Tag Archives: diversion

Yager Pleased AG Says a Bill is Constitutional

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), August 1, 2012 — A new state law making elected and appointed officials ineligible for pre-trial and judicial diversion for criminal offenses committed in their official capacity meets constitutional muster according to a recent Attorney General’s opinion. Tennessee Attorney General and Reporter Robert Cooper, Jr. opined the state “may treat elected or appointed public officials differently from the general public by making them ineligible for pretrial or judicial diversion, without running afoul of federal or Tennessee constitutional protections.”
The request was posed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Eric Watson (R-Cleveland). The bill was sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) and Representative Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville).
“I am pleased that the Attorney General has opined that this new law passes constitutional muster,” said Senator Yager. “It is good to restate that both pre trial and judicial diversion are not a ‘fundamental rights’ for public officials. Those of us who have the privilege to hold public office should be held to a higher standard and violations of the law related to our official duties ought not to be swept under the rug by pre-trial or judicial diversion.”
“I was confident that our legislation was on solid constitutional ground,” added Representative Haynes. “With this new law we are sending the message that a public office is still a public trust and criminal conduct in public office will not be tolerated.”
The opinion stated that pretrial and judicial diversion are treated as “truly extraordinary relief” and are not fundamental rights. It also said “Tennessee and federal courts have not recognized public officials as a suspect class for equal protection purposes. The act took effect July 1, 2012.

Note: The full attorney general’s opinion is HERE.

Bill Bans Diversion for Public Officials Committing Crimes

The House unanimously approved and sent to the governor Monday a bill that – if in effect last year — would have prevented former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner from getting “pre-trial diversion” for his crimes.
“We had an instance in Knox County where we had a judge who went out and committed crimes related to his office,” sponsor Rep.. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, told colleagues who questioned the need for SB2566. “He created a whole host of problems.”
The bill, which earlier passed the Senate unanimously under the sponsorship of Republican Sen. Ken Yager of Harriman, declares that any public official convicted of a crime related to his or her duties in office cannot receive pre-trial diversion.
Pre-trial diversion is now available to first-time offenders under some circumstances. In Baumgartner’s case, by receiving diversion on a charge of official misconduct rather than a normal conviction, he was able to receive his state pension.
Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, questioned Haynes at some length on the bill, wondering at one point if it would prevent a state trooper from giving legislators a break on a speeding ticket. Haynes said it would not.

Bill to Block Pre-Trial Diversion for Officeholders Sails Ahead

The Senate has approved and sent to the House a bill that prohibits public officials from receiving pre-trial diversion for crimes committed while in office.
Such a law, had it been in effect at the time, would have apparently have prevented former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner from receiving pre-trial diversion, which allowed him to collect a state pension and will allow his criminal record to be expunged if he does not violate probation.
Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, referred to Baumgartner’s case during Senate floor debate on SB2566, sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman. McNally said the judge’s situation “points out the need for legislation like this.”
The bill passed unanimously during the Senate’s Monday evening session, though three senators abstained. One of them, Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, was the only lawmaker to voice any concern about the bill.
Haynes said that a crime by a public officials is bad, but that it is “just as horrible” for a trusted employee to embezzle money from his or her employer. He suggested the bill would be the equivalent of declaring punishment for a given crime would be less for a person over age 65.
“Why are we going to set apart one group and treat them differently than anybody else on various crimes?,” Haynes asked Yager. “If it’s good for those of us who serve in public office, why wouldn’t we do the same for anyone else?”
“Because a public office is a public trust and, as public officials, we ask for these jobs,” said Yager, contending that a higher standard should apply to judges, legislators and others holding an elective position.
McNally, after citing the Baumgartner case, said that state law already declares some types of crimes ineligible for pre-trial diversion and the bill simply adds another category. Drawing such distinctions, McNally said, is an appropriate function for the Legislature.
The bill now goes to the House, where it is sponsored by Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville. It is scheduled for a subcommittee vote today, which could move the bill forward for final passage by next week.

Bill Blocking Pre-Trial Diversion for Public Officials Clears Senate

The Senate has approved and sent to the House a bill that prohibits public officials from receiving pre-trial diversion for crimes committed while in office.
Such a law, had it been in effect at the time, would have apparently have prevented former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner from receiving pre-trial diversion, which allowed him to collect a state pension and will allow his criminal record to be expunged if he does not violate probation.
Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, referred to Baumgartner’s case during Senate floor debate on SB2566, sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman. McNally said the judge’s situation “points out the need for legislation like this.”
The bill passed unanimously during the Senate’s Monday evening session, though three senators abstained. One of them, Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, was the only lawmaker to voice any concern about the bill.
Haynes said that a crime by a public officials is bad, but that it is “just as horrible” for a trusted employee to embezzle money from his or her employer.
“Why are we going to set apart one group and treat them differently than anybody else on various crimes?,” Haynes asked Yager. “If it’s good for those of us who serve in public office, why wouldn’t we do the same for anyone else?”
“Because a public office is a public trust and, as public officials, we ask for these jobs,” said Yager, contending that a higher standard should apply to judges, legislators and others holding an elective position.
McNally, after citing the Baumgartner case, said that state law already declares some types of crimes ineligible for pre-trial diversion and the bill simply adds another category. Drawing such distinctions, McNally said, is an appropriate function for the Legislature.
The bill now goes to the House, where it is sponsored by Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville. It is scheduled for a subcommittee vote Wednesday, which could move the bill forward for final passage by next week.

