An alleged extortion attempt against a state senator prompts talk of a new rule regarding interns on Tennessee's Capitol Hill.

According to an affidavit filed in April, 27-year-old Joel Watts of Clarksville attempted to extort $10,000 from Republican Senator Paul Stanley, threatening to reveal an affair he had with his former intern, 22-year-old McKensie Morrison, a student at Austin Peay State University.

The senator, who prefers anonymity for now, wants a penalty of censure for lawmakers breaking a proper working relationship with interns.

Several top lawmakers say it's a "sad day" when they're thinking of such a rule.

Court recordings suggest that Watts was Morrison's boyfriend when she was having an affair with Stanley and Watts had the explicit pictures to prove it and threatened to release the photos should he not hand over the $10,000.

Watts was arrested and charged after a controlled exchange Stanley organized with the help of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

On Monday, Watts appeared in court for a preliminary hearing.  Sen. Stanley took the stand.

Watts' Attorney:   "Mr. Stanley, the $10,000 that was mentioned in a text message, whose idea was that?"
Sen. Stanley:  "The $10,000... I would say request, I believe came from Mr. Watts."

When asked why he wanted to give his money to Watts the senator said he does not "negotiate with criminals."

"That is kind of why we are here today," he said.  "I did not offer to give anything.  He demanded an amount."

After the Senator's 10 minutes on the witness stand, Watts' case was bound over to the grand jury.  Click here to listen to audio of the proceeding.

The 47-year-old Stanley is married and has two children.

He was elected to the Senate in 2006 after serving eight years in the state House and appointed chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee in January.

He resigned from his chairmanship Wednesday.

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