Former, disgraced Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner now waits to learn if a federal judge will approve his request to drop all charges against him. On Monday, attorney's for both sides sparred in federal court over the grounds for the case. The defense argues the case is legally flawed.
Baumgartner arrived at the courthouse in Downtown Knoxville Monday morning with his legal team, attorney's Don Bosch and Ann Short. He was indicted in May 2012 on seven charges of misprision of a felony. That means prosecutors allege Baumgartner knew about a crime but failed to report it. The former judge plead not guilty to all seven counts.
Federal prosecutors allege he lied to several people, including another judge and a hospital employee, about a graduate of his drug court committing drug crimes. A TBI investigation later uncovered that the two had a sexual relationship, and the woman supplied Baumgartner with prescription pills. Baumgartner took a medical leave of absence in January 2011, after the results of the TBI investigation came to light.
Defense attorneys argue Baumgartner should not face federal charges because he did not lie to federal authorities, nor did he commit any action to hide a felony someone else committed. Bosch told U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley that the case was like trying to fit a quote "square peg in a round hole."
Prosecutors David Lewen and Zachary Bolitho strongly disagreed. Lewen called the motion "meritless when he (Bosch) filed it and nothing he said today changes that."
As 10News has previously reported, the defense filed 11 motions in this case; four of them ask the judge to dismiss it. In another motion, the defense also accuses prosecutors of abusing their responsibilities. Prosecutors dismissed those motions in their responses. A debate over the prosecutor's discretion also came to a head Monday.
Prosecutors told Judge Shirley they intend to prove that Baumgartner was part of a drug-distribution conspiracy, and that Baumgartner lied to cover up his role. That came as a surprise to the defense.
This is significant because it means prosecutors are alleging that the former judge did more than simply cover for his mistress. They're saying they can prove he planned, with at least one other person, to distribute drugs with a third party.
The defense said that is one reason why they also asked the judge to require the prosecution to turn over more specific information about certain evidence. The evidence in question are transcripts that correspond to audio tapes. The defense wants the transcripts for all of the audio recordings the prosecution plans to admit as evidence. Bosch said they are trying to pin-point exactly what instances, according to the prosecution, prove that Baumgartner covered-up or conspired to commit a federal drug crime.
Bosch also accused the U.S. Attorney's office for having animosity against Baumgartner, and that the charges against Baumgartner are simply "vindictive." Judge Shirley read several points aloud from the defense motion to have the case dismissed on grounds of "abuse of prosecutorial discretion." Those included that some evidence in the case, including a photo of Baumgartner's car, was illegally obtained from the city county building; and that Baumgartner was arrested in a public intersection when he posed no threat to the public and should have had the opportunity to turn himself in to authorities.
Bosch argued that federal prosecutors pursued this case because Baumgartner got to keep his pension as part of a deal to plead guilty to one state count of official misconduct in March 2011. Baumgartner also received two years of probation judicial diversion in that plea, and resigned from his position on the bench. Judicial diversion means Baumgartner is not technically a convicted felon unless he breaks the condition of his probation and judicial diversion. Therefore, Baumgartner remained eligible to receive his pension.
Under Tennessee state law, Baumgartner's pension can still be revoked if he is found guilty in federal court "of any crime related to official duties."
Lewen shot back, "Put simply, the defendant is unhappy that he's been charged in federal court...There's no evidence that that decision was vindictively made." Prosecutors called the motions "a poorly veiled attempt to delay this jury trial."
"We are not trying to delay this case," said Bosch at the end of the hearing, "we are trying to delay proper issues to which our client has a right to contest."
Judge Shirley has taken the motions under advisement. It is unclear when he will release a written ruling on them.
Baumgartner's federal jury trial is set to start on October 23, 2012.