Former Tennessee Speaker Glen Casada arrested in corruption probe

Former Tennessee Speaker Glen Casada arrested in corruption probe

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s disgraced former Home Speaker Glen Casada and his high aide have been arrested Tuesday on federal expenses together with bribery, kickbacks and conspiracy to commit cash laundering.

Their indictments observe the abrupt resignation in March of Republican Rep. Robin Smith, who pleaded responsible to federal wire fraud expenses involving Casada and his chief of employees, Cade Cothren. Afterward, hypothesis swirled about what extra expenses would possibly come within the corruption probe.

Casada resigned as speaker in 2019 however held onto his seat after phrase bought out that he and Cothren had exchanged sexually express textual content messages.
AP/Mark Humphrey

FBI brokers arrested Casada and Cothren at their properties Tuesday morning. If convicted, they every resist 20 years in jail. Each pleaded not responsible Tuesday and obtained pretrial launch with journey restricted to the center district of Tennessee until in any other case accredited.

The 20-count charging doc alleges Casada and Cothren exploited their positions of energy by working with one other unnamed lawmaker to funnel cash to themselves utilizing a political consulting agency — often called Phoenix Options, LLC — to hide their involvement.

Cothren registered the agency in New Mexico as a result of the state permits nameless registration of LLCs, and rebuffed requests for in-person conferences with Casada’s fellow lawmakers, saying the corporate representatives have been out of state.

Rep. Glen Casada
Casada and Cade Cothren may resist 20 years in jail, if convicted.
AP/Mark Humphrey

The trio deceived different Tennessee lawmakers in a conspiracy “to complement themselves by acquiring bribes and kickbacks from Cothren, in alternate for securing the approval of Phoenix Options as a mailer program vendor,” a Justice Division information launch mentioned.

Outdoors the courthouse afterward, Cothren’s legal professional, Cynthia Sherwood, informed reporters Cothren plans on “strongly defending the costs” and that he “appears very ahead to being vindicated.” Cothren himself informed a reporter, “the reality will come out.”

Casada and his attorneys declined to reply reporters’ questions as they left.

Home Speaker Cameron Sexton, who succeeded his fellow Republican within the management put up, testified as a witness within the investigation in entrance of a grand jury in March. Different lawmakers and former and present staffers testified as properly. Sexton has mentioned he has assisted federal authorities within the investigation since turning into speaker in 2019.

Revelations concerning the case additionally prompted lawmakers to go harder state marketing campaign finance and ethics necessities this 12 months.

“Right now is an effective day for Tennesseans as a result of we didn’t flip a blind eye on these felony actions,” Sexton mentioned.

Beneath her plea deal, Smith additionally promised to cooperate as a possible witness.

Casada resigned as speaker in 2019 however held onto his seat after revelations that he and Cothren had exchanged sexually express textual content messages about ladies years earlier. He isn’t working for reelection this 12 months. Cothren misplaced his legislative job within the texting scandal, however remained concerned in Republican politics.

FBI brokers searched the properties and places of work of a number of state lawmakers in January 2021, together with these of Casada and Smith, and the house of Cothren.

The charging paperwork revealed Tuesday say Cothren launched Phoenix Options with Smith’s and Casada’s “data and assist” to supply mail and consulting providers to lawmakers. All three claimed the agency was run by a “Matthew Phoenix” when actually it was a made-up alias for Cothren, and Casada knew the identify was fictitious, the paperwork allege.

The paperwork allege Smith emailed Cothren at one level saying he “could must assume the function of Matthew once more.” He replied saying, “Matthew, reporting for obligation!” and included a GIF of “a salute from Harrison Ford’s character Han Solo within the film Star Wars,” officers mentioned.

Federal investigators mentioned a separate textual content alternate confirmed Casada texted Cothren in late 2019 saying “I believe that is beginning off properly I’m happy!” Cothren later cautioned that “we simply have to verify nobody is aware of it’s me concerned,” they mentioned.

When Casada raised issues about lawmakers wanting “representatives from Phoenix” to make an in-person presentation, Cothren responded that they might remind lawmakers “they dwell in New Mexico. Should get on the telephone for it and I may disguise my voice if I has (sic) to.”

Phoenix Options obtained roughly $52,000 from the state in funds related to the mailer program, based on the charging paperwork.

In the meantime, Cothren continues to combat a subpoena over the state marketing campaign finance regulators’ investigation into the Religion Household Freedom Fund PAC.

Cade Cothren
Cothren, the previous chief of employees to Casada, leaves Federal Court docket on Aug. 23, 2022.
AP/Mark Humphrey

Forward of the 2020 GOP major election, the political motion committee focused then-Rep. Rick Tillis, the brother of North Carolina US Sen. Thom Tillis. Rick Tillis misplaced to Republican Rep. Todd Warner, who was amongst these topic to the FBI searches in January 2021.

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance determined to reopen its probe into the PAC after its treasurer testified in January that she is Cothren’s former girlfriend and opened the PAC as a result of Cothren requested her to. She mentioned Cothren assured her she was doing nothing fallacious and that she took no additional motion.

Cothren has knowledgeable the registry that he’s invoking his Fifth Modification proper towards self-incrimination and received’t abide by its subpoena. The registry handed the case off to state prosecutors. The state has sued over Cothren’s refusal.

Casada additionally was subpoenaed, and informed the registry he wasn’t concerned with the PAC. Casada opted to run for Williamson County clerk this 12 months as an alternative of his statehouse seat, and misplaced within the GOP major.

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