Hell is presently breaking loose at the Capitol as the Feds are coming to arrest a number of legislators. For what we don't know yet, but the rumors are flying--most of them being something along the lines of taking bribes to pass bills (no!). Thus far, the apparent body count is three: John Ford, Ward Crutchfield and Chris Newton, with more to come--some say as many as 12. It's still early, so don't take any of this to the bank yet (I wish I had that cheesy police siren light that Drudge has), but there's definitely something big going on.
UPDATE: There will be a press conference at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Memphis at 11:00 CDT. There are supposedly at least two senators from Memphis involved.
UPDATE: NewsChannel5.com is confirming arrests of Senators John Ford (D-Memphis), Ward Crutchfield (D-Chattanooga), and Kathryn Bowers (D-Memphis), and Rep. Chris Newton (R-Cleveland). Here's the link.
UPDATE: At present this is unconfirmed, but the folks we've been talking to have been batting 1.000 so far: The Feds are arresting these folks pursuant to the Hobbs Act
, which is often used to prosecute political corruption at the state level.
UPDATE: Sources tell us that former Senator Roscoe Dixon (D-Memphis) has also been arrested.
UPDATE: Sources tell us that Representative Larry Miller (D-Memphis), Senator Jeff Miller (R-Cleveland) and Representative Ulysses Jones (D-Memphis) are also on the hook. And Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.
UPDATE: This is very unconfirmed, but we suspect that Harold Ford, Jr. is beating his head against a wall right now.
UPDATE: Channel 3
in Memphis is reporting more. Like Matt Pulle, I am shocked that so much of this is coming out of Memphis. Such a nice, well-run town.
UPDATE: Sources tell us intrepid Scene reporter John Spragens has also been arrested for no other reason than he has been at Legislative Plaza for 15 minutes and the Feds figured at this point that anybody who has spent more then ten minutes down there must be guilty of something. (Note to the humor-impaired: This is a joke. Not a very good joke, but a joke just the same.)
UPDATE: Channel 4 in Nashville says on its website it will televise the 11 am news conference. Streaming video of live news coverage from Channel 3 Memphis is also available
UPDATE: From the press conference. The sting was called Operation Tennessee Waltz. The log so far is as follows:
John Ford: Taking $55,000 in illegal payments. Also three counts of threatening/intimidating witnesses.
Ward Crutchfield: $12,000
Kathryn Bowers: $11,500
Chris Newton (along with Love): $4,500
Roscoe Dixon (along with another non-legislative individual): $9,500
It should also be noted that no mention has been made of the other individuals listed in updates above. But the FBI is neither confirming nor denying that others are on the hook. "This is an ongoing investigation."
UPDATE: Here is the bill in question.
UPDATE: NewsChannel5 has links
to downloadable PDF files containing the actual indictments.
UPDATE: There are conflicting stories regarding Ulysses Jones and Larry Miller. Some are saying that they were merely questioned. It appears that any of the sponsors of the bill are under the cloud. Some may come out from underneath it.
from Governor Bredesen on the indictments.
UPDATE: Clarifications after the fog of breaking news has begun to lift. It is presently unclear whether Jeff Miller is in trouble. He may be in the lay-down-with-dogs-and-come-up-with-fleas boat as Ulysses Jones and Larry Miller. We'll know more when we know more. (Previously, this update noted that Roscoe Dixon was an aide to Mayor Herenton of Memphis. He is actually an aide to Mayor Wharton of Shelby County. So, we still don't know about the Herenton story.)
UPDATE: Dispatches from Capitol Hill and the federal courthouse by Scene
writers John Spragens and Matt Pulle are pulled together here