Questions remain about waiving cooling off period for developer - WKRN News 2

Questions remain about 'waiving' 2nd cooling off period for Nashville developer

Posted: Updated: Jun 23, 2014 08:58 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Of all the questions raised by the initial domestic assault charges against well-known Nashville contractor David Chase about the "waiving" of a 12-hour "cooling off" period per General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland after a phone call from Chase's attorney, not as much attention has gone to Chase's release by a night court commissioner on the second assault charge that also had no "cooling-off" period.

Now comes questions from the Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence and a prominent Nashville defense attorney whose differing views on the "cooling-off" period illustrate why state lawmakers said last week they plan to revisit the statute that allows for the 12-hour hold.

Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson first raised the issue in a seven-page letter sent June 16 to General Sessions Presiding Judge William Higgins whose office oversees the night court commissioners.

In the highly critical letter, Chief Anderson devoted several sentences to the "cooling off" question for the second domestic assault arrest.

He wrote that Chase was "now before Commissioner [Thomas] Nelson charged with a violent felony assault on the same victim. Yet Commissioner Nelson, with no explanation, waived the 12-hour cooling off period."

Presiding Judge Higgins did not respond for a comment request made through his office.

On Friday, Higgins and other General Sessions judges announced new guidelines to address the concerns.

In the order, Higgins wrote, "In all cases involving domestic violence, conditions of bail, including, but not limited to the 12-hour hold... shall not be altered unless [by three appointed judges] and all interested parties are offered an opportunity to be heard."

Monday, Night Court Commissioner Carolyn Piphus told News 2 that Commissioner Nelson was "not working this week."

All the developments that have unfolded over the course of the last few weeks have left many with questions.

"I am very surprised that there has not been a lot of attention on this [alleged] perpetrator being released a second time," said Kathy Walsh, the executive director of the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Assault.

"I can't imagine why [Commissioner Nelson] would waive the 12-hour hold.  The statute is very clear," she said.

Court records show an arrest warrant was issued for Chase shortly after 1 p.m. on the afternoon of Sunday, June 9.

It was just a few hours after the alleged second incident of the domestic assault Sunday morning, which occurred just hours after the first.

The court documents show Night Court Commissioner Nelson wrote "waived" in a blank portion of the bail order after the words “12-hour hold expires.”

The bail document shows a checked box indicating Chase was a "threat to the alleged victim," and a checked box, that as a condition for bond, "the defendant"..."stay away from the home of the alleged victim and to stay away from any other location where the victim is likely to be." 

Walsh, the advocate for domestic abuse victims, finds that troubling.

"What we see in cases often is that it's the arrest that can trigger more violence," she said. "So it does not matter if it’s the next day after the incident, or a week after the incident,"

On another side of this issue, Nashville defense attorney Jim Todd thinks there's room legally where there would not be a "cooling off" period.

"It’s not a mandatory condition," he told News 2. "In fact, the [Tennessee] Court of Appeals has ruled that Bradley County's 12-hour hold was illegal."

Todd said he "cannot read Commissioner Nelson's mind, but I have to think he felt that a sufficient period of time had elapsed since the incident to protect the victim upon release."

The defense attorney adamantly believes there should not be automatic conditions for "cooling off" periods because "every case is different."

He added that "it’s a discretionary condition that can be put on by a judge after a finding that there is an immediate threat. I don't think a line in the sand is ever a good idea for courts, that is why you elect or appoint people to wear robes. The 8th Amendment guarantees you the right to bond, and if that is going to be abridged, I think a court should put in writing why they are doing that."

Those arguments from law enforcement officials like Nashville's police chief, advocates for domestic abuse victims and defense attorneys are likely to be heard next year on Tennessee's Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers from both parties indicated last week they plan to address legislation changing the "12-hour cooling off period or hold."

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