Judge apologizes for calling Metro officer 'stupid' - WSMV News 4

Judge apologizes for calling Metro officer 'stupid'

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Judge Amanda McClendon (Source: tncourts.gov.) Judge Amanda McClendon (Source: tncourts.gov.)
Officer James Curtis (Source: Metro Nashville PD) Officer James Curtis (Source: Metro Nashville PD)
Sgt. John Nicholson (Source: Metro Nashville PD) Sgt. John Nicholson (Source: Metro Nashville PD)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Amanda McClendon called a Metro police sergeant “stupid” during a shouting match outside her court employee’s home in April.

The officer was disciplined for being rude, and McClendon later apologized for invoking her position during the dispute.

The incident began outside the Old Hickory home of McClendon’s court officer, Kim Soto, on Wednesday, April 19.

The body camera video and audio recorded by officers show that Soto was having a dispute with employees of Piedmont Gas. Soto said the gas company employees damaged the foundation of her house.

The gas company workers called the police at 12:52 p.m. to report that Soto was irate. The call was dispatched as a disorderly person.

Metro Police Officer James Curtis arrived at Soto’s home at 1:45 p.m. and is heard explaining to Soto that the gas company workers had a right to be on her property to work on her gas lines.

Soto told the officer that he may recognize her, since she works for the court system.

Soto appeared agitated on the recording, and more officers were called to the scene, including Sgt. John Nicholson, a 23-year veteran of the department. Nicholson arrived at 2:30 p.m.

As more officers arrive, so did McClendon. She questioned why the police were there.

"What the hell are you all doing, getting involved in a civil matter?” McClendon asked.

When the officer refers to McClendon as “ma’am,” McClendon said in a loud voice, "Judge! Judge Amanda McClendon. I don't know who you are."

More words are exchanged, then Judge McClendon said to the Sergeant, “You are stupid.”

Sgt. Nicholson responds in an agitated voice, “So are you, if you are going to sit here and yell at me.”

McClendon, at one point during the incident, asked the police, “Please call the sergeant.”

Nicholson responded, “Ma’am, I am the sergeant.”

A female voice, it’s not clear whether the judge or Soto is speaking, answered, "Oh God, we're in trouble now, aren't we?"

Eventually, the incident ended at approximately 4 p.m.

The News 4 I-Team first requested the body camera video and investigative reports from the Metro Nashville Police Department in April. They were not released until the internal investigation was closed following the sergeant’s disciplinary hearing on Nov. 1.

The incident occurred in the early afternoon on a Wednesday. McClendon was on the bench that day, hearing a 17-page criminal docket.

According to officials in the court clerk’s office, Judge McClendon concluded her docket and did not leave early.

The judge wrote in an email to the police that Soto “called me for help. I was on the bench and her messages were relayed to me by staff. I finished the docket and left the courtroom at around 1:30.”

News 4 has repeatedly asked Judge McClendon for an interview. We wanted to ask why she intervened in a dispute involving her employee and the gas company.

We were referred to McClendon’s attorney, Ben Rose. We furnished Rose a copy of the police videos and audios, which are public record.

Judge McClendon sent the following statement on Thursday:

As you know, I have repeatedly asked about the subject matter of Channel 4's upcoming story regarding what occurred with me on Turner Street on or about April 19, 2017, nearly seven months ago. While Channel 4 has refused to provide me with details regarding the story, I would appreciate you considering this email and including it as part of your reporting. It is the only comment I intend to make, as I am currently juggling a trial and my normal domestic violence and impaired driving dockets.

I completed my domestic violence docket on the afternoon of April 19, 2017. Toward the end of the docket my court officers received a call wherein I was forced to address an issue involving a subcontractor of Piedmont Gas on Turner Street when the subcontractor requested the assistance of Metro Police on what was ultimately determined to be a civil matter. The subcontractor (Holmes Construction Company) of Piedmont, claimed that I had authorized extensive work (including digging a large trench, which damaged a foundation) to be conducted at the residence of one of my employees who was on crutches. This was not correct and, in fact, it was an outright lie.

What occurred upon my arrival at the scene is well documented in the reports related to Officer Curtis and Sgt. Nicholson, which I understand you have in your possession. As I have previously stated to Sgt. Nicholson in an email dated July 1, 2017, I apologize for the manner in which the incident occurred. I specifically apologize for my actions. However, I still do not understand why three armed Metro Police officers were needed to address a civil matter between the Piedmont Gas subcontractor and my employee, who was on crutches. This does not include the 6 or more employees of the subcontractor, in hardhats, standing nearby. I specially do not understand why a Metro officer would interject himself into a civil matter without first speaking with both sides involved. It is obvious that the subcontractor contacted the MNPD for strategic advantage.

Officer Curtis and Sgt. Nicholson were both reprimanded as a result of what occurred on Turner Street. Officer Curtis was disciplined for interjecting himself in a civil matter, discipline I believe to be correct. Not only did Officer Curtis interject himself, he unilaterally authorized the subcontractor to trespass on my employee's property without the courtesy of hearing her concerns. I find Sgt. Nicholson's reprimand regrettable, since in my opinion Officer Curtis was really the guilty party, as was the sub-contractor's employee who lied and said he received specific approval to do the work. As a Metro Police officer, Officer Curtis authorized the gas company subcontractor to work at the residence when it did not have appropriate authorization to do so. Officer Curtis was specifically reprimanded on this basis. He needs more training in my view.

I have been privileged to serve the citizens of Metro for many years and have been an associate member, now a full member of the Fraternal Order of Police for nearly 20 years. I think we have all learned something from this experience and I hope that similar circumstances are not repeated again.

Soto is a state court employee, who works for McClendon, earning a salary of more than $68,000 a year.

The police department reprimanded Sgt. Nicholson for being discourteous to a citizen and for failing to turn in the video from his personally owned body camera until five days after the incident.

Officer Curtis, the first at the scene, was given formal counseling, according to police records, for taking action in what was a civil matter.

McClendon sent an email to Sgt. Nicholson on June 30, apologizing “for calling you stupid" and added, "I also apologize for telling you that I was a judge, which I confess I did so that (maybe) someone would listen to me.”

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