A motion filed Tuesday in Davidson County asserts that District Attorney General Craig Northcott is “not appropriate” to serve in his capacity as special prosecutor in the case against state House Speaker Glen Casada. The motion, filed Tuesday, seeks Northcott’s disqualification from the case due to his lobbying relationships with the state general assembly and his posting of several anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and other racially insensitive comments on Facebook.
The Casada case
Northcott was assigned to the Casada case after Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk recused himself.
In that case, it was revealed that the Speaker’s office may have tampered with evidence in an effort to frame black student activist Justin Shea Bautista-Jones for violating bond conditions.
In February, Jones was charged with assault after throwing a cup of coffee at Casada at the state capitol. When released on bond, he was told to have no further contact with the Speaker.
In an attempt to have that bond revoked, the Speaker’s office delivered to Funk dated emails meant to show Jones had violated his bond conditions by attempting to contact Casada. However, the emails were found to have conflicting dates - one before Jones’ arrest and another after it.
Casada’s office has denied tampering with evidence.
When Funk recused himself, citing conflict of interest, the Tennessee Attorneys General Conference selected Northcott to prosecute.
Now Jones’ attorney, Dominic Leonardo, says Northcott has several conflicts of interest himself.
Leonardo filed the motion seeking Northcott’s disqualification due to recent controversy surrounding statements Northcott made on social media earlier this year. Leonardo said he feels Northcott can no longer prosecute the case fairly.
Leonardo cited Northcott’s “lobbying” relationship with the Tennessee General Assembly and an ongoing investigation by the state Supreme Court Board of Professional Responsibility into Northcott’s comments as potential conflicts of interest.
His motion asks that the Tennessee District Attorney General’s Conference appoint a “private lawyer” rather than allow Northcott, who serves on the conference’s legislative committee, to prosecute the case.
Legislative committee concerns
Because the legislative committee advises the general assembly on legal issues, Leonardo wrote in the motion, Northcott “is in a much different posture” than other members “since he is tasked with investigating the Speaker.”
“This relationship creates the appearance of impropriety.”
And because Northcott’s salary is “controlled in part” by the legislature, Leonardo asserts that having him investigate the Speaker would “present a potential conflict.”
The motion asks that the conference appoint a “private lawyer” rather than allow Northcott to prosecute.
Northcott’s social media comments against Muslim people are also of concern to Jones and his legal team.
The case against Casada is “very much so based upon race, free speech and substantial differences in opinions,” and Leonardo asserts Northcott’s willingness to post anti-Muslim comments on Facebook “make him an inappropriate individual to handle a case involving the same issues.”
“The defendant [Jones] is concerned that [Northcott’s] religious affiliations are interfering with the prosecutorial function in this litigation,” the motion reads.
Northcott has also “lashed out against the homosexual population,” according to the motion. It continues, “Due to his personal religious beliefs/convictions, General Northcott has stated that homosexual individuals do not deserve protection under the laws of domestic violence either.”
While the motion recognizes Northcott’s right to free speech, it also found his stance “concerning to the defendant’s ability to get a fair prosecutor who is seeking justice in the appropriate manner.”
‘Everything to do
Jones’ lawyer also argues that Northcott is insensitive to racial issues, referencing a Facebook post disparaging professional football players who do not stand for the national anthem.
According to the motion, Northcott’s post stated that “NFL players who take a knee do not stand with Christ in doing such.”
The motion argues: “Although [Northcott] is entitled to that view, [Jones] submits it is repugnant to everyone except a handful of white Americans.”
That type of “racial insensitivity or indifference” is at the root of Jones’ case against Casada, the motion argues.
‘Quite a bit of controversy’
All these instances, Leonardo’s motion argues, demonstrate Northcott’s violations of two Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct, thus disqualifying him from serving as the special prosecutor in this case.
“The defendant submits that there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding General Northcott’s involvement in this case,” the motion reads. “The defendant believes that this honorable court should disqualify him as the prosecutor in this case and requests that the district attorney general’s conference appoint a private attorney to proceed with the prosecution or to appoint another prosecutor whose overt personal perspectives and views are in accordance with and strict adherence to the oath of office that attaches to an elected district attorney general in the state of Tennessee.”
Northcott has declined to comment on the matter until “such time as it is heard before the court.”