Davidson County judge recalls run-in with Casey Moreland - WSMV News 4

Davidson County judge recalls run-in with Casey Moreland

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Judge Melissa Blackburn recounts an incident where Casey Moreland lashed out against her staff. (WSMV) Judge Melissa Blackburn recounts an incident where Casey Moreland lashed out against her staff. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A fellow Davidson County general sessions judge is speaking out about her peer,  Casey Moreland, the judge who resigned amid a Channel 4 I-Team investigation. 

Until now, Judge Melissa Blackburn has never talked publicly about the 2014 incident that caused her to leave the bench with a courtroom full of people and deal with an emergency involving Moreland.  

That day, she received an unsettling message from one of her female staff members.

"Can you come over here, Moreland is pitching an ungodly fit,” says Judge Melissa Blackburn, reading the email. 

"I see that on my phone and I'm thinking, ‘What on earth is happening?’"

She says it happened in her staff's offices in the Ben West building. 

"He was going through here, pulling things off the walls,” she says as she shows the I-Team’s Nancy Amons the office space. 

Moreland, she says, was furious that her staff had moved into empty office space he considered his --removing name signs off the doors and, at one point, trying to remove a computer from one office even though it was secured to a wall.

Blackburn had only been a judge for two months.  

She says her staff was terrified by Moreland, who was yelling at them.  Moreland, who stands at 6 foot tall, was wearing his robe and was accompanied by his armed court officer.  

"He intended to intimidate my employees,"  Blackburn says. 

“Some of them are crying, they're petrified. They're fearing for their own safety and fearing for their jobs. They were so upset. Several were threatening to resign."

Moreland denied raising his voice during an interview with our I-Team's Alanna Autler in November 2014.  

"She just started crying, and the next words out of my mouth were, ‘Why are you crying? You're hollering at me. No, I'm not hollering at you,’"  Moreland told Autler. 

"He thought he could take me on and he could win because I was new and I was a woman. And I absolutely positively would not let him control me,"   Blackburn says about the incident. 

There's an interesting twist to the story you've never heard before. Blackburn filed a complaint against Moreland with the board that disciplines judges. 

To defend himself, Moreland took a lie detector test. 

He denied that speaking unprofessionally and grabbing the computer. 

The polygraph, we now know, was given at the office of Moreland's close friend, attorney Bryan Lewis.

"What struck me as odd, there were only three questions asked. And that to me seemed very strange," Blackburn says. 

The Board of Judicial Conduct concluded there were not sufficient grounds to discipline then-Judge Moreland. 

But they're looking at him now.  So is the FBI -- for possible public corruption charges. 
 
It was prompted by our Channel 4 I-Team investigation. 

The I-Team found Moreland erased his future son-in-law’s jail sentence for a DUI.

And we told you that Moreland did favors for two women with DUI charges -- women who said they had sex with him. 

While our stories were running,  Moreland stayed on the bench. He remained there until the day the U.S. Marshals arrested him. 

"It was very, very tense around here the days and weeks the investigation was going so heavily, and he was still in the courthouse. We were all very much on edge," Blackburn says. 

Blackburn says, to her,  the most stunning revelation is that an FBI informant secretly recorded Moreland. 

The judge is seen on video arranging to set-up one of the women he'd had sex with, Natalie Amos, by planting drugs on her and having her stopped by the police. 

The audio and video were played in federal court. 

"Is he going to be the one to pull her over?" Moreland is heard asking the informant. 

"He'll be the one to pull her over. But his main thing is, 'as long as it don't come back to me,'"  the informant said.

"You knew at that point that a line had been crossed,” Blackburn says.  
 
"Once you go there, you've just gone off the deep end. You've really done something that you cannot undo. I just cannot fathom that."

The U.S. Attorney's office says Moreland also tried to bribe Amos, saying he planned to offer her more than $5,000 to say she lied to the Channel 4 I-Tea, and the X-rated texts he sent her from the bench were fake. 

To  Blackburn, those texts changed the way the public sees its judges.  

"Every time you walk out on that bench, you know that everyone is looking at YOU thinking what have YOU done? Who are you texting? What are you doing?" Blackburn explains. 

The I-Team’s Nancy Amons asked her if an element of trust had been lost.

"I think so," Blackburn replies. 

A new judge, Sam Coleman, has been sworn in to take Moreland's place on the bench. 

Now, the task is restoring faith in the system.

"There is not an easy fix. It's just us doing what we're supposed to do,” Blackburn says. 

Moreland is currently under house arrest on charges of witness tampering.

Federal prosecutors say their full corruption investigation could take a year. 

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