The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A lawmaker was jailed for stealing campaign signs. His bail came from a surprising source.

Tennessee State Rep. Curry Todd was caught on video apparently stealing campaign signs for his rival, Mark Lovell. (Video: Friends of Mark Lovell)

There’s nothing dull about politics, at least not in Tennessee, where a longtime state representative was arrested for allegedly stealing his opponent’s campaign signs — and then his opponent paid his bail.

State Rep. Curry Todd, a Republican who has held a seat in Tennessee’s 95th district for the past 18 years, was accused last month of snatching yard signs promoting the candidacy of Mark Lovell, his rival in the primary race.

Todd was arrested earlier this week. When Lovell found out the lawmaker was sitting behind bars on $100 bond, he said, “Man, I’ll pay it.”

“Shoot, I felt sorry for him,” Lovell told The Washington Post. “Wouldn’t you be sad if you were a state representative and nobody would come bail your a– out of jail?”

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Shelby County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Earle Farrell told The Post in a statement that Todd was caught on two separate videos pulling campaign signs from the ground.

One video, stealthily shot by one of Lovell’s campaign volunteers, shows a man wearing a baseball cap and flip-flops swiftly uprooting three signs from a roadside before stuffing them in the trunk of a Mercedes.

Farrell said the videos were handed over to the district attorney for investigation.

Farrell, the sheriff’s spokesman, said Todd was contacted by Shelby County deputies and told to come in for questioning, but said he was out of town.

“It’s like my Daddy always said: ‘Don’t make me come get ya.’ And Curry Todd forced us to come get him,” Farrell told the Commercial Appeal. “He could have come in very easily and taken care of this and it wouldn’t have come to this.”

A warrant was issued Monday for Todd’s arrest on a misdemeanor theft charge and he was taken into custody the next day, Farrell said.

That night, Lovell said, he paid his opponent’s bail.

Todd’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the lawmaker earlier told the Commercial Appeal that the property owners had given him permission to take down the Lovell’s signs.

“Yes, I did pick up the signs the other day, and I took ’em,” Todd told the newspaper. “I wasn’t trying to hide anything. It was daylight.”

The issue arose last month when, Lovell said, his campaign volunteers kept putting up signs — and the signs kept disappearing.

So, he said, a volunteer camped out with a camera and caught Todd in the act.

The volunteer, who appears to be hiding behind a tree, shot a shaky video over the weekend and sent it to Lovell, who called the media.

On Tuesday night, Lovell said, a friend who is a bail bondsman called him and told him that no one had paid Todd’s bond, so he did it.

“I thought, we don’t need our state representative in jail. He can get out and the judge can decide what to do about it later,” Lovell told the Commercial Appeal on Tuesday night.

When asked whether he thought Todd would pay him back, Lovell told the newspaper, “I don’t know. It’s like lending money to your nephews. You don’t expect to get it back.

“I figured it was a good deed.”

This story has been updated.

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