Earlier this week the Tennessee Supreme Court denied Pope’s application for appeal of his felony conviction by a jury on a charge of theft of services more than $10,000 but less than $60,000.
Pope appealed to the state’s Supreme Court after that conviction was affirmed by the Criminal Court of Appeals of Tennessee last October.
The appeals court overturned some of the criminal convictions which prompted Pope’s departure from office in 2010, but affirmed others, including the felony conviction.
As a convicted felon and with his direct appeals exhausted, Pope is barred from returning to his former position as Sullivan County highway commissioner.
“The felony conviction stands,” Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus said Thursday afternoon. “Which means he has been rendered infamous as a felon. My position is ... yes, he will be ineligible to be highway commissioner by virtue of the fact he has been convicted of a felony.”
Pope was suspended without pay after the trial jury’s guilty verdict on Nov. 5, 2010.
Due to the then-potential appeals process, the Sullivan County Commission appointed Terry Shaffer as “interim” highway commissioner.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Pope’s appeal could clear the way for the commission to move ahead with a permanent appointment — to serve out the remainder of what was Pope’s four-year term set to expire in August 2014.
Law does not allow for a special election to fill the seat before that time.
Pope was tried in 2010 on four counts of theft of services more than $1,000 but less than $10,000; one count of official misconduct; one count of using public equipment for private purposes; and one count of theft of services more than $10,000 but less than $60,000. A jury found him not guilty of all counts of theft of services more than $1,000 but less than $10,000. The jury found Pope guilty of the remaining counts. The trial court imposed a one-year suspended sentence for official misconduct and a three-year suspended sentence for theft of services more than $10,000 but less than $60,000 and placed appellant on probation for six years.
Pope first appealed to the Criminal Court of Appeals for Tennessee.
Upon review of the record, that court agreed that evidence was insufficient to sustain the convictions for official misconduct and private use of public property, and reversed the judgments of conviction and dismissed those counts of the indictment. But the Criminal Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court on theft of services more than $10,000 but less than $60,000 — a Class C felony.
It is that conviction that Pope sought to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
“The bottom line for me is he remains a convicted felon as he was on the date of the jury trial, and as a result of that — because he has exhausted his appeals — he is ineligible to be highway commissioner,” Staubus said.