2013: A Year in Review-Part 2 - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

2013: A Year in Review-Part 2

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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An Elvis impersonator and a taekwondo instructor play "to tell the truth" with FBI agents over who sent poison letters.           

A former Memphis teacher gets an "F" from federal prosecutors after devising a cheating scheme.

And, a Memphis civil rights pioneer is remembered for her words and deeds.          

The footage was at times grainy, but none the less historically captivating. In April, after 45 years, an historic video record of law enforcements' massive security effort to protect then accused Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. assassin, James Earl Ray, emerged through the release of previously undiscovered film reels shot by the Shelby County Sheriff's Office. The film emphasizes the extraordinary lengths former Sheriff Bill Morris and his deputies went to through to avoid a repeat of the lax safety precautions that led to the fiasco resulting in the death of JFK triggerman Lee Harvey Oswald five years earlier at the Dallas Police Department.

MORE: Archived James Earl Ray footage digitized

"If you want to really make certain that the legal process is unquestionable and the security of the accused is in place, you can look at the Memphis and Shelby County case of James Earl Ray in 1968," said former Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris.

A rich and powerful Missouri businesswoman builds up such big time resentment against a Memphis medical student after he breaks off his engagement to her talented and beautiful daughter she then sets out to make the lives of him and his new girlfriend "hell on earth?" No, it was not a new Fox television series. It's the real-life-revenge-induced-whacked-out actions of once renowned financial consultant, Nadia Cavner, which landed her before a Memphis federal judge in mid-April. Cavner admitted she hired two Memphis private detectives to, at first, do surveillance work on her daughter Maral's ex-beau and his new main squeeze. But, the detectives secretly made a beeline to law enforcement when they felt Cavner's plotting of the couple's ruination had turned...(what's the word I'm looking for here?) Ah, yes. DEMENTED! Everything from breaking arms, staging a drive-by shooting, planting pot on them and hiring a woman to break them up; thankfully, none of which the veteran P.I.'s followed through on. Cavner pleaded guilty and was spared a five year sentence she might have gotten if convicted. She got probation later in the year. But, as for her future endeavors....just a guess here...she's probably not suited to be a wedding planner. "All I know is that the people that know her stand fully behind her and I certainly don't expect that to change," said Nadia Cavner's attorney Steve Farese.

MORE: Mom pleads guilty to stalking daughter's ex

Unfortunately, another relationship remained stagnant. Early April brought renewed hopes from the Wharton administration the International Church of God in Christ might consider returning its annual Convocation event to its seminal home in Memphis. True, it was a long shot the world's largest religious denomination would ever return en masse and leave St. Louis after moving the event there two years ago. Bishop David Allen Hall said, "It is our fondest desire for the Church of God in Christ to return to Memphis for its convocation. There are a number of things that have to be done and the General Board and our Presiding Bishop, their leadership team, of course, they are addressing these matters."

Yes, the Lord can work in mysterious ways. Well, not that strangely, since COGIC voted to continue to keep the convocation in the Gateway City for the foreseeable future.

"My name is Kevin Curtis. My whole name is Paul Kevin Curtis. I always went by Kevin. I don't know why my parents gave me three first names and never even called me by the first one."

It was the type of Southern Gothic tale as convoluted as a Tom Clancy novel....A Corinth, Mississippi Elvis impersonator, espousing governmental conspiracy theories, is accused of sending threatening letters containing suspected ricin, a poison, to President Barak Obama, Mississippi U-S Senator Roger Wicker and a Lee County Justice Court Judge. My goodness. What would his neighbors say? Plenty!

Heather Gilliland, neighbor of Paul Kevin Curtis said, "He talks about....he's very anti-government. He talks about people doing organ harvesting. He said on his on his Facebook, he's been arrested 22 times and he was going to keep fighting the fight whatever that is."

