Reporter’s Notebook: Rocky represents himself last week, talks about dead

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By Damon Lawrence

Speaking ill of the dead doesn’t sit well with U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves. Rocky Houston found that out at his sentencing hearing on Thursday.

“Mr. Houston, let me stop you right there,” a clearly unhappy Reeves said when Houston alleged something about Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones.

Jones and his ride-along friend Mike Brown died in a shootout with Rocky Houston and his older brother Leon in 2006.

“It’s not necessary for you to disparage a person that’s not here that’s deceased,” Reeves told Rocky. “They can’t respond in any way to your allegations.”


Authorities said they recovered 25 firearms that belonged to the Houstons when they searched the family farm on Jan. 11, 2013.

The weapons were checked for fingerprints, but none were found. Rocky, who represented himself at the sentencing hearing, pointed that out when he was questioning Roane County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Jason Mynatt.

“Did you find any of Rocky Houston’s fingerprints on those weapons?” Rocky asked.

“All the guns were fingerprinted, but no identifiable fingerprints were found on any weapon seized that night,” Mynatt testified.

Rocky was found guilty in March of being a convicted felon in possession of firearms. While authorities never found any guns on his person, the government argued that he had constructive possession over the arsenal that was seized.

“You knew you were a convicted felon,” Reeves said. “You knew you weren’t supposed to have weapons.”


Rocky wasn’t at the farm during the search because authorities arrested him in Kingston earlier that day.

When federal agents showed up at Rocky’s residence to conduct the search, his son, Cody Houston, came to the door armed with a high-powered rifle and wearing a bullet proof vest.

Reeves said agents showed great restraint by not shooting Cody.

“I’m surprised he wasn’t shot, quite frankly,” Reeves said.

Reeves scolded Rocky for putting Cody in a situation that could have gotten him killed.

“I’m concerned about your son,” Reeves said.


The brothers were tried in state court, but never convicted for the deaths of Jones and Brown. A lot was said about the 2006 shootout at Rocky’s sentencing hearing in the federal case.

The shootout took place in front of the Houston family farmhouse on Barnard Narrows Road. Rocky said Jones didn’t have a warrant when he showed up to arrest him.

“Are you saying that’s a good reason to shoot somebody, Mr. Houston?” Reeves asked.

Rocky alleged that Jones was firing from his patrol car as he drove up the road. Reeves wasn’t moved by the claims of self-defense.

“You seem to be of the opinion that you can just kill people,” Reeves said.


Reeves has now sentenced both Houston brothers to time in federal prison. He gave Leon the maximum five years at his sentencing hearing on March 4. Leon, 55, was convicted of using a telephone communication to threaten to kill Cleveland, Tenn., attorney James Logan. Leon is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Ky. His projected release date is May 21, 2017.

Reeves sentenced Rocky to nine years on his firearms conviction, which was one year short of the maximum.

“Sentencing is not for the weak,” Reeves said.

Reeves had the option to impose a fine on Rocky, but opted not to.


Reeves ordered Rocky to undergo a mental health evaluation and seek treatment if necessary.

Reeves said Rocky displays the traits of a narcissist along with paranoid tendencies that are concerning.

“He seems to think that everyone is out to get him and he has an inflated opinion about his importance,” Reeves said.


Rocky said he’s misunderstood and his many battles with the judicial system and law enforcement is about exposing corruption.

“The government has tried to paint Rocky Houston as an animal, and I just want you to know there’s two sides to the story,” he said.

For years, Rocky and Leon have claimed they are victims of a conspiracy that stretches from Kingston to Nashville to Washington, D.C.

“I’m pro-government, but I’m anti-government corruption,” he said. “That’s Rocky Houston in a nutshell.”

Rocky told Reeves that he even sent a letter to former president George W. Bush about corruption when Bush was in office.

“How’d that go?” Reeves asked.

“No response,” Rocky said.

“I don’t know why president Bush didn’t respond to your letter,” Reeves said.

“He’s probably too busy fighting wars in Iraq,” Rocky responded.

District Attorney General Russell Johnson was going to allow Rocky to present evidence on his conspiracy and corruption theories to the Roane County grand jury in 2012, but Rocky never showed up for his grand jury appointment.