published Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Sentencing nears for convicted Knoxville ex-judge

  • photo
    In this 2007 photo, ex-criminal court Judge Richard Baumgartner presides in his courtroom in Knoxville.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — Attorneys for a former Knoxville trial court judge and the federal government have filed final briefs as a court prepares to sentence him.

Richard Baumgartner was convicted on five counts in October of lying to judicial officers to cover up his mistress’ involvement in a drug conspiracy.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, both sides agree a term of 24 months is appropriate punishment for Baumgartner, who also pleaded guilty in state court to official misconduct.

The lawyers differ on whether Baumgartner should go to prison or be placed on probation.

The state has granted new trials to a half-dozen defendants after Baumgartner admitted he was buying prescription pain pills from a felon on probation.

Baumgartner’s defenders, attorneys Donald A. Bosch and Ann Short, stated in their brief that their client is now clean, sober and financially ruined. The federal conviction caused the immediate suspension of his judicial pension.

“If the concern is for deterring other judicial officers, that message has already been delivered through Mr. Baumgartner’s public humiliation, loss of judicial position, disbarment, loss of pension benefits, and the stigma of having a permanent felony conviction and through the fact that the federal government stepped in to bring charges at a time when many in the public thought Mr. Baumgartner was treated too leniently in state court and should have forfeited his pension earlier,” they wrote.

Federal prosecutors David Lewen and Zachary Bolitho argue, however, that Baumgartner should be made a further public example of, saying damage his conduct has caused will take years to overcome.

“He betrayed the citizenry and chose to use that power and influence to engage in criminal acts. Defendant’s conduct has thrown the Knox County criminal justice system into upheaval; victims and their families have been re-victimized, an overburdened and cash-strapped system has been saddled with additional burdens and expenditures,” they state in the government’s brief.

A federal judge will sentence Baumgartner April 10.

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