A lawyer for Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk is denying his client broke any ethics rules in his handling of a high-profile domestic violence case.
That comes as Funk now faces a formal ethics complaint filed by another lawyer who first uncovered evidence about the DA's conduct in that case.
The complaint was filed Friday with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, the agency that polices the ethics of Tennessee lawyers. It accuses Funk of violating a rule that prohibits lawyers from using the threat of criminal prosecution as leverage in a civil case.
The allegations emerged in videotaped depositions, first revealed by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Sandy Chase, mother of Nashville developer David Chase, testified about how domestic violence charges against her son were dropped only after he met demands from the DA's Office that he drop a civil rights lawsuit he had filed against Metro police.
Chase texted his mother, "I dropped the federal case against metro and [the] PD."
"Had to," he explained, "in order to get my stuff dropped after Funk blackmailed me."
Those allegations emerged from a lawsuit where David Chase sued several people who he believed had conspired to falsely implicate him in the domestic violence case.
An attorney representing several of those people, Brian Manookian, asked Sandy Chase: "Has David told you just flat out that he believes Glenn Funk did something illegal?"
"Yes," she answered, "requiring David to drop the case against Metro PD in order to have his stuff dismissed."
Funk has admitted that his office imposed those conditions, even though it had concluded the criminal case had fallen apart.
The DA has claimed such agreements are "routinely used by prosecutors" across the U.S.
But, in the ethics complaint, Manookian accuses Funk of violating a rule that prohibits the use of the threat of criminal charges "for the purpose of obtaining an advantage in a civil matter."
In fact, University of Tennessee law professor Alex Long previously told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that the use of a criminal case as leverage -- after a DA has decided he has no case -- raises serious ethical issues.
"It's not too much of a stretch to say that there was pressure bordering on coercion," Long said.
We asked, "Is this a close call?"
"No," Long replied. "The prosecutor is putting pressure on someone to drop a potentially valid civil claim through threat of prosecution that he doesn't have a right to bring in the first place and that the system says very clearly he doesn't have a right to bring."
But Funk's lawyer, Jim Kay, disagreed.
"There was nothing unethical or illegal about the negotiations to settle the Chase domestic criminal case," Kay said in a statement provided to NewsChannel 5.
The judge in that civil case down in Williamson County recently released a sworn statement filed by Manookian in which Manookian states that he ended up taking his concerns about the Chase case to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
But the judge redacted portions of the filing regarding exactly which allegations might have been of interest to the feds.
NewsChannel 5 has filed a motion, asking the judge to unseal all documents relating to the disposition of David Chase's criminal case.
NC5 Investigates: The DA's Deals