John Baskette, the former Hamblen County trustee, appeared in Hamblen County Criminal Court Monday morning to plead guilty to three misdemeanors – attempted official misconduct, attempted theft over $1,000 and destruction of government records.
Circuit Court Judge Alex E. Pearson sentenced Baskette, 46, to three years – minus three days – of supervised probation. Baskette’s attorney, Richard Talley, asked for unsupervised probation, but Pearson says it’s a request that he never grants in criminal court.
The misdemeanor pleas allow Baskette to keep nearly 20 years of accumulated state retirement benefits.
The judge did not order restitution in the case. State comptroller’s investigators concluded that Baskette failed to deposit approximately $89,000 in cash. The money was replaced after the investigators informed Baskette they knew the money was missing, according to officials.
The guilty pleas Baskette entered this morning clear all his job-related charges. It does not clear a charge of theft over $60,000 related to Baskette’s private business dealings. This morning, Pearson set the trial date for Feb. 27.
Talley continues to maintain the felony theft indictment for Baskette’s business dealings is not a criminal offense, and he anticipates the case could be settled prior to trial. The attorney says most of the alleged victims will testify for Baskette.
District Attorney General Dan Armstrong, who did not attend this morning’s plea and sentencing hearing, counters that a Hamblen County grand jury concluded there was sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges that are related to Baskette’s business deals.
Defendants convicted of theft over $60,000 face between eight and 12 years in state prison - although the time they actually serve is almost always far less – and they are not eligible for a diversion.