Local Government

Tennessee Cops Posed as a Defense Attorney To Get Suspect To Incriminate Himself


Here's a whopper of an opinion (PDF) from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

It seems that in 2008, Monroe County Sheriff's Detectives Doug Brannon and Pat Henry actually posed as a federal defense attorney in an attempt to get incriminating information out of suspect John Edward Dawson, who was in jail on a host of charges, including theft and drug distribution. Not only that, but in doing so, they also talked Dawson into refusing to cooperate with his public defender and to plead guilty to the charges against him. They communicated with Dawson via a jailhouse informant.

Dawson's public defender was so taken aback by his assurances to her that he had a "federal lawyer" who had worked out all of his charges, that she actually asked for a psychiatric evaluation. When all this came to light, Dawson's (real) attorney asked for a continuance in his case so she could assess the damage. Remarkably, Tennessee Tenth Judicial Judge Amy Reedy refused the request, ruling that Dawson made "a real dumb decision" and that he had "picked his poison."

The appeals court disagreed.

[T]he conduct of the law enforcement officers in this case, and in particular Detective Henry, is so egregious that it simply cannot go unchecked.  That Detective Henry would illegally pose as an attorney and arrange the circumstances of the defendant's case to make it appear as though he had successfully undertaken legal representation of the defendant is abhorrent.  That the detective would specifically instruct the defendant not to communicate the relationship to his appointed counsel, in what we can only assume was an effort to enlarge the time for the detective to gain incriminating information from the defendant, renders completely reprehensible the state action in this case.  Given the unconscionable behavior of the state actors in this case and the fact that the defendant was essentially prevented from proving prejudice through no fault of his own, we have no trouble concluding that the only appropriate remedy in this case is the dismissal of all the indictments.

According to KnoxNews.com, Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens and DA Steven Bebb had some knowledge of the ruse, but did nothing to stop it.

During a hearing on the issue, Sheriff Bivens testified that he was vaguely aware of Henry's plot and did not see "a problem with it," adding, however that "if it's illegal, of course, I don't want to do it." Bivens did not order a probe of Henry's actions or take any disciplinary action; nor did Bebb initiate charges of impersonating a lawyer.

Assistant District Attorney General Bebb then successfully persuaded Judge Reedy to overlook it all.

Accountability tally: Henry apparently now works as a securities investigator for Regions Bank. From what I can tell, Brannon still works for the Monroe County Sheriff's Department. Reedy, Bivens, and Bebb are all still on the job.

ADDENDUM: Post corrected. The court decision does not suggest Assistant District Attorney General Bebb was aware of the ruse as it was happening. However, after he was made aware of it, he did continue to argue that it shouldn't affect Dawson's conviction.

NEXT: The State Pension Time Bomb

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  1. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow…

  2. Wow. Just amazing. This ought to be made into a movie.

    1. They kind of did. That’s what matt damon does in “The Departed”- except he’s helping the baddies. He turns off the cameras and all the other cops are cool with it.

      1. They actually did something similar in “Cop Out” with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan.

        That scene was kinda funny. The rest of the movie was absolute shit.

    2. Hey Balko did you see Jimmy O’Keefe struck again? This is awesome and you are a douche for all your pouting about wanting to film cops, but when O’Keefe bangs on liberals using good old fashion journalism you criticize him. You do that because you are a liberal, and you want to protect stupid shit like NPR and PBS because you may be working there soon. You all ready have the voice for it. Weiner!

      1. Why we don’t allow cousins to marry: Exhibit 1.

        1. Never seen this troll before. Is he/she a cop fellator or just wandered over from Townhall or something like that?

      2. This NPR thing is awesome. NPR shithead laughs when 2 Arab imposters talk bad about Jews and call NPR National Palestine Radio. Ha ha!! that is too funny. Radley I think you should write a column right away denouncing O’Keefe, he clearly has gone too far. Hypocrite!

        1. Hello Shit Facktory!

      3. Hi Pat.

        I just want you to know that, for the time it took me to read what you wrote, I was paying attention to you.

        I don’t want you to be an unhappy troll.

      4. do you even know the difference in the two situations??? Or are you too dense to see how they are totally unrelated. And good old fashion journalism?? O’Keefe wouldn’t know it if he stepped in it with bare feet. He is a first class idiot.

        1. A very rich first class idiot and you are just jealous.

    3. It was on an episode of Law & Order

  3. Radley, how in the world did you manage to avoid delivering this nutpunch back in October? I see you did post it in the Agitator.


    I just happened to see the youtube link this morning.

    1. Am I the only one who reads Agitator as Aggregator every time? These isolated incidents have accumulated that it just feels like one giant immovable clamp on my sack.

  4. Wow. A defendant can pick his poison and defense, sure, but it’s pretty stupid to blame him for believing the lies of the cops.

