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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Schmutzer-style justice once again in Grainger County

THP officer receives probation for hospitalizing girlfriend

It seems that some things never change. I've had a real jolt of that reality lately coming from the 4th District, the perview of District Attorney General Al Schmutzer for the last 30 years. Coming on the heels of the dismissal of charges against Chris Willingham, accused of first degree murder in the death of his business partner, Shane Bacon. The two previously co-owned Monster Audio in Sevierville.

The charges were dismissed by Judge Jon Blackwood after the prosecution's case rested and in response to the usually ho-hum defense motion to dismiss. The victim's family and many locals were stunned by this.

The judge and the prosecutor, Jerry Harris, were from Memphis. How does a judge from Memphis wind up hearing a Sevierville murder case? The judge who would normally hear such a case, Henry Rex Ogle, recused himself citing his mother's death as cause for removing himself from the case.

There were more lawyers running from this case than you can shake a stick at - as my Concord-born grandmother would say.

In addition to Ogle, District Attorney General Al Schmutzer also recused himself. He said that the victim's family had ill feelings toward him.

Then they put the burden of trying this case on District Attorney Pro Tempore Joseph Baugh who became so ill late last June that they had to find someone else to try the case. That's when Harris was drafted to the team.

Of course, the presence of James A. H. Bell as the primary criminal defense attorney had nothing whatsoever to do with all these good fellows hightailing it for the hills.

Sevier County is one of four counties in the 4th District. Jefferson, Cocke, and Grainger round out this lovely quartet.

So yesterday we got the wonderful news that a former Tennessee Highway Patrol officer, Mike Cameron, who beat his girlfriend so badly that she was hospitalized is getting probation for this serious crime. Yes, his girlfriend subsequently married him (and he was summarily fired for marrying her,) but that should not be a factor in the decision regarding the appropriate punishment for this crime.

This is hardly the first time Cameron beat this woman. In fact, he beat her six officially recorded times and Goddess-only-knows how many others that were not officially recorded. That the woman is at his side is no indication whatsoever that he deserves any sort of treatment one way or another, yet the presiding judge cites that as one of the factors considered in rendering his judgment in this case. Has Judge Ben Hooper been in a cave for the last 30 years? Is he really unaware that appeasement of the perpetrator is textbook battered women's syndrome?

So why, you ask, was this sentence given to this beast who beat his own "loved one" with his official THP-issued stick? Why did he only get a year's probation?

That's not all. If he is a good boy, he is eligible to have his record expunged completely at the end of his probationary period..

I think I'm going to be sick.

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