- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - When Republican members of the Tennessee House gather Tuesday to decide whether to oust embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham from his leadership post, it won’t be the first time that two-term lawmaker has had to answer for questionable behavior.

Until now, the 32-year-old has managed to come out on top of each situation that threatened to sink his career. The vote will determine whether Durham, who has sworn off speaking to reporters and did not respond to an interview request, can keep the streak alive.

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‘SECOND CHANCE’ AFTER BLOODY BREAK-IN

Durham was arrested in 2003 on charges related to breaking into the home and vandalizing the car of the new boyfriend of a woman who had broken up with him a week earlier.



The former girlfriend told officers that Durham, then a sophomore at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, had been upset to learn of her new boyfriend and insisted she show him where he lived.

An officer who went to interview Durham at his fraternity house found him bloodied from several cuts on his hands and arms from breaking into the home. The officer said Durham quickly “confessed to burglarizing” the home and divulged where the stolen items were.

Durham was charged with aggravated burglary, vandalism and theft. But prosecutors and school officials ultimately decided not to pursue legal or disciplinary action in what Durham later described as a “second chance in life,” allowing him to pursue a career in law and politics.

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FROM ARREST TO LAW-AND-ORDER CANDIDATE

Within 16 months of that brush with the law, Durham declared himself a candidate for student body president on a campus safety platform.

Durham in 2005 headed up the flashy “Tennessee’s Tomorrow” ticket, telling The Daily Beacon student newspaper that he was inspired by reading about sexual assaults on campus.

“I saw there was a lot of crime, and I said, ‘We have got to fix this,’” Durham told the paper.

Durham, who had worked on President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004, sought to energize traditionally sleepy student government elections. He bought 1,000 campaign T-shirts and rented a swanky bus from an outfit that usually caters to national political candidates or music stars.

Durham came in a distant third in the presidential vote, but 16 candidates who won student Senate seats on the Tennessee’s Tomorrow ticket had their wins vacated when officials determined that the campaign had spent more than $10,000 - well above the $8,500 spending limit.

Fellow Tennessee’s Tomorrow candidates said Durham had been intimidating and domineering, and refused to address concerns about spending. Durham later chalked the mistakes up to an “accounting error.”

Durham didn’t attend hearings that confirmed the disqualification of the Tennessee’s Tomorrow candidates.

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THE ‘RIGHT’ JEREMY DURHAM?

Durham rose through the ranks of the Tennessee Young Republicans to become the group’s president in 2009, the year he earned his law degree from the University of Memphis.

Durham gave the Young Republicans a new focus on raising money for a political action committee. The PAC ended up giving nearly $23,000 to Republican candidates and causes, and Durham was able to firm up political connections that gave him early insight into the creation of a new Williamson County legislative seat.

Candidates and PACs who had received money from the Young Republicans became early supporters of Durham’s state House bid, pouring in $21,000 to his campaign and committee.

But Durham’s undergraduate problems resurfaced. When the Nashville Post called in 2011 to ask about the arrest, Durham said he wasn’t sure the reporter “was talking about the right Jeremy Durham.” He said he wouldn’t discuss anything that happened in college and hung up when asked to confirm or deny the arrest.

Durham would go on to dismiss the events as “college shenanigans.” He won the race easily.

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‘DEFEAT PROBABLE CAUSE’

Six months into his first term, Durham was confronted by a drug task force agent, who asked about changes made to two prescriptions for an undisclosed medication.

An increasingly nervous Durham offered several possibilities about who had altered the prescription dates from 2012 to 2013, including workers who moved his Capitol complex office, his legislative assistant and secretaries in the doctor’s office, according to a recording of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press in December.

“I’m trying to defeat probable cause,” Durham told the agent.

Durham ultimately persuaded a Williamson County grand jury not to follow prosecutors’ recommendations to indict him. The matter appeared to have been buried from public scrutiny as he cruised to a second term in 2014.

That encounter became public just before revelations that Durham had written a character reference for a former youth pastor who pleaded guilty to a federal charge of child porn possession and statutory rape.

Durham in the letter cited the “grave error in judgment” he had made as an undergraduate, a far cry from the dismissive “college shenanigans” description of his 2012 race.

Lawmakers worried that Durham’s questionable behavior might hurt fundraising efforts as they head into an election year have called for Tuesday’s meeting to decide about his ouster.

Durham has denied any wrongdoing, blaming “lunatics” in the media for making an issue out of his past.

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