A jury was selected and heard opening arguments in the extortion trial of Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd, Wednesday in Criminal Court.
In his opening argument before the jury, Boyd’s defense attorney, Lee Davis, said the secretly taped telephone conversations between Boyd and East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert was “a calculated political strategy” employed by Lambert in his bid to wrangle the Republican nomination away from the two-term incumbent.
Boyd was charged with one count of extortion on April 10 after Lambert took the taped conversations to Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston, who had the TBI investigate. A grand jury returned a “true bill” in the case.
Pinkston told the seven-man, seven-woman jury in his opening argument that Boyd’s actions – first a phone call to an attorney then follow-up telephone conversations with Lambert concerning damaging information Boyd’s campaign team had on Lambert – went beyond “free speech.”
“We’re not talking about a robust political discussion,” Pinkston told the jury. “We’re talking about extortion.”
The state called Mike Mallen, an attorney and partner in the development firm of Perimeter Properties, as its first witness.
Mallen told the jury that he was at home suffering from the flu when Boyd called him on February 15. Mallen, a former associate with the law firm Miller & Martin, had appeared before the Hamilton County Commission numerous times advocating for developers who wanted tax breaks and was well-acquainted with Boyd.
Mallen said that during the conversation Boyd asked him if Allen McCallie represented the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, the non-profit organization in which Lambert is the Chief Operating Officer. Mallen said that Boyd told him that he had damaging information that could affect Lambert, his parents and his employer.
Mallen said that Boyd wanted him to relate that information to Lambert.
Mallen said that within minutes of hanging up with Boyd, he picked up the phone and called McCallie, a Miller & Martin associate that represents the TVRM. Mallen said that he had an “ethical obligation” to relay the information to the attorney representing TVRM.
McCallie was next to testify. He told the jury that he has been an attorney for 38 years, all of it with Miller & Martin. His practice deals with real estate and non-profit organizations. He has done legal work for TVRM for more than a decade.
McCallie said that he has known Boyd for many years, going back to when Boyd ran a millwork company that was absorbed by the T.U. Parks Co., a client of Miller & Martin’s.
McCallie said that he got the call from Mallen who said, “you won’t believe the phone call I just had.” McCallie said that Mallen related what Boyd has said about having damaging information against Lambert. McCallie said he then called the chairman of the TVRM and told him about the phone call.
He said he than called Lambert, who didn’t answer and his voice mail was full. McCallie said he then texted Lambert and Lambert called him back and he relayed the information in a 10-minute conversation.
He said Lambert then called him a second time that evening. Lambert told McCallie he had no idea what kind of damaging information Boyd may be referring to.
“I told (Lambert) to go personally see him (Boyd) at his office and ‘man up,'” McCallie told the jury.
McCallie said that Lambert then asked him about the legality of taping a conversation with Boyd. McCallie told Lambert that he couldn’t give him any legal advice on that subject.
In the cross examination of McCallie, Davis asked if Lambert gave him any indication that the damaging information that Boyd was referring to was a column in East Ridge News Online which questioned the timing of campaign contributions from developers. McCallie said that Lambert did not, and that Lambert was worried about his family, and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.
The trial before special judge Andrew Freiberg will resume on Thursday and is expected to conclude by the end of the day.