The ex-wife of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will avoid jail time, but still serve four years probation under a plea deal approved Thursday.
Allison Burchett was in court on criminal charges related to stalking and staging cyber attacks against the estranged wife of Bandit Lites chief Michael Strickland. Burchett is dating Mr. Strickland.
In 2014, she illegally accessed Nicole Strickland's social media and bank accounts.
"She at that time took certain photographs of conversations and photos Ms. Strickland had," said the prosecuting attorney.
Those photos included before and after shots of Strickland's surgery for breast cancer.
"Allison posted these pictures on my Facebook page, and sent them to my friends and friends of friends on Facebook," wrote Strickland in her victim impact statement, which Senior Judge Don Ash read aloud in court.
Ash is from Nashville - all Knox County judges recused themselves from the case.
"After they posted these images I was so ashamed I could not leave my house," Strickland added.
Strickland said Burchett also had her power shut off, and convinced friends that she was faking her cancer diagnosis.
"My oldest son still believes that to this day," Strickland wrote. "What kind of person would do that?"
Burchett was charged with seven felonies, including six identity theft charges and one tampering with evidence charge, as well as six misdemeanor charges of computer crimes.
Prosecutors agreed to drop the seven felony charges in exchange for a guilty plea to the six misdemeanors.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Burchett agreed to have no contact with Strickland, and has to give her social media passwords to the probation office.
Strickland appeared in court to be dissatisfied with the plea deal, which includes no felony convictions. Her attorneys offered no formal comment on the proceedings.
District Attorney General Charme P. Allen defended the decision outside the courtroom. She said her office didn't believe Burchett would serve more than 2 years probation if the case went to trial. They also worried that her eligibility for diversion would eventually mean any convictions would be removed from her record.
"We thought in this particular case it was very important that Ms.Burchett ended up with convictions that stayed on her record," said Allen. "We believed it was very important that we got the max amount of time, and that’s what we achieved with this plea."
Allen also noted that Burchett now has six "crimes of dishonesty" on her record, which can be used against her in any future proceedings.
Burchett left the courtroom without any direct comment to reporters. Her defense attorney, Rob Peal, spoke on her behalf. He asked the plea be consider "in the context of 7-year, bitter divorce proceeding."
"Let me tell you, there are things you don't know," said Peal. "There is more to the story. There is a civil case and through pleadings, you will hear more facts."
There may prove to be more to this case - for both sides. Strickland's civil lawsuit against her ex-husband and Burchett is still active. Now that Burchett's criminal proceedings are closed, attorneys in that case will be able to gain access to evidence the state during its investigation, legal experts tell 10News.