Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby, who is charged with indecent exposure after police say they caught him in a sexual encounter on Sharps Ridge, is seeking judicial diversion in the case.
Back in May, Knoxville police were conducting undercover surveillance in the area in response to citizen complaints when they arrested both Ownby, 45, and John McCracken, 53.
According to the warrant, Ownby "was observed with another male engaging in oral sex with one another."
The charge is only a misdemeanor, but the diversion would keep Ownby's record clean.
In a motion filed Thursday by Ownby's attorney, Greg Isaacs, the commissioner is described as being "extraordinarily remorseful for his conduct and lapse of judgment."
The motion is lengthy -- more than 50 pages with attachments -- and includes more than 30 letters of support from fellow commissioners, family members, former foster children, friends, and his counselor.
It also makes reference to former disgraced judge Richard Baumgartner, who also received judicial diversion for his felony charge of official misconduct.
Isaacs writes that Baumgartner is a "glaring example" of someone who used his position of authority to commit crimes, noting that Ownby's charge is not related to his duties as a commissioner.
The supportive letters paint Ownby as a supportive father, to both his own children and foster children, as well as a kind friend, co-worker and relative.
"(Jeff) has expressed and shown to me on several occasions that he is extremely remorseful about everything, and I feel that such a thing will never happen again," Knox County Commissioner R. Larry Smith wrote. "I feel that with the right guidance and counseling this situation will not recur."
Commissioner Tony Norman writes, "The situation as publicly reported is alarming but out of character for the man that I know."
Ownby sought counseling shortly almost immediately after his arrest at Ebenezer Counseling Services.
"He has been working on his personal issues, including sexual abuse issues he experienced in the past," Ownby's counselor, James T. Berry, writes. "Our plan is to continue to work on Jeff's emotional and behaviors issues leading to healthy relationships, personal boundaries, and behavioral health."
Derek Bowers, a friend and fellow Comcast employee, wrote of Ownby's kindness as a boss and volunteer work.
"I realize no one's perfect, but not everyone looks to climb out of a setback," Bowers wrote. "Some people just stay down. I don't see any way Jeff doesn't take this obstacle in his life and turn it into a positive and grow from it."
Ownby's wife, Jayme, also submitted a letter in support of her husband, describing him as "the most thoughtful, caring, loving Christian man I know."
"I am well aware of the situation he is in," she writes. "I pray it will all be over soon so that he can continue to be a respected and productive citizen, husband, father, friend and mentor to so many."
In the motion, Isaacs argues that Ownby qualifies for diversion under Tennessee law.
"Jeff Ownby has accepted responsibility for his actions and this is the quintessential case wherein judicial diversion will serve both the ends of justice and the best interests of the defendant and the public," the motion states.