Bill Would Allow AG To Investigate Threats Against Durham Victim

Posted at 4:21 PM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 20:22:47-04

A Tennessee state lawmaker has called for changes in state law as a result of the fallout from the investigation into former state rep. Jeremy Durham.

Rep. Mike Stewart announced Friday he will file a bill in the next legislative session that would give the Attorney General authority to investigate claims of threats and harassment against one of Durham’s alleged victims.

“It is unfortunate we have to change the law of this state so we can conduct an investigation that should clearly lie with Speaker Harwell,” said Rep. Stewart.

Rep. Stewart said it has been over a month since he asked Beth Harwell to investigate after reports surfaced someone with connections to the legislature sent threatening packages to one of the women involved in the Durham case. Rep. Stewart said it is still unclear who that person is. He said nothing has been done to get answers, and that is why he is taking a more drastic step.

The victim in this case has said she does not want to seek criminal charges, but Rep. Stewart said it is still important to address the situation.

“I think it is very important for potential victims to realize if this happens, it will be taken seriously,” said Rep. Stewart. “It will be investigated and there will be consequences.”

Rep. Stewart said Attorney General Herbert Slatery told him he doesn’t currently have the jurisdiction to investigate the situation.

Harwell issued a statement in response: "I am supportive of giving the Attorney General the authority to investigate retaliation against anyone who cooperates with his office. In Tennessee, District Attorneys already have the power to investigate someone who is being harassed, and I encourage any victim of harassment to go to their local District Attorney General. However, any legislation must protect the identify of victims at all costs. There is no place for sexual harassment in Tennessee as evidenced by last month's expulsion of a member for disorderly conduct."

Rep. Stewart said he feels there is support for the bill. He will file it when the next legislative session begins in January.