Thursday, June 18, 2015

Smoking Joe indicted for fraud

Joe Armstrong
By now you know that state House Democrat Joe Armstrong was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on charges he took part in a tax fraud scheme involving the sale of state cigarette tax stamps.

The plot dates to 2006 and continued to November 2013. (I'd make some crack about taking nine years to figure it out, but, well, no, not a good idea. Heh.)

Anyhoo, you can find a bunch of stories on our website including HERE, HERE and HERE.

I had yesterday off, but pitched in. By that I mean, read a bunch of emails and stories as they came in and cheered on my team for getting it first AND right.

So, that means I have a bunch of stuff/statements that didn't get used, or did get used and is worth reposting, since I"m cleaning out my email.

Here ya go:

From Smoking Joe himself: This investigation has been ongoing for a number of years. I have a strong belief and respect for our system of justice. I look forward to addressing these allegations and the truth coming out in the very near future."

From his attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, who says pretty much the same thing for all of his clients (but the dude does a pretty good job): Our firm . .  . has been conducting a parallel investigation for the past few months. Representative Armstrong has proudly served his constituents for the 15th District . . . for the past 28 years; where he has emerged as a leader in Tennessee state government. Representative Armstrong intends to enter a plea of not guilty to each and every count of the indictment. Joe is an innocent tax payer who relied upon a tax professional as it relates to the filing of his tax returns."   

From House Democratic Leader Craig: “Joe Armstrong and I have served together for over 20 years. In that time, I have never known him to be anything other than a dedicated public servant and an advocate for his community. We have a justice system in place to deal with these situations. I believe it is important to reserve our judgement until all the facts have come to light. Until then, my thoughts are with Joe and his family as this process moves forward.”

Cameron Brooks, Knox County Democratic Party chairman: “Joe’s a great guy. He’s a friend of mine. He’s been a really good ally for the working people in the Legislature. I just pray that these allegations aren’t true, and I believe that he is innocent until proven guilty. I really don’t know what else to say."
Brooks added that Armstrong “is someone who has your back. He comes through on his commitments, and is someone who is relatively young in politics, he’s always been there for me when I needed something – for advice, when I had a question. I appreciate that.”
Robert Booker, Director of the Beck Cultural Center and Community Activist: "Stunned" He added that he “admires Joe tremendously and that it is an “unbelievable accusation.”
Booker says he’s know Armstrong since about 1980.  His fondest memory of Joe Armstrong is when he and then-state senator Tim Burchett were instrumental in getting the Summit Hill Bridge over the James White Parkway named after him.

Carlene Malone, Former Knoxville City Council Member: “I really like Joe and he’s been a tremendous representative.  I certainly hope this is not true.”
Carlene says she’s know and worked with Armstrong since the 80’s.
She says he worked with her to fight against a proposed mass incinerator in the area.  She also says Armstrong was instrumental helping the development of the Wee Course and Lakeshore Park.

Sylvia Woods, member of the public assembly facilities board: "Joe Armstrong is my friend and my TN House Representative. He has voted over the years to advocate for his constituents and is available to the community to listen and help. I hope this unfortunate problem can be straightened out. My prayers are with his family."

Former city councilwoman Barbara Pelot: "I'm just sad. Totally stunned by the story. I didn't expect to hear that at all."

Pelot said she enjoyed working with Armstrong over the years and considered him a friend to his district and to all of Knoxville.

She said she thinks the world of Armstrong and his family and she hopes "somehow they will find that it isn't accurate."

Susan Williams, who runs her own PR firm and is a Republican Inside Tennessee panelist: "like everybody in the knoxville community i think i was shocked. You know we've all known representative armstrong for a long time. I've worked with him in the past on legislation and you know he's just been a pilar of our community.

"I hope none of us will rush to judgment on this but you know, regardless of the outcome. It certainly doesn't help your political career."

"He may decide that he resigns because he doesn't want to put everybody through this. He could decide to stay, fight it of course, I'm sure he will fight it and stay in the general assembly until there is some kind of finality."

"If he's innocent it's a really horrible thing to have to go through. If he's guilty, he's still gonna have to go through all of this playing this out in the media and in the courts and for somebody like Joe who's been so highly regarded and well respected, it's really going to be difficult on him personally and on his family and friends."

"I don't think anybody in the republican party would take any joy out of this because this is a man that we've all known and liked and respected."

"I think we were all shocked by this and frankly I hope it's not true because I like Joe Armstrong. I've respected him as a legislator because he's a man that's gotten along with both sides. you know, whatever party is in power in Nashville. he's worked with both sides."

"It's really just almost heartbreaking to see this happen. but you know, again, this is a serious charge and if it is something that he has done then it's just going to have to play itself out."

Rev. Harold Middlebrook: "I have found him to be honest with us in dealings, and so it is shocking to me. I just don't believe that, i don't want to believe that it is deliberate."

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