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Baumgartner gets six months in federal prison; former judge "ashamed" and "forever remorseful"

6:49 PM, Apr 10, 2013   |    comments
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  • Former Knox County judge Richard Baumgartner leaves federal court sentenced to six months in prison.
  • Richard Baumgartner leaves federal court sentenced to six months in prison.
  • Richard Baumgartner leaves federal court sentenced to six months in prison.
    

On Wednesday afternoon a federal judge sentenced former Knox County judge Richard Baumgartner to six months in prison. 

In November a jury found Baumgartner guilty of five counts of misprision of a felony, meaning he had knowledge of and covered up drug crimes to feed his addiction to painkillers.

The normal maximum prison sentence for the crimes Baumgartner was convicted of is six months.  However, prosecutors spent most of Wednesday morning arguing for a sentence of two years in prison due to the damage caused by Baumgartner's crimes to the Knox County courts and the judicial system as a whole.  Prosecutors said, "When judges fall from grace they should expect to land harder than the rest."

Judge Ronnie Greer agreed that the maximum possible penalty for Baumgartner's case should be more than six months in prison.  Greer expanded the range to a maximum of 14 months behind bars because Baumgartner's actions are "an assault on the very foundation of our judicial system."

However, Greer then ruled to give Baumgartner a punishment "in the middle" of the new punishment range and sentenced him to six months in prison.  The medium sentence was due to factors such as Baumgartner's status as a first-time offender.

Baumgartner spoke in court and apologized for his conduct.  He spoke about his drug addiction in detail, saying it was "not an excuse" but to provide insight into his behavior.

Previous: Baumgartner's "sordid" illegal activity detailed

Baumgartner claimed his use of prescription painkillers grew into an addiction that was "no fun, no pleasure" and it became a "nightmare."  He went on to explain his addiction caused to him to do "irrational things" that were "just stupid."

Baumgartner cited several examples of addict behavior that a rational person would not do for fear of being caught.  Those actions included using traceable phones, driving his car with judicial license plates to drug deals, and going into a hospital to obtain drugs from a patient in the midst of the highly publicized  Christian-Newsom murder trials.  Baumgartner stated during his addiction he was "not using common sense or any sense."

Baumgartner went on to say he was "ashamed" and will be "forever remorseful" for his actions.  He specifically referenced the disgrace he brought to the profession and the pain inflicted on "the families that have to endure retrials."  He said, "I regret that and understand that is on my shoulders."

After he serves six months in prison, Baumgartner will be placed on probation for one year and subject to random drug testing.  Judge Greer decided not to impose a fine because Baumgartner is now financially ruined and incapable of making payment.   Baumgartner must pay a $500 special assessment to the court.

Judge Ronnie Greer said he will recommend Baumgartner serve his sentence at a federal prison in Montgomery, Alabama.  Baumgartner was allowed to self-report to prison at a later date.

The Federal Prison Camp (FPC) in Montgomery, Alabama, is a minimum security facility that houses male offenders.

10News will have a full breakdown of Baumgartner's day in court, along with reaction to the sentencing, on 10News at 5 and 6, and later on WBIR.com.

 

Previous story (12:30 PM, April 10, 2013)

Prosecutors have spent the morning laying out their case for a harsh punishment for former judge Richard Baumgartner.

The prosecution is asking for a two year prison sentence, which is more severe than usual for this crime.  They say Baumgartner's actions caused a lot of damage in Knox County.

Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey testified about the burden Baumgartner has placed on the system.  Many of Baumgartner's cases were called into question after his drug abuse came to light, including some of the most high-profile murder trials in Knox County.

Prosecutors say they want to send a message, that when a judge falls from grace, they should expect to "land harder."

The defense will get their chance to plea for a lesser sentence later Wednesday.

Previous story (9 AM, April 10, 2013)

Sentencing is underway for former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner in federal court.

A jury found Baumgartner guilty of misprision of a felony, meaning he lied to cover up a crime.

Prosecutors say he should face harsh penalties for his actions, while the defense claims his actions don't warrant a stiff sentence.

Baumgartner's attorneys are asking for no more than six months in jail with probation.

The prosecution says he should face from one to three years for each of his 5 convictions.

10News has a crew in the courtroom and will bring you updates when they are available.


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