News release from Davidson County District Attorney’s office:
Former Hawkins County Judge James F. Taylor today pled guilty to stealing from the Administrative Office of the Courts, by creating forged documents to support false billings for legal work that he did not perform.
The AOC disburses payments from the indigent defense fund to private attorneys who are appointed to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases. Taylor entered guilty pleas under a plea agreement to six counts of felony theft.
As part of that plea, Taylor accepted a 13-year sentence. Three years of that is to be served with 30% parole eligibility at a CCA facility. The remaining 10 years will be on probation. He is also ordered to make restitution to the AOC in the amount of $32,757, to be paid in monthly installments. The plea also dictates that Taylor will enter an order of disbarment, and he cannot apply for reinstatement of his law license until October, 2025, at the earliest.
The charges against Taylor stem from a joint investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Tennessee Attorney General’s office. The case was brought to the Davidson County District Attorney General’s office for prosecution, and was prosecuted jointly by the D.A. and the A.G. Taylor was indicted in April, 2012, by a Davidson County Grand Jury on 41 counts of theft from the AOC, which is located in Nashville.
Today in Criminal Court, Taylor pled guilty to one count of theft of $1000 or more but less than $10,000, and received a three year sentence on that charge. He pled guilty to five other charges of theft of more than $500 but less than $1000, and received a two year sentence on each of those, to be served consecutive to each other, for an effective 13 year sentence.
Prosecutors told the Judge today that proof would show that when Taylor was an attorney and part-time judge in Hawkins County, he falsified documents to make it appear that he represented clients who actually didn’t hire him and to whom he had not been appointed to represent. He then submitted false bills to the AOC, which reimbursed him.
Taylor also has a pending case out of Hawkins County. It was announced in court today that there has been agreement reached in that case as well. That plea will be announced in Hawkins County Court on October 12, 2012. The resolution in that case will also include additional jail time and restitution, and payments to the Hawkins County victims are to be paid before the AOC reimbursement begins.
“It’s extremely disappointing when an attorney betrays the trust of not only his clients, but also of the Court,” says Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson. “This kind of deceptive practice does not have a place in our judicial system, and it’s important that this individual pays back the money due the AOC, to be able to serve indigent clients.”
“This conviction sends a strong message that the theft of funds intended for those who cannot afford a lawyer will not be tolerated,” Attorney General Bob Cooper said.