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Judge Richard Baumgartner under TBI investigation

8:46 PM, Jan 28, 2011   |    comments
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Former Judge Richard Baumgartner

A day after announcing he is going on indefinite medical leave, 10News has confirmed high-profile Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner is the subject of a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe.

TBI spokesperson Kristin Helm said, "We're not going to release details of the allegations at this time." However, Helm did tell 10News the allegations are of a criminal nature.

Knoxville attorney Don Bosch is representing Baumgartner. Bosch said his client will have a comment at a later time.

A spokesman for the Knox County District Attorney General also said the DAG's office had no comment.

Thursday, Baumgartner announced his medical leave would begin Monday.

Baumgartner presided over all four murder cases involving the killings of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

Lawyers 10News spoke with said if Baumgartner were charged or convicted, none of the cases he has presided over would be immediately impacted.  To overturn a verdict in any of those cases, attorneys would have to present specific arguments that Baumgartner's conduct impacted the case.

Attorney James A.H. Bell, who was in Baumgartner's courtroom earlier in the week requesting a retrial in the Raynella Leath murder case, told 10News he had known about the investigation for some time but could not comment about it.

Baumgartner denied the Leath retrial request just hours before the TBI investigation became public.

Baumgartner has presided over many of Knox County's most high-profile criminal cases of the past two decades, including the case of rapist and accused serial killer Thomas "Zoo Man" Huskey.

But, the four capital murder cases connected to the Christian-Newsom murders placed Baumgartner in the news frequently for the past several years.

The young Knox County couple was carjacked, raped, and murder in January of 2007.

LeMaricus Davidson, the alleged ringleader, was found guilty and sentenced to death.

His brother, Letalvis Cobbins was found guilty of first degree murder and other charges in connection with both Christian and Newsom, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.  His attorneys have filed a motion for a new trial. 

George Thomas was found guilty of first degree murder and other charges in connection with both Christian and Newsom, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.  His attorneys have also filed a motion for a new trial. 

Vanessa Coleman was found guilty of facilitation of murder in the death of Channon Christian.  She was acquitted of all charges related to Chris Newsom. Coleman was sentenced to 53 years behind bars.

When contacted by phone, Coleman attorney Ted Lavitt told 10News that news of the TBI investigation was "a surprise to me." Lavitt said he had no knowledge of the probe.

Deena Christian, the mother of murder victim Channon Christian, also said she was unaware of the TBI investigation.

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