  5. Pat Henry regrets that he has but one country to give for his sociopathy.

  6. The cops are simply new professional lawyers.

    1. The cops are simply new professional lawyers.

      How encompassing did Justice Scalia intend his opinion to be when he wrote his “new professionalism” opinion? This case is a travesty.

    2. I’m surprised their union didn’t insist they be paid accordingly.

      1. I was wondering something similar…

        1. he should be in jail. THIS is a clear cut case. no ifs, ands or buts. it’s also about day 1 of const law in the academy. posing as a defense attorney is about as gross an ethical breach you can get, and it completely vitiates any waiver of miranda as well


    1. Hey, that’s my line! Thanks for helping the cause!

    2. Perhaps he was more strident and unhinged in the past, but what I’ve seen is that he presents the police officers’ side/rationalization for the story. This is followed by the Reason readers imputing the opinions of the scumbags in question to Dunphy himself. 2 minute hate ensues. Gee, why wouldn’t he want to subject himself to that?

      1. Nevermind. I just read Dunphy’s comments below.

        1. Despite my response, I dont think that is the real Dunphy.

          1. it;’s not the real dunphy. i just got here. the cop in this case should be in jail. it’s not even a close question. this is a MAJOR breach of ethics

        2. thin blue line, isolated incident, just a few bad eggs

          And then the odd “oh I agree with you, this particular case is horrible” to get along with the gang? Yer not foolin’ me, pig lover.

  8. “Brannon still works for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. Reedy, Bivens, and Bebb are all still on the job.”

    That is truly disgusting.

  9. Isn’t practicing law without accreditation illegal?

    1. Why don’t the feds have a problem with this?

    2. Only when you do it. When government does it, it’s not illegal, because it is government which defines reality – Tony told me so.

      1. Tony only told me that government defines words. They get to define reality now too?

    3. Dawson and whoever his real attorney is, should have filled out this handy UPL complaint form(Unauthorized Practice of Law) from the Tennessee AG’s office.

      1. you lot sound like a bunch of first year law students.Growing up to be the arshole of the worls(attorneys at law) The gays that will lie and cheat just to make a quid and keep their crim friends out of jail and peddlin drugs. It’s the lawyers that are the dung of the world.I would sooner know a crim,they have more respect for folk.
        Bye scumbags

    4. One of the perks of working in a kitchen is the free food.

      Pilots get to take their families on vacation for free or at reduced costs.

      A perk of law enforcement is that you do not have to follow the laws that you impose on others.
      You can break into people’s homes, vandalize their property, kill their pets, steal their property, commit assault and battery, impersonate a licensed professional, and if you are really lucky you can commit murder.
      On the chance that someone does try to send the system after you you get a paid vacation!

      1. Killer benefits.

  10. fuck me…

  11. It seems that in 2008, Monroe County Sheriff’s Detectives Doug Brannon and Pat Henry actually posed as a federal defense attorney in an attempt to get incriminating information out of suspect John Edward Dawson[…]

    Entrapment, violation of 5th Amendment rights, impersonating federal agents (attorneys) – yep, all in a day’s work for the tax-fed, jack-booted leeches.

  12. Where the hell is Tennessee’s AG? How are charges not being filed all over the place by him?

    1. And the US Attorney General for that matter.

      1. Holder? he probably thought this was great! Was the defendant black?

    2. Don’t know where the Tennessee AG is, but I would be surprised as hell if he didn’t extend “professional courtesy” to the cops and DA.

      The judge, of course, is not subject to his control, but with the degree of constitutional ignorance she displayed, I suspect she is on the short list for the next Tennessee Supreme Court (or equivalent) nomination. (Assuming TSC judges are appointed rather than elected.)

  13. duuuuuuuuuuunphy, oh duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunphy? Who you callin’ a troll, troll? Where are you, duuuuuuuuuuunphy?

    “Just a few bad eggs, thin blue line, isolated incident.” Just starting your post for you….

  14. 1) Police are allowed to lie to defendents to get testimony. This is established case law.

    2) Clearly the person was a criminal. He was convicted on information that he gave to the police in their ruse. Do you really, honestly expect most people to WANT a known criminal let loose on the street, over a BS technicality? Are we as a society better off with a predator in jail, or on the streets? The anti-civilization bias on here never ceases to amaze (civilization does not exist without an enforcement mechanism).

    1. Please don’t spoof dunphy. Let him tell his own shitbag lies.

      1. We all know dunphy don’t capitalize.

    2. 1. Impersonating a defense attorney != lying to defendants as a cop.

      2. We have no idea if he was a criminal or not as justice was perverted. He probably was and is now going free because the cops, sheriff and DA wouldnt do their fucking jobs.

