After three days, a jury was no closer to arriving at a verdict at close of business, Nov. 1, than when they begun Oct. 30, in the case against former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner. However, the jury had some questions about procedure and evidence.
The jury heard testimony from prosecutors that Baumgartner, while serving as a judge, carried on an affair with convicted drug dealer and user Deena Castleman, bought pills from her, and took drugs while on the bench. The six counts of misprision of a felony charged that Baumgartner covered up the affair and drug dealing. A seventh count was dismissed due to lack of evidence, Eastern District U. S. District Judge Ronnie Greer announced during the trial.
More than 19 months ago, Baumgartner resigned as judge before pleading guilty to official misconduct. Judge John Kerry Blackwood allowed him a two-year judicial diversion. In a diversion, the case is not prosecuted, and if he stays out of trouble for two years, the case is expunged. However, if he is arrested within that two-year period, the case is entered as a guilty plea and he would be required to serve an agreed-upon sentence.
Five months ago, Baumgartner was arrested on federal charges of misprision of a felony.
Baumgartner, through his defense attorney Don Bosch, claimed any lies he told were because he was concerned about Deena Castleman.
At one point, the jury notified the judge they questioned what to do if some jurors believed the burden of proof was met. Judge Greer advised the jury to make their decision based on what they learn din the courtroom and nothing else.
Jurors also told the judge they discovered the pills in evidence were really not oxycodone as an expert witness had testified for the prosecution. Judge Greer instructed the jurors to reconsider. They could return a verdict on some charges if they believe the prosecution proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and continue deliberating on others.
By Wes Hall