By David in TN and Nicholas Stix
[See previously: The Knoxville Horror: Crime, Race, the Media and “Anti-Racism.”]
The redacted TBI report on Richard Baumgartner released by Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood.
KNS: Join staff writer Jamie Satterfield from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday for a moderated chat on knoxnews.com regarding this story.
She covers courts for the News Sentinel and was first to report the TBI probe of Baumgartner.
She'll try to answer any questions on topic that you may have.]
Here is the full, 6,200-word story of disgraced alcoholic, drug-addicted, ex-Judge Richard Baumgartner by Jamie Satterfield. In addition to using local small-time criminals to fetch him the painkillers to which he was addicted, and carrying on an affair with a prostitute/drug defendant/thief, Baumgartner was coercing court officers into surrendering to him for his personal use, pain medication they desperately needed for themselves or family members.
It turns out Baumgartner asked for the Christian-Newsom case. He wanted to preside over what Nicholas Stix dubbed the Knoxvillle Horror.
The Baumgartner Affair just keeps getting worse, the more you learn. Stix’ tag of “Judge Mischief” still is somewhat accurate, because he did want the case and picked Nashville as the jury pool twice.
By the way, comments for the Knoxville News Sentinel article have been disabled, with at least 95 posted comments sent down the memory hole by the KNS’ house censors. The censorship has pc KNS editor Jack McElroy’s fingerprints all over it.
Jamie Satterfield should finally get the Pulitzer Prize nomination that she should have gotten for her coverage of the Knoxville Horror case.
There was a time when it was possible to win a Pulitzer for a story on a racist black atrocity, but you had to find an irrelevant, non-racial hook to hang the award on. For instance, the Virgin Islands Daily News’ Melvin Claxton was given a Pulitzer in 1995 for a story on one of the bloodiest racially-motivated mass murders in U.S. history. That was the 1972 Fountain Valley Massacre, which was carried out in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, by Ishmael Labeet and his gang of black supremacist terrorists, slaughtering eight people and wounding others, while screaming racist epithets. But the award was for writing on “gun control”! And Claxton cleansed everything racial from the story.
Not even cleansing the racial facts from a story about a black racial atrocity will do, nowadays. Blacks may not play the heavies, and in the Knoxville Horror, all of the heavies were black. But in Satterfield’s current report, the heavies are all heterosexual white men, especially the criminal mastermind of the piece.
The most important thing to keep in mind regarding Judge Baumgartner and the Knoxville Horror is that Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has admitted that Baumgartner engaged in no misconduct in his running of the trials of the four suspects, yet Blackwood threw out all four convictions, and ordered retrials anyway.
And he has gone even beyond Baumgartner, in ruling that he will bus in a jury from out of the county (meaning one with blacker demographics than a Knox County panel would have) for the Lemaricus Davidson trial. In Davidson’s original trial, he insisted on being tried by a Knox County jury. That caused the trial to end not only with a guilty verdict, but with a death sentence. The chances of Davidson being sentenced to death this time ‘round are nil.
Having verdicts thrown out when judges or prosecutors engage in trial misconduct is understandable, but if their private lives also become fodder for appeals and reversals, then trials are a complete waste of taxpayers’ money and destructive of all justice. Defense attorneys will need merely to invade the privacy of various officers of the court (judges, prosecutors, even court officers), and either use their private peccadilloes to get convictions thrown out on appeal, or blackmail judges and prosecutors into giving them the results they seek.
Judge Blackwood’s decision was a blunder of historic proportions, in placing an impossible burden on the criminal justice system.
It ain’t over ‘til the black felon wins.
Court of secrecy:
How Richard Baumgartner, a drug-addicted judge, stayed on the bench despite warnings
By Jamie Satterfield
February 12, 2012 at 4 a.m.
Knoxville News Sentinel
It was a Thursday night in January 2010 when the phone rang at the Andersonville home of then-Knox County Sheriff's Office courtroom security officer Meredith Driskell.
"He said, 'I'm coming to get those pills.' He told me to put them in a brown paper bag. I told him no ... but he told me I was going to," she recalled when contacted by the News Sentinel. "So, I put them in a brown paper bag and handed it to him, my husband, who hadn't been in the room. I said, ‘Don't look inside. The judge is coming to get this.' "
"The judge" was former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner. He wasn't officially her boss. Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones was, but Baumgartner still held the power to have her fired. Driskell, a former state probation officer, worked in his courtroom. Jones was a regular visitor to the judge's chambers, and Driskell had missed work lately.
Her dad was in the hospital. She had undergone a hysterectomy - for which she had been prescribed the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin. Baumgartner, she knew, was keenly attuned to the medications prescribed to those who worked in his court and, she said, made no bones about demanding a share.
It would have done no good, she said, to seek help from the Knox County Sheriff's Office. She had reached out to her supervisors a few years before when, she said, Baumgartner was coming to work smelling of alcohol and displaying a nasty temper. They refused to transfer her.
Since then, Knoxville's most horrific murder case – the torture slayings of a young Knox County couple - had been assigned to Baumgartner's court, and, Driskell said, the shield around Baumgartner had grown even stronger.
"Judge Baumgartner compromised the sheriff's department," she said. "Everybody was trying to contain him at that point. (Sheriff Jones) knew. He just wanted those criminals put away. Law enforcement, all they wanted was those people fried."
A News Sentinel investigation showed that, despite ongoing warning signs and sounded alarms about Baumgartner's sobriety, he continued for at least three years to draw some of Knox County's most high-profile cases and made legal decisions still lauded by many to this day. Now, hundreds of cases could be at risk, and Knox County's judicial system is in a state of turmoil as a result….