A witness in the extortion trial of County Commissioner Tim Boyd told a Criminal Court jury on Wednesday that he got a call from a fellow attorney about the matter, with the attorney saying, "You won't believe the call I just got."
Attorney Allen McCallie said the call was from Mike Mallen, his law partner at the time, who said Commissioner Boyd wanted him to pass on to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum that he had damaging information about East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert.
Attorney McCallie said attorney Mallen was told that if Mayor Lambert did not "pull his papers" on running against Commissioner Boyd that the information would be released "that would hurt Mayor Lambert, his parents and the Railroad Museum."
Attorney McCallie said, "I was angry that the threat had been made against my client.
I'm still angry."
District Attorney Neal Pinkston told the jury the Boyd call and follow-up conversations with Mayor Lambert that the mayor secretly recorded amounted to extortion and went beyond "free speech."
He said, "We're not talking about robust political discussion. We're talking about extortion."
However, attorney Lee Davis said the Boyd statements "were not threatening, but he was trying to get the word to him that there would be consequences if you decide to do this."
He said the information related to Mayor Lambert calling a special meeting of the East Ridge City Council on a Friday to approve a deal with Exit One developers. He said the developers then wrote five separate $1,000 checks to the mayor, who signed them over to himself, saying they were repayment of a loan for his 2014 race.
Attorney Davis said, "Was this a crime? I don't think so. Was it unethical. I think so - or at least it was highly inappropriate."
He said Mayor Lambert conferred with his attorney, John Anderson, and made three calls to Commissioner Boyd. He said it was a strategy to try to embarrass Commissioner Boyd to help with the Lambert campaign. He said Mayor Lambert called a press conference at which the tapes were played, then he sent out a mailer about the tapes in the waning days of the election.
Attorney Davis said Criminal Court Clerk Vince Dean, a former East Ridge mayor, and attorney Anderson went to a meeting of the Pachyderm Club and set up a prepared question for Commissioner Boyd about the alleged threat. He said Clerk Dean later turned over a recording of the question and answer to the TBI.
But he said Commissioner Boyd "got more votes than he ever had. He won by 67 percent" - even though Commissioner Boyd was under indictment at the time.
Attorney Mallen said he was home with the flu when he got a call from Commissioner Boyd, who he said he knew from dealings with the commission in behalf of developers. He said Commissioner Boyd told him he "needed to let Allen know that if Brent Lambert did not pull his papers there would be damaging information that would be harmful to Mayor Lambert, his parents and the TVRM."
He said he immediately called attorney McCallie, who represented the TVRM, after getting off the phone with the commissioner.
Judge Andrew Friberg of Bradley County, who earlier denied a motion by attorney Davis to throw the case out, is presiding.