Mugshot of Judge Richard "Dick" Baumgartner
DA Randy Nichols hid signs of ex-judge Richard Baumgartner's misdeeds, attorneys contend
By Jamie Satterfield
Knoxville News Sentinel
June 28, 2012
Right motion. Wrong judge.
So says defense attorneys in a biting response to the state's bid to push Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood off the bench in one of Knoxville's most horrific criminal cases — the torture slayings of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23.
Defense attorneys Tom Dillard and Stephen Ross Johnson are firing back at Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols' allegations of unethical conduct by Blackwood with accusations of their own: Nichols and his staff hid information about then-presiding Judge Richard Baumgartner's misdeeds while Baumgartner was still on the bench handling the Christian/Newsom case.
"Counsel for (defendant George Thomas) agree that a motion to recuse was appropriate and should have been filed by the state, but not against the current judge (Blackwood)," the pair wrote. "A motion to recuse should have been filed years ago in this case concerning Judge Baumgartner."
Blackwood has ordered new trials for the defendants in the Christian/Newsom case in the wake of revelations Baumgartner was a chronic alcoholic and pill addict who used a felon on probation in his court to procure pills and using a graduate of his Drug Court to garner sex and pills.
A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe showed that much of Baumgartner's crimes were committed while he was still helming the Christian/Newsom case. A News Sentinel investigation showed Baumgartner was secretly pushed into treatment for alcohol addiction before those trials began but was allowed to remain in control of that case.
Although the News Sentinel has pushed for a release of the entire TBI file, only a scant portion has been made public. However, attorneys Dillard and Johnson, who represent Thomas, as well as the defenders for the remaining three defendants are privy to its entire contents.
The News Sentinel had reported that the portion of the file made public revealed the two prosecutors who handled the Christian/Newsom trials saw Baumgartner as a motorist weaving on his way back from jury selection in the trial of defendant Vanessa Coleman and that Baumgartner later pulled the pair aside and admitted he had been driving under the influence of what he claimed were muscle relaxers.
The newspaper also disclosed that Nichols, in turn, confronted Baumgartner, who confessed he had been drinking an entire bottle of wine each night to ease insomnia.
But Dillard and Johnson added another revelation not contained in the part of the file made public.
"During this visit, former Judge Baumgartner told Mr. Nichols that he was drinking a bottle of wine a night while at the same time going to the Bradford Rehabilitation Clinic (an outpatient center in Knoxville) and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings," the pair wrote.
Worse, the attorneys contend, both Nichols and his staff kept these revelations secret from the lawyers in the Christian/Newsom case.
"Of course, many other cases were being handled by the Knox County District Attorney General's Office before Judge Baumgartner at that time as well," the response stated. "Counsel for Mr. Thomas, who were not before Judge Baumgartner in his courtroom on a daily basis as were the members of (Nichols' staff), would have wanted to know about the judge's demeanor, behavior on the bench and condition that led Mr. Nichols to the extraordinary step of an ex parte direct inquiry of Judge Baumgartner about his problems. … Yet nothing was disclosed by Mr. Nichols or his office at that time."
Nichols' special counsel, John Gill, on Wednesday insisted Nichols' meeting with Baumgartner was not about a particular case and, therefore, is not an ex parte communication. As to whether Nichols should have told the Christian/Newsom attorneys about signs Baumgartner was impaired, Gill said, "We didn't realize the extent of the problem."
Ex parte communication means a discussion about a pending case between a judge and only one side of that case. It is generally frowned upon. Nichols has suggested Blackwood has been having one-sided discussions about the Christian/Newsom case with unidentified people and labeled as objectionable ex parte communication emails Blackwood sent to both sides in the Christian/Newsom case in an effort to avoid media scrutiny.
Dillard and Johnson deny any such one-sided chats, as has Blackwood. The attorneys say there is nothing wrong with the emails, which concerned scheduling issues, because those communications went to both sides.
Judge Baumgartner sends veteran to jail for kiddie porn after shooting video at a public swimming pool of fully clothed adults - Overturned on appeal.
Judge Baumgartner sends veteran to jail for allegedly shooting redlight traffic camera - All charges dismissed after Knox deputy sheriff confessed to shooting a redlight traffic scamera.
