NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The law says if you want to drive, you need insurance.
But NewsChannel 5 Investigates found one Metro Councilmember has been not only driving without insurance but he's also been telling people and even police that he has it.
Jenna Smith and her boyfriend were involved in an accident with Councilman Jonathan Hall back in October. It happened on Rosa Parks Boulevard. The couple is upset Hall wasn't cited for driving without insurance. Metro police insist he did not get special treatment because the officer didn't recognize him until he was about to leave. Police say the officer believed Hall when he told her he had insurance. Issuing tickets in situations like this, we are told, is strictly at the officer's discretion.
"I was completely stopped at the red light," Jenna Smith told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Smith said was sitting behind a line of cars at the intersection at Athens Way when she was rear-ended by a large pickup truck.
"And all of a sudden I got hit from behind and flew forward," Smith described. "He [the driver who hit her] had to be going 20 to 30 miles an hour and didn’t stop while I was stopped."
Moments later, a Metro police officer arrived on the scene.
Video from the officer's body camera shows Smith still stunned after being rear-ended and the man who'd just hit her, trying to explain what had happened.
"The next thing I know I come to and there’s Councilman Jonathan Hall in my window apologizing for hitting me," Smith said.
Smith said she knew who he was only because he handed her one of his business cards when he came to check on her.
"And he said that there was a spider and it fell on him while he was driving and he wasn’t paying attention," Smith explained.
According to the police report, Hall also told the officer, he'd been distracted by a spider.
The police report also noted his auto insurance card expired more than two years ago, in July of 2019.
But on the police body camera video, you can hear him say that while his proof of insurance card had expired, he repeatedly assured the officer his insurance policy was still in effect.
He told Smith's boyfriend the same thing.
"[Hall] told me that he had Progressive and that we would get it situated," Cody Maldonaldo told NewsChannel 5 Investigates. "So I called on the policy number to file a claim and they had told me that he had been uninsured since I believe it was July of '19."
Progressive denied the claim, saying in a letter to Maldonaldo, the company was "unable to find valid coverage."
"We need a whole new liftgate, bumper, rear panels, lights, pretty much the whole rear end," Maldonaldo described.
Facing thousands of dollars in repairs, Maldonaldo's own insurance company suggested he file a claim with Esurance because records showed Hall might be covered by a policy with that company.
But Esurance also denied Maldonaldo's claim, saying neither Hall nor his truck were listed on the policy in question.
Esurance agents told NewsChannel 5 Investigates the same thing happened back in April when someone else tried to file a claim against Hall and his truck after another accident. That claim was also denied because Hall was not covered by the company.
"But he’s going to pay for [your damage] right?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Smith.
"No, he’s not. He has completely ignored us since the event." Smith replied.
"Have you tried calling him?" we asked.
"We have called him. We have texted him. We have gone to his office," she answered.
For weeks after the accident, Smith and Maldonaldo said they repeatedly tried to contact Hall, as did NewsChannel 5 Investigates. After he did not return any of our messages, we tried to talk to him before a Metro Council meeting.
But as soon as saw our camera, he ducked into the nearest room and out a back door.
Hall didn't return. He missed his two committee meetings that afternoon as well as the full Metro Council meeting that night.
"You live in his district?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Smith.
"Yes," she said.
Smith, who was taken to the hospital after the wreck, now worries she and Maldonaldo are going to be stuck having to pay both her medical bills and paying to fix the car.
"How does this make you feel?" we asked her.
"Oh, terrible! We’re living in a city where a councilman can’t even own up to his actions and was driving without insurance as well," Smith said.
Jonathan Hall did finally call Maldonaldo, a month after the accident. Smith said though, by this time, they had already hired an attorney.
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