published Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Polk County: In-laws, landlords charged in civil rights intimidation

Ellis Weatherspoon, of Turtletown, Tenn., stands near his kitchen window where someone threw a racial slurred note attached to a cinderblock on June 13. "It came all the way through and hit the coffee pot."
Ellis Weatherspoon, of Turtletown, Tenn., stands near his kitchen window where someone threw a racial slurred note attached to a cinderblock on June 13. "It came all the way through and hit the coffee pot."
Photo by Tim Barber.
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TURTLETOWN, Tenn. — The in-laws of a man who reportedly had part of a cinderblock thrown through his window with threatening, racial slurs attached in a note were arrested over the weekend.

The incident involved a domestic argument and was not related to the cinderblock incident, records show.

On Friday evening, Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called out to the home of 45-year-old Ellis Weatherspoon after his in-laws, who are also his landlords, told him to get out and used racial slurs, including the “n” word, according to arrest reports.

Jonathan Smith, 45, and his wife, Janet Smith, 35, were both arrested after the altercation, according to reports.

Jonathan Smith was charged with aggravated assault, prohibited weapon and civil rights intimidation. Janet Smith was charged with civil rights intimidation, according to reports.

The couple posted $750 bonds on Monday morning.

Jennifer Weatherspoon, 28, who is Janet Smith’s sister, lives with Ellis Weatherspoon and the two have a 3-year-old son. She is white and he is black. On June 13, a chunk of cinderblock came through the window of their trailer with a note that read, “Get out of town N----- or u die” and signed with the initials “KKK.”

After posting bond, the Smiths said they went to the trailer where the Weatherspoons live after Jennifer Weatherspoon came to stay with them on Friday, saying she left because of an argument with Ellis Weatherspoon. She sent the Smiths to the trailer to collect some of her clothes and personal items, they said.

While there, a heated argument broke out between Ellis Weatherspoon and Janet Smith and they began throwing rocks at each other, according to accounts. Jonathan Smith, who keeps a .38-caliber Derringer in his glovebox, then threatened Weatherspoon, police reports said.

Jonathan Smith said he never took the gun out of the glovebox, brandished it nor threatened Weatherspoon, he said.

“Of course not,” he said.

Jonathan Smith was arrested Friday, then both Smiths were arrested Sunday night on the civil rights intimidation charges in connection with the racial slurs that reportedly were made.

“We didn’t drop the ‘n’ word. They just made it up — like everything,” said Janet Smith. “He’s calling everybody ‘cracker.’”

Ellis Weatherspoon said that, on Friday, he walked over from a neighbor’s residence and found the couple at his home. He told the Smiths that Jennifer Weatherspoon could come to collect her own belongings, but otherwise, he would not allow them to get anything out of the trailer, he said.

“They went into a savage fit,” he said. “She spit in my face and threw gravel. He pulled his little handgun out of his pocket on me because I was going to punch her in the face. I don’t beat women up but, I mean, you get so fed up with stuff.”

Sheriff’s office records show the couples have a history of incidents, including a March 11 incident where Weatherspoon claimed the Smiths unlawfully entered the trailer and took some DVDs.

Some legal experts don’t think the civil rights charges will stick because the racial slurs were used in a domestic situation.

“The First Amendment comes into play here as you can gather,” said veteran criminal defense attorney Jerry Summers of Chattanooga. “Using the ‘n’ word in that context, it becomes a question, ‘Did you pull this gun on me because I’m black or because I’m trying to keep you from taking some of my property?’”

Polk County Sheriff Bill Davis did not return numerous messages left Monday.

Civil rights intimidation is a class D felony punishable from two to 12 years, depending on prior criminal records.

It’s unclear if the Smiths are suspects in the cinderblock incident. As of Monday, no arrests had been made in the case, but it is being investigated by the FBI.

FBI spokesman Ed Galloway said investigators continue to follow up leads in that case but declined to comment further.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@times freepress.com or 423-757-6406.

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hcirehttae said...

I said at the first report that we should wait and see before being quick to judge the veracity of the cinder block incident. "Civil rights" violation indeed. MLK would have some choice words for these people, all of them. Hold up your head, show respect for yourself and your people, live life with dignity and courage. I hope the news media will show appropriate restraint in covering such "civil rights" violations in the future, instead of trumpeting misleading conclusions about current racism based on deplorable history.

June 28, 2011 at 7:10 a.m.
johnnyhurst said...