A drunk judge had to be escorted from court after kissing a solicitor, swearing at an usher and insulting a prosecutor while "fortified" with brandy, a disciplinary tribunal has heard.
A Pennsylvania judge has landed on the other side of the law after police found him (sans robe or gavel) highly intoxicated, naked and wrapped in a bedsheet in a Cumberland County hotel.
Former Masturbating Judge Busted For DUI
Meet former Creek County, Oklahoma District Judge Donald Thompson, who we sometimes refer to as “The Masturbating Judge”.
It seems that Thompson is in trouble with the law again.
No, not for playing with his sex toys in public, like previously.
This time Thompson was busted for allegedly driving while under the influence.
This after a state trooper saw a vehicle stopped on the outside shoulder of the Creek Turnpike east of Elwood Avenue, in Tulsa. When the trooper investigated he allegedly found the former judge to have slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of alcohol on his breath and Thompson’s vehicle to have damage to the driver’s side and a flat tire.
Reportedly Thompson said he could not remember how his car got a flat tire and damage to its driver’s side. However the mystery did not remain a mystery for long as the trooper later discovered Thompson had had hit a bridge wall on the turnpike.
Allegedly Thompson’s breath test revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.11 and he was arrested on a DUI charge.
Tulsa Jail records indicate that Thompson was arrested on a DUI charge at 3:00 a.m. on 12/05/08 and booked into the Tulsa jail at 5:30 a.m. Jail records also indicate that Thompson was released on $1,000 bond at 10:47 a.m. the same day.
Thompson in addition to being a former Creek County district judge is also a convicted felon and registered sex offender who was released from prison in April after serving two years of four one-year sentences on four felony counts of indecent exposure after being convicted on allegations that he used a penis pump, shaved his scrotum and masturbated while on the bench during trials in Creek County, Oklahoma in 2002 and 2003.
Penis pump judge gets 4-year jail term
BRISTOW, Okla. (AP) — A former judge convicted of exposing himself while presiding over jury trials by using a sexual device under his robe was sentenced Friday to four years in prison.
Donald Thompson had spent almost 23 years on the bench and had served as a state legislator before retiring from the court in 2004. He showed no reaction when he was sentenced.
At his trial this summer, his former court reporter, Lisa Foster, testified that she saw Thompson expose himself at least 15 times during trial between 2001 and 2003. Prosecutors said he also used a device known as a penis pump during at least four trials in the same period.
Thompson, 59, was convicted last month of four felony courts of indecent exposure for incidents that took place in his Creek County courtroom.
Thompson, a married father of three grown children, testified that the penis pump was given to him as a joke by a longtime hunting and fishing buddy.
"It wasn't something I was hiding," he said.
He said he may have absentmindedly squeezed the pump's handle during court cases but never used it to masturbate.
Foster told authorities that she saw Thompson use the device almost daily during the August 2003 murder trial of a man accused of shaking a toddler to death. A whooshing sound could be heard on Foster's audiotape of the trial. When jurors asked the judge about the sound, Thompson said he hadn't heard it but would listen for it.
Police built a case against the judge after a police officer testifying in a 2003 murder trial saw a piece of plastic tubing disappear under Thompson's robe. During a lunch break, officers took photographs of the pump under the desk.
Investigators later checked the carpet, Thompson's robes and the chair behind the bench and found semen, according to court records.
Carmelia Brossett, a senior probation officer for the state Department of Corrections, said in a presentencing report that Thompson refused to undergo psychosexual testing.
"Thompson's denial of the offense would likely present difficulty, if not inability for treatment providers to provide meaningful and beneficial sex-offender treatment," she said.
The jury recommended a sentence of one year in prison and a $10,000 fine on each count. The jury foreman has said it was the jury's intent that Thompson serve the full sentence.
Judge C. Allen McCall denied a defense motion asking that Thompson be allowed to remain free pending an appeal. Thompson was also ordered to pay a $40,000 fine.
"My god! A judge was arrested for using a peterpump on himself in court?! During a murder trial?! It doesn't surprise me."
-Justice Sharon Lee on Tennessee Supreme Court, dining with The Dragonater (re CNN TV News, CNN.com, Reuters, Judge suspected of masturbating in court, June 24, 2004)