      1. Could somebody please research the relevant caselaw with regards to impersonating a dunphy on the internets?

        Also, any chance that it’s also this guy? I’m guessing no because his gripes are generally with management and he’ll occasionally call out officers for malfeasance

    3. all lower case, and orange

      *looking in mirror*

      dunphy, dunphy, dunphy!!!

    4. Damn, you guys are good. I was trying to draw him out, but you ruined it.

      1. OOPS. Troll baited. 🙁

      2. The fact that he avoids these threads says more about his character than any of the stammered denials and prevarications he would come up with if he did show his face.

        1. I tend to agree with you there.

      3. I’m starting to think Dunphy is a myth – I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him comment, just other commenters waiting for him to comment. Kind of like the Great Pumpkin. Or Cthulhu.

        1. Oh, he’s here, he’s here. Just you wait. ::looks shiftily back and forth::

    5. Are we as a society better off with a predator in jail, or on the streets?

      Are we as a aociety better off with police who are willing to ignore a person’s rights, to fabricate evidence and to obtain confessions under false pretenses in order to obtain a conviction?

      1. I don’t know, I doubt we’ve had a police force that respected people’s rights, told the truth in police reports and on witness stands, or held their peers accountable.

        1. Now, now.

          We have a long history a small towns with just one or two law enforcement officers. There must have been a few where they didn’t get the memo about asking What Wouldn’t Dudley Do-Right Do?, and instead went around making a earnest and forthright attempt to follow the law and the constitution and serve the neighbors.

          Well, at least one.

          1. Mayberry.

  15. Is the cops actions not simply the natural outcome of the policy that the police are allowed to lie and the accused is not? The trial judge should not only have tossed this he should have charged the cops with contempt.

    The Constitution is gradually being eroded to the point where it is becoming meaningless. A few more years and it will be nothing but a quaint piece of paper in the archives.

    1. “But it was like, written a 100 years ago, or something…totally.”*

      *If you watched the teevee show “Bones”, imagine Dr. Sweets’ voice.

  16. In all this, the following is what most caused me to double over in groinal agony:

    Tennessee Tenth Judicial Judge Amy Reedy refused the request, ruling that Dawson made “a real dumb decision” and that he had “picked his poison.”

    MotherFUCKER, that hurt. Also:


  17. I’m thinking this is a worthy sequel to Kafka’s “The Trial”.

  18. It’s a good thing that detective wasn’t charged with impersonating a police officer; he might have gotten in trouble.

    1. Isn’t dispensing legal advice illegal for non-lawyers?

  19. Like everyone else, IHNTA but “WTF”. And not that I would explicitly advise that anyone hang Brannon, Henry, and Reedy from lampposts in front of the courthouse, but if someone did, I’d just say that they made some real dumb decisions, and they made their bed and now they’re going to lie in it.

    I wonder if a case could be made that since Dawson honestly believed he was communicating with his lawyer, anything he said is covered under attorney-client privilege?

    1. You giving Bivens and Bebb a pass from the lampposts for some reason?

  20. lying to defendants as a cop.

  21. Cops routinely lie. To citizens, on arrest reports, in investigations of “brothers in blue” and on the witness stand a cop’s word is far less trustworthy than that of a crack whore or used car salesman.

    Yet they wonder why the public doesn’t respect them.

  22. the stammered denials and prevarications he would come up with if he did show his face.

    He has NEVER!!!!! seen any evidence of police corruption or abuse of power. Therefor, it does not exist.

    You know, like when Chony comes around to tell us how awesome the trains in Japan are, and that proves we’re all a bunch of neanderthal poopyheads for not wanting to spend a trillion dollars on trains in this country.

  23. I’m from the government and I’m here to screw you over.

  24. Searched for the “pick your poison” Judge.
    Apparently, she has a bit of a History:


    1. before the hearing started, she told the court reporter to turn off the record and leave, and he did. And she said to my son, “Now, Mr. Hot-Shot Attorney, you have no record. If you want to appeal this verdict, you have no record.”

      … wow.

    2. A federal judge that deserves the Giffords treatment.

    3. Amazing. EVERYONE here should read that. Makes your blood boil.

  25. So it’s like all those ‘Mission Impossible’ shows where the team would use an overly complicated ruse to get the bad guys to confess everything. Why not have a whole fake court and judge and jury – then, after the fake jury has found him not guilty and he and the fake defense attorney are leaving the court, the attorney (played by Martin Landau) would turn to him and ask “So did you do it?”

  26. …. annnnnd questions of impropriety in getting elected in the first place:


    1. Per your article, Amy Reedy succeeded Steven Bebb, and the controversy was around whether she had recommended her, “To recommend somebody would be a breach of ethics and I never said the first word in favor of any of the applicants.”

