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 his sentencing Wednesday in federal court, saying he was greatly shamed and regretted his actions. The 65-year-old former judge from Knoxville 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. The woman, Deena Castleman, had been a defendant in Baumgartner's drug court.
A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also found that starting around 2007 through his resignation in 2011, Baumgartner was using large amounts of painkillers while presiding over trials and had purchased drugs inside the courthouse. Castleman told agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that she and the judge even engaged in sexual activity several times in the judge's chambers. She was sentenced to serve six years in prison for convictions that included possession of prescription painkillers.
"I will forever be remorseful for any disgrace I have brought to that profession," Baumgartner said Wednesday in court.
Baumgartner had previously avoided jail time when he resigned from the bench and pleaded guilty in March 2011 to a state charge of official misconduct.
But federal prosecutors requested that Baumgartner serve two years in prison on the federal charge. They said his actions seriously disrupted the Knox County court system and nearly a half-dozen retrials were granted in cases he had presided over, including highly publicized murder trials in the torture slaying of a young Knoxville couple.
Greer said the decision to sentence Baumgartner to prison was one of the hardest he had made as a judge.
"Judges ought to be held to a higher standard," Greer said, adding Baumgartner's conduct was a violation of the public trust and threatened the integrity of the justice system.