Information she gave to knox County commissioners includes errors, contradictions, and some admissions of guilt
Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey on Monday gave officials a 47-page packet of information that was supposed to defend her from accusations that mistakes in her office led to wrongful arrests, defendants kept in jail past their release dates, and erroneous charges.
Much of the information actually includes admissions to the problems, avoids addressing the mistakes, or is in itself riddled with errors, according to a WBIR Channel 10 analysis.
The information she provided also contradicts newly obtained documentation kept in the Knox County Justice Information Management System, or JIMS, the recordkeeping system that officials use to make decisions on whether a defendant is up-to-date on payments, court appearances, or community service.
McCroskey turned over the information, mostly narratives put together by her own employees, in the wake of a WBIR News 10 investigation that delved into a series of problems in her office that appear mostly tied to poor training, outdated information and the refusal to cooperate with other county departments.
Officials say office workers are entering the wrong data into the records management system, losing crucial paperwork and providing defendants, prosecutors, and authorities with bad information, according to a series of emails, memos and documents obtained by WBIR.
Under fire from a series of reports, McCroskey on Monday apologized to Knox County Commissioners during the board's monthly voting session, but she didn't say why. She said her office, which oversees Fourth Circuit Court, General Sessions and Criminal Court, handled roughly 70,000 cases last year and that it had problems "in far less than 1 percent of those cases."
She then gave commissioners a packet she said would address many of the problems mentioned in hundreds of pages of emails that were shared between the Knox County District Attorney's Office, the county law department, the criminal court clerk and a number of judges.
The emails, which detail a number of wrongful arrests and cases that prosecutors have asked general sessions court judges to set aside due to errors, were first made public by WBIR.
Here's a look at what News 10 reported, the new documents it obtained this week, and why the information McCroskey, in most instances, gave the commission doesn't add up:
• WBIR, using internal memos obtained from the Knox County Sheriff's Office, reported that authorities on Sept. 5 placed James Baker under arrest on what they believed to be "an active" warrant. But court records show Baker had actually been picked up four months prior, and on May 8 took care of the matter. When he arrived at the jail on his second arrest, Chief Deputy Clerk Janice Norman, who works with McCroskey, called the Sheriff's Office and told them the second warrant was invalid because it had already been served, "but the clerk's office failed to remove it from JIMS," according to the sheriff's office memo.
McCroskey's version of events does not acknowledge her clerk's admission and denies the outstanding warrant existed. However, a JIMS "arrest warrant summary" obtained this week by WBIR confirms the warrant's existence, and reveals it was the result of the clerk's office failure to update the original warrant from "issued" to "served" prior to the Sept. 5 arrest. That failure meant deputies had no way of knowing that Baker had already been picked up, processed, and released when they re-arrested him in September.
After four months and two trips to the county jail, Baker's file was updated to reflect the original arrest. Hours after his wrongful arrest in September, a clerk finally changed the status of Baker's warrant to "served," according to the time stamp on the JIMS records.
• WBIR noted cases in which clerks entered wrong fines into the system, specifically one instance in which the fine was supposed to be $250, but entered as $25. The narrative McCroskey supplied agreed that officials made a mistake, adding "we under-charged the driver instead of over-charging them."
• WBIR reported that Johnny Edgar stayed in jail an additional three days past his scheduled release date because a clerk never sent his release papers to the Knox County Sheriff's Office. McCroskey said her office accepted responsibility for the mistake. She did not say how the error occurred.
• WBIR noted cases in which clerks entered wrong convictions in the system, specifically one instance in which a clerk entered "Driving Under the Influence" instead of the much lesser offense of "Public Intoxication." A statement McCroskey supplied to commissioners acknowledged the mistake, adding that "when brought to our attention we corrected the error and a corrected abstract was sent to Nashville."
• WBIR reported that Jodi White was arrested on Jan. 8 on a violation of probation warrant that should have been brought to the judge to be dismissed, since she had completed the terms of her probation. A narrative from one of McCroskey's clerks acknowledges that White was taken into custody, even after completing the term of her probation. But, the narrative never addressed the office's failure to bring the case before a judge for dismissal. The narrative also erroneously state that White was arrested in Jan. 8, 2012, when it was this year.
• WBIR reported that Edward Corts, picked up for public intoxication on Dec. 19, 2012, spent up to an extra 16 days in jail because he wasn't scheduled a court date until early January. The narrative supplied by McCroskey's clerk said that's because the courts were closed until Jan. 3. However, JIMS records say that the county had a jail docket for Dec. 27, meaning he could have gone before the judge then – eight days prior to when he was eventually released.
• WBIR reported that Andjuan Macon was arrested in February despite fulfilling his court obligations and paying his fine a year prior. The narrative provided by McCroskey's clerk indicated that he had not paid his court costs in full by February of last year, which resulted in the warrant issued for his arrest. But, a JIMS report that WBIR obtained this week contradicts the clerk, stating that Macon had "paid in full" on Feb. 28, 2012. That's when the district attorney's office contends Macon's case should have been set aside for dismissal, according to records. Instead, the clerk issued a new court date.
Further, Macon's initial crime stems from a shoplifting charge at Kmart, according to his citation. The judge banned him from the discount store as part of the terms of his probation. The clerk, though, entered the wrong information into the system. It currently states that Macon is banned from Food City, according to his criminal history record.
• WBIR reported that a "very pregnant" South Carolina woman was told by a clerk that she needed to appear in court if she wanted more time to pay her ticket. The woman left her home at 4 a.m. to drive four hours to Knoxville. The narrative supplied by McCroskey suggests that "she wanted to come."
McCroskey, who has declined to comment, has contradicted herself a number of times.
At one point she told WBIR that she didn't know about any wrongful arrests. However when WBIR presented her with information obtained through an open records request, McCroskey conceded there had been one person wrongfully arrested, but days later, blamed it on the Sheriff's Office.
On Monday, she retracted that statement and told commissioner's the sheriff's office shouldn't shoulder any blame.
She also told Channel 10 that she's never met with other local leaders to discuss the errors originating in her office. Records and interviews with Knox County officials suggest otherwise.
She has declined to say how she will address the problems.