But, a funny thing happened on what would have been Curtis' inevitable passage to a prison cell. Less than a week after his arrest, at a federal hearing, FBI investigators admitted searches of Curtis' home and computer had turned up no trace of ricin. The spotlight almost immediately switched to Tupelo Taekwondo instructor and alleged arch adversary of the freed Curtis, James Everett Dutschke. DNA linked Dutschke to a ricin laced mask found at his business. All the ingredients necessary to make the potentially deadly chemical were retrieved from a trash can outside his studio.

Memphis civil rights icon Maxine Smith said, "As far as desegregation, those laws have been broken. But, integration comes from within. When we really love each other and you can't mandate that."

MORE: Remembering Civil Rights icon Maxine Smith

She was the bright articulate child, who fate thrust into the role of warrior princess and in the end she gracefully and humbly ascended to her throne as the revered granddame of the civil rights struggle in Memphis. Georgia Maxine Smith was often asked to define her own legacy of words, deeds, failures and triumphs. Yet, when she died in late April it was the living legacy of black boys to men....girls to women who daily enjoy the privileges of freedom Smith and many others made sacrifices to insure for the generations that followed them.

"She really wanted just the right things to be done, justice! That's all and to miss her now would be to carry on her legacy. To say, we will make this right. We will do the right thing," said Ruby Wharton.

Budget season....the time of the year at the Memphis City Council when insanity and reason always appears headed for a collision course. The conundrum this year was even as you stare at a deficit of 26 million dollars in the face, can you still "do the right thing" by city employees?

Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland said, "We have to cut this city budget if we're going to avoid a tax increase; especially, when we have some Council members who want to give a full 4.6 percent pay raise to some employees."

Strangely aloof from the budgetary "trench warfare" at city hall was Mayor Wharton who opted to send surrogates to take the increasing heat... even as his staff appeared to grope for answers to questions they should have anticipated would come. The "great divide" between Wharton and the Council was starting to become a chasm. Enough to make one disenchanted Councilwoman openly invoke the memory of what she perceived as the "good old days" of the former "forever king." "I'm not saying that the Mayor is timid. But, the Mayor doesn't have, I guess, the fortitude, that tenacity, that former Mayor Herenton had. Because whether we criticized him or not he was right there in our faces," said Janis Fullilove.

"I'm gonna be big enough to say this. It's on me. I have got to do a better job of communicating," said Wharton.

During Memphis in May celebrations and a Memphis Grizzlies home playoff weekend, Shelby County District Attorney General, Amy Weirich, sent a message loud and clear to the owners of the popular Beale Street nightspot Club 152. Shutting down the troubled club as a "public nuisance" based on an undercover investigation into alleged drug activities there. The financial shot above the bow to the entertainment district's largest money-maker was intentional and not lost on its all-star roster of owners or cash deprived employees.

Club 152 owners' attorney Ted Hansom said, "I draw the analogy of what they did was like closing Macy's two weeks before Christmas. Memphis in May is a big time for people who work, wait tables, serve drinks. It punished a lot of people; innocent people."

Declaring his innocence wasn't an option for former Memphis teacher, Clarence Mumford Sr., in the eyes of federal prosecutors. Mumford's perceived sincerity for his profession masked his weakness for brazen greed. As May turned to June, Mumford pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison for masterminding a multi-state scheme that aided more than 40 teachers to cheat on their certification exams. The Feds said Mumford pocketed between 15-hundred to 6-thousand dollars a pop for his illegal assistance.

"For every child, among the first lessons you learn on day one of school is do the right thing. Play by the rules. Cheaters never win," said Western Dist. Attorney General Edward Stanton III.

And while Clarence Mumford used people to rise to the top, one flamboyant and legendary Memphis bar owner and restaurateur, Thomas "Silky" Sullivan used his time on earth to relish in bringing people, often total strangers, together as one in laughter, drink and song. His Beale Street style "home-going was a reflection of the man known for his spontaneity, zest for life and heartfelt ambassadorship for the city that benefited from his passion for it.

Performa founder John Elkington said, "He cared more about Memphis than basically anyone I know and he promoted the city anywhere he went."

Silky Sullivan said, "I believe in Memphis. It's a great city. Great place. Great place to live."

If only we could all believe like Silky.

MORE: Year in Review Part 1

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