The Nashville Scene published a detailed 3,000 word article on Tuesday by former Metro Pulse reporter Cari Wade Gervin that eviscerates the credibility of the four sources upon which Tennessean reporters Dave Boucher and Joel Ebert relied to form the basis of their December 1 story, in which they reported that sources said the FBI was asking questions about Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.
The Tennessee Star reported on the story by Tennessean reporters Boucher and Ebert with great skepticism three days later on December 4.
“Relying upon claims from an ex-wife with a criminal history, three anonymous sources, and two unproduced documents they claim to have seen but refuse to reveal, the Knoxville News Sentinel published a story written by two Nashville-based reporters on Friday, “Sources: FBI asks questions about Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett; mayor says ‘no truth to any of it’,” The Star reported, adding:
Burchett, who is term-limited in his current job, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for the Second Congressional District in the election to replace retiring Rep. John “Jimmy” Duncan (R-TN-02), where he faces a hard fought battle against State Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City).
Friday’s article was written by Dave Boucher and Joel Ebert, two Nashville-based reporters at The Tennessean, which is part of the USA Today-Tennessee network that now includes The Knoxville News Sentinel and The Memphis Commercial Appeal.
On Tuesday, the Nashville Scene’s Gervin added significant details to the story.
“First, any reporter who covered Tim Burchett during the years he was married to Allison and then followed the couple’s contentious divorce could tell you that Allison is not exactly a reliable source,” Gervin noted in her article, aptly titled “Did The Tennessean Get Burned by Allison Burchett?”
Gervin then ripped a hole in the claim by Boucher and Ebert that they have seen a document which states Allison Burchett is a “confidential informant” (CI) for the FBI in its supposed ongoing investigation of her former husband:
It’s also worth noting that this document alleging Allison is a CI was produced by her lawyers in an attempt to gain sentencing leniency earlier this year. Had Ebert or Boucher asked Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen’s office about this, they would have found out the office couldn’t confirm the legitimacy of the CI claims. (We’re assuming they didn’t ask, because the KNS’s Whetstone did make that call the next day and tweeted about it.) But those details still haven’t been added to the piece more than a week later.
What’s more, sources with knowledge of the DA’s case told the Scene that the reason they couldn’t confirm the legitimacy of Allison’s CI status — and the reason that document was never actually filed with the court — is because she is not a CI.
The Star also made short work of the credibility of that document, in our December 4 article:
The first purported piece of documentary evidence –“a document drafted by an attorney”– appears to be the same document referenced in this WBIR report:
The FBI’s Knoxville field office reiterated to Knoxville television station WBIR its long-standing policy of not confirming or denying the existence of any investigations. However, the Knox County District Attorney’s office told WBIR it found no proof when Allison Burchett made the same claim a few years ago as she faced criminal prosecution for stalking and cyber attacks.
“She claimed to be an informant, but nothing ever materialized to substantiate her claims. We successfully prosecuted and convicted her of six crimes of moral turpitude,” said Sean McDermott with the Knox County District Attorney’s office.
The WBIR story also noted that the claim of Burchett’s ex-wife that she was an FBI informant was contained in a draft court document that her legal counsel never filed.
In their Knoxville News Sentinel story, reporters Boucher and Ebert failed to produce a copy of that document and also failed to name the attorney who drafted the document, and whether it was a document verified for submission to a federal court.
An attorney who authenticates a false document and submits it to the FBI or to a federal court faces criminal charges and potential disbarment.
An attorney who drafts a document solely for the purpose of presenting it to a media outlet for review, but not publication, faces no such penalties if the document knowingly contains false information.
There’s much more in the Nashville Scene piece worth reading, including some speculation by Gervin about the identity of the three “anonymous” sources cited by The Tennesseean reporters to purportedly buttress Allison Burchett’s claims. Gervin asked The Tennessean reporters to confirm or deny whether specific individuals were those sources, but they did not respond to her.
“It is, of course, possible there is a federal investigation into Burchett or Knox County procurement procedures or some other people in Knoxville who have connections to Burchett. I have four solid sources (some closer to Tim than others) telling me there is no FBI investigation of Burchett himself, and one person says IRS agents laughed at the notion they were investigating Tim. But that doesn’t mean there’s not something else — although what Burchett is spending those alleged bribes on, I’d really like to know. (Burchett is notoriously frugal, to the point of annoying some of his friends.),” Gervin reported.
“But it’s also possible that The Tennessean bought into a smear campaign orchestrated by Allison and the Duncans (or maybe even wild-card candidate Jason Emert, too),” she added.
You can read the entire Nashville Scene article here.