Home > Crime > Christian-Newsom Murders and Baumgartner’s Fall From Grace

Christian-Newsom Murders and Baumgartner’s Fall From Grace


OK, so as we all now know, disgraced judge Richard Baumgartner was busted Tuesday by the Feds.  He was brought into court sporting shackles after an indictment was handed down for seven counts of misprision of a felony.  The charges stem from favors he granted his mistress, Deena Castleman, a supposed ‘graduate’ of the Drug Court founded by Baumgartner.

Misprison of a felony is an old English law which means, “is the concealment of a felony without giving any degree of support to the felony.  It is the government’s responsibility to show, “the principal had committed and completed the felony alleged; that the defendant had full knowledge of that fact; that the defendant failed to notify authorities; and that the defendant took affirmative steps to conceal the crime of the principal.

The elements of misprision of a felony, both of  which must be proved to support conviction, are: concealment of something, such as suppression of evidence or some other positive act; and failure to disclose. (USLegal.com)

Baumgartner interceded on Castleman’s behalf by vouching for her to Anderson County Criminal Court Judge Don Elledge as a candidate for leniency.  He also asked two other judges and the Knox County ADA to give Castleman judicial favors, all the while covering up her involvement in a prescription pill drug conspiracy.

Baumgartner’s decent into addiction to pain pills and his subsequent actions means he faces seven counts, each of which,  carries a maximum three-year prison term as well as a fine of $250k and will probably cost Baumgartner his state pension – a pension allowed by Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood after Baumgartner stepped down having pled guilty to misconduct.

OK, he’s a druggie, lied and used his office for misdeeds and while we can say, ‘good, they nailed the SOB and he should be punished’, where does that really leave us?

I will not argue Baumgartner’s apparent impairment during Vanessa Coleman’s trial – we saw him nod-off and witnessed his obvious disorientation.  As for the trials of Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas, I cannot attest to any impairment.

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood overturned all four convictions and ordered retrails for all four defendants, a step that has led the state AG to appeal to the State Supreme Court to overturn that ruling for all but Vanessa Coleman.

So, if this has been going on since 2009:

What the hell were the county and State doing during all that time? (Not to mention, Baumgartner had already gone through alchohol rehab!)

Why was Baumgartner even allowed to preside over court proceedings?

Has anyone reviewed the transcripts and proven ‘judicial misconduct’ in any of these trials?

Were the jurors so incorrect in their convictions after sitting through weeks of testimony, forensics and DNA evidence?

Why didn’t any of the numerous defense attorneys step up and claim foul?

If the retrials move forward – jury selection for Davidson begins next month – what Pandora’s box will that open for the thousands of cases Baumgertner presided over?

What financial cost will be born by the taxpayers?

What emotional cost does this inflict, not only on the Christian and Newsom families, but on all victims, their families and the public at large?

Baumgartner’s trial is slated to begin in July.



  1. ritanita
    05/17/2012 at 6:13 am

    Donchais, it is a conondrum. It bothers me most that those who knew there was something terribly wrong with Baumgardner did nothing about it at the time. As you reported early on, people knew something was terribly wrong with him and hid those facts. Had this situation been nipped in the bud, so to speak, there wouldn’t be so much suffering going on today.

    Had any brave soul stepped forward way back when, it could have also saved him from what he is going through now. This can of worms never would have been opened.

    Sorry for all the cliches, it’s the best I can muster so early in the morning!

  2. David In TN
    05/17/2012 at 9:43 am

    I read somewhere that back in 2008 Baumgartner was asked by someone if physically he was up to presiding over the then upcoming Christian -Newsom trials. Friends and colleagues knew his health was not the best. Baumgartner insisted he was all right and wanted the case.

    Ironically, if he hadn’t been the judge in this (in Knoxville) high-profile case, Baumgartner would probably still be on the bench. Almost everybody in Knoxville who had a computer was watching the live stream of the Davidson trial, which made Baumgartner’s face known by the general public.

    He was visiting Deena Castleman in the hospital (and staying in her room for a long time with the door closed) and the hospital workers recognized him.

    I attended two sentencing hearings (for Davidson and Coleman) in 2010. Both were on a Friday and Baumgartner was doing his calendar work before the sentencing hearings. Most of the people who appeared before him were drug offenders on probation. The judge would evaluate the reports and would usually tell them something like “keep on what you’re doing.”

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