Embattled Hamblen County Trustee John Baskette will not accept a prosecutor’s deal that would require him to resign from office, but allow him to keep nearly 20 years of accumulated Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System benefits, sources confirmed this afternoon.

Unless there’s an unanticipated development in the case, the next step will be presenting the evidence to a Hamblen County grand jury, according to District Attorney General Dan Armstrong, who met with Baskette’s attorney, Dandridge lawyer Richard Talley, this afternoon.

“I will always entertain calls from defendants and defendants’ counsel, but as far as I’m concerned, we have no agreement and there is not going to be an agreement, and I’m moving forward … There are some charges that have to go in front of the grand jury. You can’t do them by warrant,” Armstrong said.

State law provides that in cases involving alleged official misconduct, a grand jury must decide if there’s probable cause to proceed with a prosecution.

“I’m not saying that is the charge, and I’m not saying that’s the only charge … I can call a grand jury at any time,” Armstrong added.

Talley suggested that if the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and criminal investigators with the state comptroller’s office concluded Baskette committed a crime, they made a big mistake. 

“It’s a two-word response – not guilty,” Talley said. “We’re still in there. At this phase we’re going to trial. We’re prepared to vigorously defend any allegations that were made. That’s where we stand … I’ve heard of no allegation of any money missing, now or ever.”

Armstrong declined to comment publicly on the defense attorney’s representations. If Baskette is convicted of a felony related to his job as trustee, he will lose all TCRS retirement benefits he accumulated while in office and those he accumulated while working as a teacher, Talley said earlier.

For more details, read the Thursday edition of the Citizen Tribune.