A candidate for Nashville’s Metro Council will go on trial for extortion in October.
Jack Byrd III is one of five candidates running for the District 33 seat left vacant when Councilman Sam Coleman was sworn in as a Nashville judge to replace former Judge Casey Moreland, who resigned amid a corruption scandal. District 33 covers part of Antioch. Early voting for the special election was set for July 26-Aug. 10, with election day being Aug. 15.
Byrd, 28, is a former reserve officer for the Lynnville Police Department in Giles County and the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. In May, he was indicted in Giles County on two felony extortion charges for allegedly threatening a Lynnville alderman and the mayor because he was upset that city officials had disbanded the reserve program.
In a motion to dismiss, Byrd’s attorney said that then-Alderman Wil Sands launched a “personal vendetta” against Byrd after Byrd provided security in police uniform at the June 2016 gay pride festival in Nashville. Sands was unhappy when he came across photos on Facebook of Byrd working at the festival and made “insulting comments” and began harassing Byrd, the motion says. The motion also alleges that Sands was known to make “discriminatory and defamatory remarks” about African Americans. Sands led the effort to shut down the reserve program to retaliate against Byrd, the motion alleges.
According to the charges against him, Byrd threatened Sands by saying he would release a phone audio recording of his offensive remarks if he did not resign, thus removing an obstacle to reviving the reserve program. The recording was made as people were talking after a board meeting. Sands resigned, and then Byrd went to then-Mayor Larry Chapman and used the recording to pressure him to convince the board to reinstate the reserve program. The mayor did push to bring it back but was unsuccessful.
The motion to dismiss says Byrd never met with Sands directly about the recording. It says he mentioned the recording to the mayor in a meeting with the police chief at which Byrd laid out his case against Sands to seek redress and suggested Sands resign. The motion says it was the mayor’s idea to revive a discussion of the reserve program. Byrd did not intend to join the reserve program again if it were to be reinstated, the motion says.
The motion to dismiss was denied July 24 and a trial was set for October 17 and 18.
This is not the first time that Byrd’s reputation has been clouded by accusations of coercive behavior. In 2015, he was investigated in Davidson County for allegedly coercing administrators to change his schedule when he worked for the sheriff’s department. The sheriff’s department fired him, but then he sued, which led to a settlement and Byrd being able to retire in good standing. His defenders argued that Byrd had been trying to expose wrongdoing in the department.
In his race for the District 33 council seat, Byrd is endorsed by the AFL-CIO’s Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
In recent days, a video and photos have been circulating showing what appears to be Byrd exhibiting juvenile behavior. In the video, he is seen shooting a taser at an election sign for Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. In one of the photos, he is seen sticking his tongue out at an award he received from the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.
You can watch the video in question in this report from WSMV TV: