ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Hawkins County General Sessions Judge James “Jay” Taylor has received an additional one-year sentence in exchange for guilty pleas to six felony theft charges.
The Kingsport Times-News (http://bit.ly/SSDiXu) reports that a judge on Friday also ordered Taylor to pay $71,783 in restitution to victims in Hawkins County and serve 600 hours of community service.
Taylor is already serving a three-year jail sentence stemming from guilty pleas last month to similar charges in Davidson County.
The newspaper reports the charges in Hawkins County stem from money he took from clients in his private practice and from funds he raised to put a display in the courthouse lobby that contained the Ten Commandments.
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.
News release from TBI:
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office have investigated a case against a former Hawkins County, Tenn. judge which has resulted in him being indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury on forty-one counts of theft.
Former Hawkins County General Sessions Court Judge James “Jay” Taylor, age 41, of Rogersville, Tenn. was indicted on 36 counts of theft more than $500 and less than $1,000, three counts of theft over $1,000 and two counts of theft less than $500. Taylor turned himself into authorities on the charges this morning and was booked into the Davidson County Jail.
Between September 15, 2010 and July 27, 2011, Taylor filed numerous false claims with the Administrative Office of the Courts requesting payment for services as appointed legal counsel in cases where he did not perform legal services.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation into allegations of bribery and theft against Taylor at the request of the 3rd Judicial District Attorney General’s Office in August of 2011. The theft offenses named in the indictments occurred in Davidson County where the Administrative Office of the Courts is located and are being prosecuted by the Davidson County District Attorney General’s Office and Tennessee Attorney General’s Office.
TBI’s investigation on Taylor in Hawkins County is currently open and ongoing. Taylor’s bond in the Davidson County Jail is set at $175,000.
A Hawkins County judge has agreed to resign after he was formally charged with violating the state’s judicial code of conduct for taking money from clients for his personal benefit. From the News Sentinel: In an agreement reached Friday with the Tennessee Court of Judiciary, James Taylor is immediately suspended from his position as general sessions judge in Hawkins County and will resign on May 1.
Upon his resignation, the formal charges against him will be retired, according to the agreement. But the settlement will not apply to any civil lawsuits filed against him that claim mishandling of clients’ money and sexual harassment.
Taylor, who also is an attorney, was accused of taking more than $9,000 from a client for personal benefit and claiming payment for services that he didn’t perform.
He is under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. No criminal charges have been filed. He also is the defendant in civil lawsuits alleging misappropriation of money from clients and sexual harassment.
Earlier, Taylor had invoked his right against self-incrimination when responded to the Court of the Judiciary’s charges against him. Taylor’s formal answer to the Court of the Judiciary ws signed only by him, but referred to him in the third person.
Hawkins County Sessions Judge James “Jay” Taylor “took the Fifth” once again Monday in response to several charges filed against him by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR), reports the Kingsport Times-News. On Feb. 13, the BPR filed five charges against Taylor — four of which pertain to allegations of theft against clients in his private practice.
The other charge pertains to allegations of “misappropriation” of monetary donations gathered by Taylor for the purpose of installing a display of historic documents at the new Hawkins County Justice Center lobby, including a Ten Commandments plaque.
On Monday, Taylor filed his response to those charges stating he “has been advised by counsel to assert and invoke, and hereby does respectfully assert and invoke his privilege against self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
A hearing will now be scheduled, and Taylor faces disciplinary action from the BPR ranging from public censure to disbarment.
The BPR charges are separate from four charges filed against Taylor in January by the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary (COJ), which polices sitting judges.
Taylor is scheduled to stand trial in Rogersville April 25 on the COJ charges accusing him of stealing from a client, filing fraudulent payment claims with the state, and misappropriating contributions intended for the Justice Center lobby display.
Hawkins County Commissioner Darrell Gilliam told the Kingsport Times-News Tuesday he was offered a bribe by a third party to change his vote from Buddy Baird to Jay Taylor prior to the County Commission’s July 25 meeting to appoint a new sessions judge. Several Hawkins County commissioners confirmed Tuesday that they have been interviewed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation regarding allegations of malfeasance during the sessions judge appointment process.
Gilliam voted for Baird on June 27 when the commission’s first attempt to appoint a new judge ended in a 10-10 stalemate. Gilliam also voted for Baird on July 25 when Taylor won the County Commission vote 11-10. Gilliam added that he was offered a “substantial” amount of money to change his vote from Baird to Taylor the Saturday before the Monday, July 25, vote.
“I was called in for questioning, and I was interviewed by the TBI, and I told them exactly what had transpired,” said Gilliam. “I was offered a bribe. I flatly refused it, and I can prove that I flatly refused it. I stuck with Buddy Baird, but I was offered a bribe.”
…When contacted by the Times-News Tuesday, Taylor denied any attempts to bribe or pressure commissioners into voting for him. He also said he has no knowledge of an NCIC background check on Baird.