State Rep. Joe Armstrong retires in wake of felony conviction

Sept. 8, 2016: The Knoxville Democrat has been in office for nearly three decades.

KNOXVILLE - State Rep. Joe Armstrong has officially retired in the wake of his federal felony tax evasion conviction and just days before the Tennessee General Assembly will meet for a special session.

"I look forward to being a constituent," He told WBIR 10News on Friday. "I look forward to making the calls rather than receiving the calls."

Armstrong said he filed the paperwork on Thursday with the governor's office, the House speaker and the majority leader.

WBIR obtained a copy of the letter.

In it, Armstrong says: "It has been an honor to serve this great state for nearly 28 years. I think the state has made substantial progress, especially under your leadership."

He adds that his retirement will become effective on Monday.

A jury in August found the long-time East Knoxville Democrat guilty of filing a false and fraudulent tax return, but declined to convict him on two other charges - conspiracy to defraud the United States, and attempting to evade and defeat taxes.

He has since appealed and is seeking a new trial.

However, he can no longer represent the 15th District in the state House or hold any other public office because of the conviction. his sentencing is set for Nov. 30.

As a result, the Knox County Democratic Party picked Rick Staples to replace him in the November general election. He faces independent Pete Drew and write-in candidate Rhonda Gallman.

State lawmakers are set to meet on Monday to address Tennessee’s underage drinking law which is in violation of federal guidelines.

The governor called for the meeting late last week. Armstrong said he already made plans and wouldn't be able to attend.

“Since I wasn’t going to be able to do the people’s business, I thought I should go ahead and retire,” he said. “I had been planning to retire, and when the special session came up, I felt it was an opportunity to do now.”

Armstrong said eight other members also won't be able to attend the session, but Gov. Bill Haslam has the votes he needs to change the law.

“I don’t think there’s a member in opposition,” he said.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini in a statement released Friday said Armstrong “has been a strong and an effective voice for his constituents” since 1988.

“Whether he was serving in his capacity as Minority Leader Pro-Tempore in the House or working hard on behalf of children with dyslexia and our students and teachers, Rep. Armstrong has been a fierce advocate for ordinary Tennesseans,” Mancini said. “Tennessee is a better place because of his service and I wish Rep. Armstrong and his wife, LaTonia, all the best in his retirement.”

(© 2016 WBIR)


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