A clever Nashville defense attorney and lack of a judge's signature appear to be key reasons why thousands of people charged with minor offenses won't be prosecuted.
Nashville's News 2 first reported on Thursday that around 4,300 citations for crimes like marijuana possession, driving on revoked licenses or trespassing were withdrawn this week by Davidson County's Presiding General Sessions Judge Michael Mondelli.
For years in Metro Nashville, no one is quite sure how long, there was a procedure to handle those not making their booking appearance at the citations processing room in the Justice A. A. Birch Building.
The names of those not appearing on their booking date and the citations were sent to the Metro Criminal Clerk's office.
At the Clerk's office, Nashville's News 2 has learned the citation was stamped with the letters "FTB", failure to be booked, and sent to the Metro Nashville Police Department.
Sources said the document "acted as a warrant" so police officers could serve those missing their booking appearance.
However, a Nashville defense attorney recently noticed this practice on his client's citation and discovered it lacked a judges signature as required by law.
He brought it up in General Sessions court where his client faced misdemeanor charges, and the judge dismissed the case.
The dismissal alarmed Metro prosecutors and Nashville police, who then brought the issue to Presiding General Session Judge Michael Mondelli.
Due to the issue, Mondelli issued an order on Wednesday that changes the practice that led to the 4,300 citations withdrawn after their one-year statute of limitations had run out on what was an improperly issued warrant.
The order requires what are called Bench Warrants "for each defendant" that, according to state law, must be signed by a General Sessions judge.
The new practice, according to a Nashville's News 2 source, indicates that 2,400 people charged with citations will now be prosecuted with the bench warrants.
Judge Mondelli did not respond to a request for an interview on the issue.