Delay granted in Joe Armstrong trial

A new trial is set for Aug. 2.

KNOXVILLE, TENN. - Update: A motion to delay state Rep. Joe Armstrong's trial was granted Wednesday morning.

A new U.S. District Court trial is set for Aug. 2, and a plea deadline is June 2.

Armstrong's attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, said the delay was necessary to process the evidence against his client. Isaacs pointed to a hard drive from True Wholesale that was connected to secret recordings made of Armstrong.

Isaacs also indicated there had been some difficulty in obtaining recorded oral legislative histories from the Tennessee General Assembly, which are stored on 'cassette discs.'

Prosecutors say Armstrong bought cigarette tax stamps before an increase was passed by the state Legislature. He then sold them for a profit, they allege, and didn't claim the income on his taxes.

Isaacs said Armstrong used a tax preparer and did not intend to defraud the government.

After the delay was granted, Isaacs argued several other motions that would limit the government's conduct during the trial. He asked that the prosecution be instructed to redact the indictment to exclude language referencing his client's work as a state legislator.

"The indictment tries to paint a picture of a politician that tried to manipulate the cigarette tax increase," Isaacs said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

The government contends that background is necessary to prove Armstrong had motive to hide the income, and claim recordings have him saying he "can't be seen to profit from Big Tobacco."

Federal prosecutors also called Armstrong's actions -- voting on the tax increase, and then profiting from it -- unethical, but Isaacs said members of the state House of Representatives have no legal obligations to disclose conflicts of interest.

Isaacs also filed a motion to suppress secret recordings of Armstrong.

The judge will rule on the motions in the coming weeks. Armstrong and Isaacs left court without further comment.

Original Story: The defense for State Rep. Joe Armstrong, charged of federal fraud and tax evasion, has asked to delay his trial in order to review the “voluminous” information that prosecutors turned over for review.

Armstrong, D-Knoxville, was set for trial on Feb. 23, 2016.

According to a motion filed Monday by Gregory P. Isaacs in U.S. District Court, federal prosecutors do not oppose and request.

Attorneys for both sides are set to talk more about it during a hearing on Wednesday.

Isaacs asked for more time to investigate the case, saying his staff received 50 CDs, which contain audio and video recordings. Isaacs also said his counsel’s firm has to review more than 10,000 pages of tax and backings records.

Armstrong is accused of illegally profiting off a change in cigarette tax laws — in addition to not paying an adequate amount of taxes.

Related: Tennessee House Ethics Committee hasn’t met in at least five years

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