State goes to court after ex-House aide refuses subpoena

NASHVILLE, Tennessee. (AP) — The Tennessee Attorney General is suing the former chief of staff of the former speaker of the House of Representatives after he refused to obey subpoenas in court. political action shadow committee investigation.

Late last week, Attorney General Herbert Slatery asked a Nashville judge to order Cade Cotren to explain why he should not be held liable for contempt of court for disobeying subpoenas in the Faith Family Freedom Fund PAC investigation. Cotren worked for Rep. Glen Casade before both stepped down from their senior positions in 2019 amid scandals.

Cotren’s lawyer told state campaign finance regulators that he is exercising his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The Attorney General’s statement said Cotren’s team did not provide sufficient reasons for this.

Ahead of the 2020 GOP primary, the PAC attacked the then-rep. Rick Tillis, brother of North Carolina US Senator Tom Tillis. Rick Tillis lost to Republican Congressman Todd Warner, who was among those exposed FBI searches at the Assembly House and other locations in January 2021, along with Casada, Cotren, and former Republican Rep. Robin Smith.

In federal court, Cotren and Casada were implicated in an alleged political consulting kickback scheme involving another political organization that prompted a guilty plea from another former MP. Smith last month resigned and then pleaded guilty to wire fraud in an alleged scheme.

Federal authorities say Smith, Casada and Cotren partnered with a separate consulting firm, Phoenix Solutions, to covertly and illegally channel money to themselves through campaigning and taxpayer-funded work. Prosecutors have yet to name Casada and Cotren and have not filed any charges against them, but in court documents they described the two in easily recognizable terms.

Some fellow GOP legislators said they feel betrayed after Smith talked them into using the salesman. Prosecutors said all three alleged that a certain “Matthew Phoenix” was in charge of the firm. In fact, Cotrin used a pseudonym because they feared lawmakers and the office of his successor, Speaker Cameron Sexton, would not use the supplier if Cotrin’s involvement became known, prosecutors allege.

Sexton, who said he was cooperating with the investigation, was among those who testified along with other lawmakers. before the grand jury last month.

Casada and Cotren were forced to resign as speaker and chief of staff in 2019 due to seething scandals, including revelations, they exchanged sexually explicit text messages about women years before.

In the meantime, the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance has referred its investigations into the PAC of the Family Freedom Foundation of Faith to the Williamson County District Attorney’s office.

The registry decided to reopen a previous investigation into Vera’s Family Freedom Fund after the PAC Treasurer revealed in January that she was Cotren’s ex-girlfriend and opened the PAC at Cotren’s request. She said that Cotrin asked her about it, saying that Cotrin assured her that she was not doing anything wrong. She said she took no further action.

Cotrin told the registry in February that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and would not comply with subpoenas and testimony in the PAC investigation, saying they were “bad faith and abuse.” process.”

In a legal document last week, the attorney general’s office wrote that Cotrin did not provide information to support these claims. The state’s filing further argues that Cotren’s objections are not sufficient to disobey the subpoena and that he cannot make an “unqualified” assertion of the application of the Fifth Amendment.

Casada, who was also subpoenaed, stated in the registry that he was not affiliated with the Faith Family Freedom Foundation.

casada announced in November that he would not run for re-election this yearand instead ran for Williamson County Clerk.