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Embattled Tennessee DA faces calls for license suspension

Craig Northcott

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A prosecutor who has come under fire for making controversial remarks now faces calls to have his law license immediately suspended.

A coalition of Tennessee attorneys submitted the letter on Monday, where they also asked that District Attorney Craig Northcott’s competency to practice law in Tennessee be investigated and require him to reaffirm his oath as an attorney. Northcott’s jurisdiction covers Coffee County, home to the popular summer musical festival Bonnaroo.

“We are so alarmed by the assertions made in Mr. Northcott’s own words that we must, at this time request … this disciplinary board immediately petition the Tennessee Supreme Court for emergency, temporary suspension of Mr. Northcott’s license to practice law,” the letter reads.

A complaint was filed against Northcott earlier this year with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility after video footage surfaced of him at a Bible conference last year saying he didn’t believe in gay marriage and promised that same-sex partners wouldn’t receive protections from domestic violence laws.

Northcott also said that he was a “good Christian man as DA” and that district attorneys have the freedom “to prosecute anything. We can choose not to prosecute anything.”

Tennessee, like most states, does not require individuals to be married to be charged with a domestic violence crime. Instead, the law broadly applies to not only current or former marital spouses, but also to individuals in sexual relationships, as well as people who previously or currently live together.

Furthermore, those convicted of domestic violence aren’t allowed to possess or buy a firearm. The state also requires anyone subject to a domestic violence protective order to surrender their guns for the length of the order.

Previously, Northcott described Islam as “evil, violent and against God’s truth” in a Facebook post. He has faced increased scrutiny after being appointed special prosecutor in a contentious case involving a young black activist and accusations of possible evidence tampering from the House speaker’s office.

Northcott has since responded to the complaint, arguing that he believes the U.S. Supreme Court overstepped when it ruled gay marriage bans as unconstitutional in 2015. Northcott said while the state cannot deny licensing same-sex marriages, the court did not negate “the clearly established public policy of this state that was made part of our Constitution a decade earlier.”

Tennessee amended its state constitution in 2006 to ban gay marriage. While the language still remains in the constitution, it cannot be enforced because it is illegal.

“I have a strongly held religious belief that homosexuality is a sin. As such, I have a strongly held belief that I must not do anything that will either condone, promote, or suggest that I agree with such behavior,” Northcott wrote. “This is a belief that is shared by the majority of Tennesseans.”

The coalition says such statements are dangerous for the public.

“Mr. Northcott believes there are no limits to prosecutorial discretion,” the letter read. “A district attorney who believes he can make prosecutorial choices without limitation and for discriminatory purposes, believes he is above the law and poses a substantial threat to the public.”

As of Monday afternoon, Northcott said he had no response to the latest letter sent to the review board because he had not yet seen it.

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