The Look in Brief

Ex-speaker, chief of staff claim federal charges “vague” enough to dismiss

By: - October 31, 2023 6:00 am
Former Republican representative Glen Casada, photographed in 2022. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Former Republican representative Glen Casada, at right, photographed in 2022. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Former House Speaker Glen Casada and his chief of staff, Cade Cothren, are seeking dismissal of federal charges in a corruption probe, claiming they are “vague and unconstitutional.”

The filings by Casada and Cothren in U.S. District Court claim “‘deprivation of the intangible right to honest services’ theory of fraud prosecutions has been expanded and contracted for decades’ and that “there is a consistent lack of clarity and uniformity as to what conduct violates the ‘honest services fraud’ statute.”

Casada, a former House member from Franklin who served one more term after stepping down from the speakership in 2019 amid turmoil, and Cothren are seeking to have the indictments against them dismissed. The charges involve bribery, kickbacks, wire fraud and money laundering.

The filing by Nashville attorney Jonathan Farmer contends the 1988 honest services mail/wire fraud statute has been “consistently critiqued as being unconstitutional by all levels of the federal judiciary.” The filing also raises questions about whether a state official can be charged with a federal crime. Cothren is represented by Cynthia Sherwood and Joy Boyd Longnecker of Nashville 

Federal prosecutors are accusing Casada of taking kickbacks from his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, and concealing his and Cothren’s interests in Phoenix Solutions, a vendor that put together constituent mailers for several Republican lawmakers. Separately, Phoenix Solutions did tens of thousands of dollars worth of work for the House Republican Caucus, though that is not part of the indictment.

The claim is that Casada and former Rep. Robin Smith of Hixson directed fellow lawmakers to do business with Phoenix Solutions, then took kickbacks from Cothren. They had to conceal Cothren’s connection to Phoenix because he was forced to resign as chief of staff amid a sexist and racist text message scandal.

Smith pleaded guilty in the case and is cooperating with federal prosecutors. Cothren and Casada are set to go to trial March 5, 2024 after pushing it back from this October.

Casada dismissal

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial and Best Single Feature from the Tennessee Press Association.