There’s a Bill: On Judicial Diversion for Public Officials

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), January 19, 2012 — State Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) and Representative Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) today announced they have filed legislation to disqualify elected or appointed officials from receiving judicial diversion for crimes committed during their term of office.
Judicial diversion is the process in criminal law when a person pleads guilty to a crime and can later have the charge removed (or expunged) from their record following a period of probation. It is granted by the judge, hence its name “judicial.”
“The public office is a public trust,” said Senator Yager, who is Chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee. “Public officials ought to be held to a higher standard.”
A person is eligible for judicial diversion in Tennessee if they do not have a previous class A misdemeanor, felony conviction, or never received diversion or had their record expunged before. Those charged with a class A felony, a class B felony, a sexual offense, or a DUI are not eligible for judicial diversion under state law. Senate Bill 2566 would simply add a criminal offense committed by an official in the executive, legislative or judicial branch to the list of those which are ineligible for judicial diversion, if the crime was committed in their official capacity or involve the duties of their office.
“Accountability is a term that is thrown around a lot in public service these days. Unfortunately, not many take it seriously and that has to change,” said Haynes. “A law like this would go a long way towards restoring the faith Tennesseans once had in their elected officials. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and I think this is a strong first step towards raising the bar in Tennessee.”
“Criminal acts conducted by public officials during the course of duty should not be eligible for judicial diversion. We must hold our public officials accountable for the trust they have been given. This legislation helps ensure that,” Yager concluded.

State’s Drug Diversion Task Force Relies on Volunteers

Tennessee created a statewide task force on prescription-drug abuse four years ago and never set aside a penny to fund it, reports the News Sentinel as part of a story package on pill abuse.
The state Drug Diversion Task Force subsists on volunteer efforts in its battle against Tennessee’s most widespread drug problem.
“Everybody thinks we get money,” said Elizabeth Sherrod, the task force coordinator. “We get nothing. Speakers at our meetings travel at their own expense.”
Sherrod works by day as a senior special agent for TVA’s Office of the Inspector General, investigating waste and fraud. She spends her spare time as nominal head of the task force working to promote awareness of prescription-drug abuse and its dangers.
The task force, created in 2007 by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, has no full-time staff and no budget. No state, federal or private grants cover its expenses.
No agents wearing Drug Diversion Task Force badges batter down doors or haul pill pushers away in handcuffs, although its members include law-enforcement agents. Members meet on a quarterly schedule.
“We think of it more as an alliance,” she said. “We bring together law enforcement, health care and other professions. It’s just about the passion of everybody in these communities to come together and fix this problem.”
The task force operates a Web site, www.tndrugdiversion.org, and a tip line, 877-FOR-RXTN. A prevention campaign produced posters but no major radio, television or newspaper ads.
Sherrod said she’s worked for the past few years to organize annual training conferences for police and health-care workers. Those events rely on donated space and can’t offer reimbursement for travel or expenses.
“We offer training to investigators free of charge,” she said. “Eventually we’ll be at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Academy (in Nashville), covering topics like prescription fraud, addiction, hospital diversion, the drugs that are abused and the way they’re abused.”

Note: A summary of the other News Sentinel stories on prescription drug abuse is HERE.

House Votes to Abolish Pre-Trial Diversion Program

The House has voted to abolish the state’s pre-trial diversion program, which allows first-time offenders to avoid having a criminal conviction on their records in many cases.
Approval of HB694 came after sometimes contentious debate, much of it over an amendment proposed by Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, that he said would “fix this program and not just kill it outright… for the sake of a couple of D.As (district attorneys) who got their toes stepped on.”
The current law, enacted in 1975, excludes defendants charged with Class A and B felonies – mostly violent offenses — from getting pre-trial diversion, but allows it for some specified Class C felonies. Dennis’ amendment would have made all Class C defendants ineligible along with all those accused of sexual offenses. It would also have placed into law various new criteria to be used in determining eligibility.
Dennis’ amendment was killed on a 55-36 vote. The bill itself, sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville, was subsequently approved 74-23. It now is scheduled for a vote Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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