Former Hawkins judge James Taylor gets 3-year prison term; must serve 11 months

Jeff Bobo • Sep 21, 2012 at 5:41 AM

Former Hawkins County Juvenile and Sessions Judge James “Jay” Taylor was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised probation in exchange for guilty pleas to six of his 41 theft counts in Davidson County Criminal Court.

Taylor, 41, 148 Stewart Hills Drive, Rogersville, has been held in the Davidson County jail since being indicted there May 28 on 41 counts of theft from the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).

Taylor was accused of making fraudulent payment claims to the AOC.

The fraudulent claims were for representing appointed defendants, some of whom appeared in Taylor’s court while he was serving as judge at the same time he made payment claims for representing them.

Taylor pleaded guilty before Judge Cheryl Blackburn on Thursday to six felony counts — one count of theft over $1,000 and five counts of theft over $500.

The remaining 35 counts of misdemeanor theft under $500 were dismissed.

Taylor must serve a minimum of 30 percent of his three-year prison term, or slightly less than 11 months.

He was also ordered to pay $32,750 in restitution to the AOC. If that restitution isn’t paid by the time his period of probation ends in 2025, his probation will be extended.

As part of the plea agreement, Taylor signed an order of disbarment issued by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, and he agreed not to seek reinstatement of his law license until his probation ends in 2025.

Taylor was also indicted by a Hawkins County grand jury June 1 on 12 counts of theft and money laundering. Those charges are still pending. That case comes up for a motion hearing Oct. 12 in Hawkins County Criminal Court and is set for a Jan. 28, 2013, trial.

As part of his plea agreement in Davidson County, any sentence Taylor receives in Hawkins County will be consecutive to his Davidson County sentence.

The Hawkins County indictments handed down June 1 pertain to Taylor’s alleged theft from clients in his private practice, as well as “misuse” of contributions he gathered for the purpose of installing a historical documents display in the new Justice Center that included the Ten Commandments.

He remains under investigation related to an alleged bribery scheme in which at least one Hawkins County commissioner was offered $5,000 to vote for Taylor’s appointment to sessions judge in 2011.

Taylor had practiced law in Hawkins County since the late 1990s and was elected juvenile court judge in 2006.

When Sessions Judge David Brand passed away in May 2011, the Hawkins County Commission appointed Taylor as his replacement by a single vote in early August 2011.

By that time, however, multiple civil lawsuits had been filed against Taylor alleging theft from clients in his private practice.

When the bribery allegation surfaced, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched a probe.

According to Third Judicial District Attorney General Berkeley Bell, who requested the investigation, it was during the bribery investigation that evidence was uncovered leading to the 41 Davidson County counts and the 12 Hawkins County counts.

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