Wednesday, October 7, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Baumgartner case; matter closed

The nation’s highest court has declined to hear the federal case against disgraced former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that justices will not hear arguments as to whether federal prosecutors overstepped their boundaries after Baumgartner pleaded in state court.

Lawyers for the former judge had argued that the prosecutors went too far in trying to apply an arcane area of the law.

Instead, they said the matter should have remained as a state-prosecuted case.

Once convicted in federal court, Baumgartner lost his state pension.

Defense attorneys Don Bosch and Ann Short in March submitted their bid, called a petition for certiorari, to the court.

It typically takes four justices to agree to hear a case, and the court takes only a fraction of the petitions submitted to it.

In September 2014, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned down an appeal by Baumgartner in what amounted to a split decision. In October, the lawyers' request for a full or "en banc" review by the appellate court was denied.

Baumgartner, who presided over such high profile cases as the Thomas D. Huskey serial killing case and the prosecution of four people in the Christian-Newsom homicides, stepped down in early 2011 as details began to emerge that he had carried on an affair with a woman in the drug court that he supervised, using her to secure prescription pills for a drug habit.

He admitted to official misconduct and received a diversionary sentence in state court. He was allowed to keep his state pension.

Then, federal authorities stepped in, securing indictments against him for what's called misprision of a felony, for which a jury convicted him in 2012. His state pension was now in jeopardy.

Misprision of a felony is an old area of the law, dating back more than 200 years in the United States. Simply put, it means someone was aware of a felony, concealed that and failed to report it to the proper authority.

It's generally been applied to circumstances when someone explicitly tried to hinder a federal investigation, Bosch and Short argued.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case, the matter is officially over.

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