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New federal investigation appears aimed at critics of Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton

A new federal investigation is underway, focusing on Cade Cothren, a longstanding Tennessee Republican staffer. This inquiry takes a closer look at critics of House Speaker Cameron Sexton, particularly examining allegations of “cyberstalking.” It’s important to note that this investigation is separate from the existing federal fraud charges against Cothren and former House Speaker Glen Casada.

The current investigation seems directed at individuals like Grimes, a former member of the Republican State Executive Committee, who is suspected of running an anonymous Twitter account that frequently criticizes Sexton. Another figure involved is Manookian, a controversial suspended attorney known for accusing the House speaker of legal violations and inappropriate personal relationships on Twitter.

Manookian, when approached for comment, referred the matter to his lawyer, Jerry Martin, who did not provide a response. On the other hand, Grimes, holding the position of director of operations for campus safety and security at the Tennessee Board of Regents, has been placed on administrative leave until further information emerges.

This investigation raises concerns about freedom of speech, as it appears to target individuals expressing criticism of a public official. The federal cyberstalking law prohibits actions causing substantial emotional distress to a person.

There’s speculation that Sexton, expected to be a witness in the federal fraud trial involving Cothren and Casada, may be a primary focus of this investigation. However, Sexton has chosen not to comment on the matter.

Prosecutors have sought a delay in the trial, citing the recent seizure of electronic devices from Cothren’s home. Cothren’s legal team, in response, is pushing to quash the search warrant, citing violations of the Fourth Amendment.

The ongoing case involves Cothren and Casada, indicted in August 2022 on charges such as conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, and money laundering, all related to federal funds. Both individuals have pleaded not guilty.

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