The fallout from drug use by former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner continues as many of the criminal cases over which he presided while using drugs are challenged.
Citing Judge Baumgartner's impairment, retrials have already been granted to the four defendants convicted in the 2007 torture-murder deaths of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom.
A TBI probe into alleged drug use by Baumgartner began over a year ago. Al Schmutzer, a former East Tennessee DA, was eventually appointed as special prosecutor.
A plea deal was announced on March 10, 2011. Baumgartner pled guilty but was granted judicial diversion by Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood. With diversion, the sentence was suspended and Baumgartner was placed on probation for two years. If Baumgartner remains clean during the probation period, his record will then be wiped clean. Click here.
The diversion and the ability to wipe the slate clean cleared the way for him to draw a state pension. On March 11, 2011, one day after the plea deal was entered, Baumgartner began drawing a state pension of $4,900/month.
Judge Blackwood, who admitted that he did not read the entire TBI file at the time he graned diversion, granted new trials to the four individuals who were convicted in the Christian-Newsom torture-murder deaths. Click here and here.
The Board of Professional Responsibility disbarred Baumgartner. The BPR file is here..
The redacted TBI file is here.
As all try to distance themselves from this travesty, Schmutzer claims that he was stunned by the diversion. Click here.
A defense attorney who is trying to get a retrial for his client, a convicted child-rapist, has asked the Knox District Attorney's office to step aside since employees of the DA's office were interviewed during the Baumgartner investigation and some may have/should have known of Baumgartner's impairment. Click here.
One certainty at this point is that more convictions will be appealed and more "what did you know and when did you know it" questions will be asked.