published Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Chattanooga man charged with forging judge's signature on form

A 37-year-old Chattanooga man serving time in state prison was arraigned Tuesday on charges that, in an attempt to get out early, he forged the signature of the federal judge who sentenced him in a separate embezzlement scheme.

In an orange jumpsuit and shackles, Shaun Steven Kidd stood before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Carter on Tuesday morning.

"I would say that these are somewhat unusual charges," Carter told Kidd, who's an inmate in the Whiteville Correctional Facility in Tennessee.

Kidd's most recent charge is that he enlisted the help of a woman named Jett Varner, sending her forged documents and instructions on how to fax a "notice of amended detainer" with a federal judge's signature on it to the Tennessee Department of Correction.

He sent Varner a cut-and-paste copy of the notice with U.S. District Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice's copied "electronic signature," according to court documents.

The notice could have removed a federal hold on Kidd, allowing him a possible release from state custody, where he's serving time on separate charges before beginning his federal five-year sentence on embezzlement.

Varner pleaded guilty to one count of forgery in February and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 24.

Kidd's trial is scheduled for June 18. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years on a tampering with evidence charge in the forgery case.

In February 2010, Mattice sentenced Kidd to five years in prison after Kidd pleaded guilty to "inducing the misapplication of bank funds."

Kidd convinced SunTrust Bank teller Jacinda James to move money from other accounts into Kidd's PayPal account multiple times from August 2008 until February 2009. The largest listed transfer was for $40,000 on Oct. 28, 2008.

James cooperated as a witness for federal prosecutors, pleading guilty to one count of theft by a bank officer and received one day in jail. She is now on five years of supervised probation.

Kidd appealed Mattice's decision in 2011, citing an excessive sentence and restitution. The judge had ordered Kidd to pay more than $75,000.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit dismissed Kidd's appeal on Feb. 13.

Part of Mattice's ruling on the five-year sentence was based on Kidd's criminal history, which includes at least 23 charges in Hamilton County Criminal Court between 1996 and 2010, ranging from identity theft to aggravated assault, according to court records.

While appealing his federal sentence, Kidd filed a civil lawsuit in Hamilton County Circuit Court against Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Neff, who handled some of his federal prosecution. In the suit, Kidd claimed official misconduct and civil rights violations.

The U.S. attorney's office filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which had been moved to federal court, calling the claims both "frivolous" and "malicious."

Carter appointed local defense attorney Rich Heinsman to represent Kidd on the recent charges. Heinsman declined to comment Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John MacCoon is prosecuting the case. U.S. attorney office policy is not to comment on pending cases.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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