GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A former circuit judge in Tennessee has been sentenced to six months in federal prison for lying to cover up a scheme that provided him with painkillers and sex.
Richard Baumgartner expressed remorse at sentencing Wednesday in federal court, saying he was greatly shamed and regretted his actions. The 65-year-old former judge in Knox County was convicted in November of five counts of misprision of a felony.
Authorities said he lied to cover up a conspiracy involving a defendant from his court, a woman about half his age who had supplied him with pills and sex.
An investigation also found he was using large amounts of painkillers while presiding over trials and had purchased drugs inside the county courthouse building starting around 2007 and continuing until he stepped down in 2011.
"I will forever be remorseful for any disgrace I have brought to that profession," the disgraced judge said, speaking at his sentencing hearing in Greeneville.
Baumgartner resigned from the bench and pleaded guilty in March 2011 to a state charge of official misconduct after a probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found he was addicted to painkillers and purchased pills from Deena Castleman, who had graduated from his drug court program. He did not receive jail time for that plea.
Federal prosecutors had requested Baumgartner serve two years in prison, saying his actions severely disrupted the Knox County courts and required retrials of half a dozen people. In particular, retrials were ordered for two defendants in highly publicized trials involving the 2007 torture slayings of a young Knoxville couple.
The prosecutors told U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer in a memo that "Baumgartner engaged in despicable conduct that has shaken the public's confidence in the criminal justice system."
But Baumgartner's attorney, Donald Bosch, pleaded for probation. The defense attorney said Baumgartner had already been publicly humiliated, financially ruined, debarred and now is a convicted felon.
In sentencing Baumgartner to prison, Greer said the defendant should serve some prison time because judges should be held to a higher standard. Greer said Baumgartner also must undergo drug testing and drug and mental health treatment upon his release.
First appointed to the Knox County Criminal Court in 1992, Baumgartner once presided over many high-profile criminal cases in Knoxville. He also launched the county's drug court.