      The Honorable R. Steven Bebb is now District Attorney General for the 10th Judicial District and named in the appeal as representing the state, as well as named in the narrative as having material information as to the misconduct and how it was handled.

      In a more fair and balanced world the DOJ would be all over this. Felony charges for the LEOs should be on the table, but there may be a criminal conspiracy around an attempted coverup that involves the other State actors as well.

      1. The DOJ is run by progs now, and progs are civil egalitarians — as long as no specific demographic is being especially oppressed, they don’t see a need to step in.

  27. Cops lie to defendants all the time, and there’s usually nothing illegal about it. E.g. “Your buddy is about to turn you in, you had better implicate him first!”

    The problem here is that the detective is interfering with the attorney-client relationship which is protected by the Constitution. Also, there may be an issue about he unlicensed practice of law.

    1. Technically, the violation here was a Class E felony under TN law, which states:

      It is unlawful for any person, either directly or indirectly, falsely to advertise the person as, or hold the person out as, a lawyer.

  28. How did Balko manage to pack the appeals court?

    1. Wrong question. The right question:

      How did Balkoch manage to pack the appeals court?

      Answers itself.

      1. Good one!

  29. Regardless of Dawson’s constitutional rights or the disposition of his case, this is still practicing law without a license.
    In the letters, they:
    a) Gave legal advice, and
    b) Told Dawson that they were taking legal actions on his behalf
    (This is far worse than this story from Radley.)

    I notified the TN Bar and the US DOJ (they pretended to be “federal” attorneys). If I lived in TN, I’d call the state atty general and the Eastern District’s US Attorney Office (DOJ).

    TN Board of Professional Responsibility)
    (TN Bar)
    (US DOJ–since they pretended to be federal attorneys)

    1. Awesome!

  30. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face — forever.” ~George Orwell

    Keep thinking of them as “heroes in blue” long enough… Keep lavishing praise upon policemen, firemen, teachers, and other public servants who made a conscious career choice.

    Sooner or later, when Washington’s government amasses enough power to feel absolutely secure in its ability to control and coerce… it will unleash its voracious appetite for wealth, power, and control upon its citizens….

    And the standing army of policemen (henceforth known as “law ENFORCEment”) and schoolteachers will be directed to subjugate and condition the masses and their children for acceptance of their fate: the aforementioned boot.

    “But it can’t happen here, this is America”… tell that to the Citizens of the Confederate States of America, the Plains Indians, German-Americans (WWI), Japanese-Americans (WWII), Branch Davidians, the Randy Weaver family, and…in just a few more years… Christians.

    1. and…in just a few more years… Christians.

      Go fuck yourself.

    2. About half the Christians will deserve it.

      I feel bad for the other half.

  31. The Post and Email News has been covering the corruption in Monroe Country for over a year.

  32. STILL no dunphy???!!

    *shocked face*

  33. Threadjack: Why hasn’t reason covered the Amtrak chief’s scolding of the TSA over the VIPR attacks?

  34. thread reclamation

    STILL no dunphy??! Really…

    1. He’s not gonna show. I would imagine he’s beating his dick raw while reading the transcript of the original trial.

  35. Would it be wrong to go to the home of a cop who was suspended with pay pending an investigation and interview him while pretending to be an attorney representing his department?

  36. Watch our illustrious Supreme Court overturn this if they get a chance. They can’t let a little thing like the rule of law get in their way.

  37. An interesting aside: There actually is a practicing attorney named Neil Fink in metro Detroit.

  38. I don’t know much about the law but I’m fairly certain that is extremely illegal.

    1. he should get SERIOUS jail time. not even remotely justifiable.

  39. Lets not forget the dumb prick was guilty.

  40. Un-be-friggin-leavable. Conspiracy only takes two. These asshats belong in jail for the rest of their worthless lives.

  41. Last time I checked, impersonating an attorney is a felony as it is impersonating an officer of the court.

    1. your right but you have to remember this is TN where police do know wrong and if someone was brave enough to come forward and ask why no charges were filed that someone would wind up in jail own phony charges for speaking out against tn police ,you just don’t do that .we have been slaves to the tn police for a long time at least the town i live in police let us have a few freedoms but we still have to ask for permission to leave the city limits and this summer there going to let us stay up until 9.00 instead of 8.00 at least we get extra hr.just my opinion

  42. Now one should be above the law. and i do beleive that if we start letting that happen, then we are no better then the criminals 0n the street. everybody should be accountable for there own mess isn’t that what we teach our children.

  43. nothing surprises me about tn police officers they will and have done a lot of crooked things to get convictions.they also beat,murder and anything else they can get by with,tn police own WTVF channel 5 and the TENNESSEAN newspaper so you don’t really here all about how police in tn are running wild,they all want movies and books about them like BUFORD PUSSIER of the walking tall movies that there’s dream to be like him.just my opinion

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