November 2012: A federal jury found former Knox County judge Richard Baumgartner guilty misprision of a felony. He was accused of covering up a drug conspiracy involving his former mistress.
A federal jury has found former disgraced Knox County judge Richard Baumgartner guilty on 5 of the 6 counts against him.
Baumgartner is charged with misprision of a felony, which in this case accuses Baumgartner of knowingly covering up a drug conspiracy involving his mistress, and former graduate of the drug court he founded, Deena Castleman.
The jury returned the verdict just after 3:00 pm on Friday. Baumgartner showed no reaction as the verdict was read. He looked down as the Judge Ronnie Greer read the verdicts, and glanced up at the jury as each member was asked to confirm their verdicts.
A press release from the Department of Justice says, "The evidence presented at trial demonstrated that the defendant made material misrepresentations to various officials concerning Deena Castleman in efforts to conceal her participation in a federal prescription drug trafficking conspiracy. The evidence showed that his motive involved her continued participation in the conspiracy so she could provide drugs and sexual favors to him."
Baumgartner was found guilty on 5 counts of misprision:
Count 1 (August 2009)
Lied to Anderson County judge by saying former mistress Deena Castleman was a good drug court candidate. She testified she was not doing well at that time.
Count 4 (February 2010)
Told Knox County judge that a drug charge against Castleman was "bogus" & asked him to "do what you can" for her. Castleman testified the charge was not bogus.
Count 5 (May 2010)
Told YWCA Director that Castleman passed a drug test that was a condition of her living there. Testimony proved Castleman had not passed the drug test.
Count 6 (August 2010)
Told a Knox County child support judge that criminal court was working with Castleman to get her clean, so the judge lifted her bond order. Testimony proved criminal court was not working with Castleman at that time.
Count 7 (October 2010)
Told Knox County D.A. that Castleman was "doing well" & asked him to "do what you can" for her. Castleman said she was on pills then.
The jury found Baumgartner not guilty on Count 2, which accused him of lying to nurses at St. Mary's about his relationship with Castleman to set up a pill buy. Count 3 was dismissed before the jury got the case because the judge felt prosecutors did not provide enough proof.
Baumgartner will also lose his state pension as a result of this conviction. According to Jill Bachus with the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, Baumgartner will lose the pension because he was convicted of a felony related to his job duties. The TCRS cannot demand repayment of past payments.
According to state law, an elected or appointed official would not be eligible for his pension if "convicted in any state or federal court of a felony arising out of that person's employment or official capacity, constituting malfeasance in office."
Killian told 10News in a press conference outside of the courthouse, "The facts of this case were highly publicized and clearly tarnished the image of the criminal justice system in the eyes of the public. This conviction demonstrates that those in public office who violate the law and abuse the public trust will be held accountable for their actions."
Baumgartner's defense attorney, Don Bosch, issued the following statement after the verdict:
"On behalf of Mr. Baumgartner, we appreciate the hard work the jury has done in this case, and clearly they have struggled with the result. With that said, there are a number of critical issues that have been raised throughout this prosecution, and we will be appealing the five guilty verdicts. There will be no further statements at this time made by Mr. Baumgartner or his counsel."
Jurors spent more than 19 hours over four days deliberating the charges. On Thursday, the jurors indicated they were struggling with unanimous verdicts; attorneys for both sides told the judge they believed the jury was deadlocked.
Judge Ronnie Greer told the jury they could return verdicts on some charges before they return charges on others. He also issued an Allen Charge, telling the jury to continue deliberating, to not rush, and for jury members not to hesitate to change their minds after more discussion.
Baumgartner faces 1-3 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine for each count. According to U.S. Attorney William Killian, the judge will make his final sentencing decisions using "special formulas" to calculate prison time and fines. The judge will sentence Baumgartner on March 27, 2013 at 9 am. He is eligible for probation, but that decision is also up to the judge.