True Hate Crimes should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Lets get real folks, there are a hell of alot more true hate crimes perpetrated against whites than blacks in this day in age.Youll never hear about these incidents as Hate Crimes, because that law is reserved for whites who use the N word. Lets takes the mob of kids who got on trains in ATL and just started beating crackers up for no reason. The mob in Philly just the other day that just started beating honkeys on the street. The media should call it like it is. You cant even trust what you hear on the news these days, because it is so influenced by political correctness.

June 28, 2011 at 10:09 a.m.
fedup350 said...

Hmmmm, Isnt "cracker" a racial slur too? Seems like the Polk County Sheriffs Dept made some unwarranted arrests because of the publicity. A domestic case was turned into a racial case to satisfy the media. The case in Knoxville where the gang of blacks raped, tortured and murdered two whites didnt get near this amount of media coverage.

June 28, 2011 at 10:51 a.m.

The FBI will find Polk County to be a challenge. Good luck, guys.

June 28, 2011 at 11:34 a.m.

L4F, if he did make it up, he should be prosecuted just like anyone else. In my opinion he should take his family and move somewhere more diverse. Staying there only seems to cause trouble.

June 28, 2011 at 12:35 p.m.
Momus said...

Typical Polk County riffraff.

June 28, 2011 at 12:52 p.m.
Legend said...

I agree, johnnyh. As we never heard about the gang of roving whites in San Francisco who targeted black youth to be up. The gang of whites who attacked and killed Mexican immigrant. Whites who chased Muslims from a Wal-Mart after 9/11. They had to flee for their lives. Yes! I agree, America is a diverse nation filled with equally diverse hatred. America can boast both of its racially and class diversity alongside it's equal diverse hatred.

June 28, 2011 at 3:22 p.m.

Polk County is known for their nonsense police officers and whacked out court system!

June 28, 2011 at 4:22 p.m.
pgoldberg said...

Did they call him nice? Nifty? Neglectful? Neighborly? Which N word did they use?

June 28, 2011 at 4:55 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

fedup350 said... "The case in Knoxville where the gang of blacks raped, tortured and murdered two whites didnt get near this amount of media coverage."

I remember that case. The crime was horrible beyond comprehension and the TFP coverage was virtually non-existent.

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/news/local/channon-christian-christopher-newsom-murders/

This dirtbag incident in Polk County has gotten more attention from the TFP already! This goes to show you how politically correct and unreliable the TFP is.

Pathetic.

June 28, 2011 at 5:51 p.m.
sangaree said...

Were the Knoxville crimes racially motivated? Or would the criminals, no matter what their race, have committed the crime regardless of race of the victims and the accused?

Granted, the Knoxville crime was horrendous, but race was not considered to be a factor. Although downplayed, allegedly drugs played a role.

June 28, 2011 at 6:19 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

sangaree said... "Were the Knoxville crimes racially motivated?"

I don't know, but the TFP seems to like to cover anything white on black but avoids black on white like the plague. That is what I mean by politically correct, censoring our news for us to help foster the proper impressions.

June 28, 2011 at 9:54 p.m.
johnnyhurst said...

Legend youd better believe the whole world heard of those attacks and there were hate crime attachments or racial intimidation enhancements to those charges as well they should be. Thing about it is Legend I am willing to call it like it is, unlike you. You see you have the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton racist syndrome. Your up in arms when there is the slightest media suggestion of racism against a black, but in your belief system blacks cant be racist.

June 28, 2011 at 10:01 p.m.
Legend said...

johnnyhurst, comparing me to Jackson/Sharpton is like comparing night and day. My being day. LOL! All my friends and associates call me the "pale rider."

There are many racially charged incidents that never make local and national news. Example: June 29, 2011 los angeles times

"Police investigating alleged racial bullying at Santa Monica High African American student says teammates tied a noose around a brown wrestling dummy and then chained him to his locker. The students have been suspended and could face assault and hate-crime charges. Santa Monica police are investigating an alleged racial incident at Santa Monica High School in which an African American student said fellow members of the wrestling team chained him to a locker and hung a noose around a brown wrestling dummy."

June 29, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.
Legend said...

BridgeportP: Crimes that cross racial lines are not necessarily racially motivated. The Knox crime is one of those that was not. I also heard the crime was about drugs and not race.

June 29, 2011 at 9:53 a.m.
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