News Channel 5’s chief investigative reporter Phil Williams’ own boss seems to have contradicted something Williams said Sunday regarding the series of reports he’s produced about Cade Cothren and Justin Jones.
Cothren was Casada’s chief of staff before he resigned Monday. Jones, meanwhile, is a left-wing activist and Vanderbilt Divinity School student awaiting a court date for allegedly throwing a cup of coffee at Tennessee Speaker of the House Glen Casada as he stood in an elevator.
Williams, on his personal Twitter feed, scolded The Tennessee Star for merely speculating as to whether former Nashville Metro Council member Nick Leonardo tipped Williams off to these stories.
As reported, Leonardo is a legal analyst for News Channel 5 and serves as Jones’ attorney. Referring to this reporter, Williams said the following:
“@cdbutler1204 also implies he has sniffed out a conspiracy,” Williams said.
“One little problem: facts. Nick Leonardo is not currently in any official capacity with @NC5 and he absolutely was NOT the source.”
.@cdbutler1204 also implies he has sniffed out a conspiracy. One little problem: facts. Nick Leonardo is not currently in any official capacity with @NC5 and he absolutely was NOT the source 9/ pic.twitter.com/rgiKszu1b7
— Phil Williams (@NC5PhilWilliams) May 5, 2019
According to a Facebook video, Leonardo apparently was a legal analyst for the station as recently as two months ago.
On Monday, The Star contacted News Channel 5’s News Director Sandy Boonstra by email and asked when, specifically, the station stopped using Leonardo in that capacity.
Boonstra responded briefly and directly: “We still use Nick Leonardo.”
The Star asked Leonardo by email last week if he was Williams’ tipster. We also left a message with Leonardo’s assistant at his Nashville office.
Leonardo did not respond to our messages seeking comment.
As reported last week, Tennessee General Assembly Director of LIS Vinay Dattu tried to tell Williams and Boonstra by email that some of Williams’ reporting was inaccurate.
As Williams reported last week, Cothren might have doctored the time stamp on an email to frame Jones and put him in jail. Jones emailed Casada’s office on Feb. 25, a few days before Jones allegedly assaulted Casada on Feb. 28 and before court officials told him to have no further contact with Casada’s office. Cothren said he received Jones’ email on March 1 and immediately contacted the office of Nashville District Attorney Glen Funk.
Cothren said the email server took a few days to deliver Jones’ email to his inbox. Cothren said, however, he didn’t realize this until later. The email Cothren said he received had a March 1 time stamp.
On his Twitter page Friday, Williams suggested he didn’t accept that version of events.
But Dattu said a security system marked Jones’ Feb. 25 email as spam, but his staff later manually released Jones’ email to the intended recipient on March 1.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Image “Phil Williams” by Phil Williams, and “Nick Leonardo” by NewsChannel5.