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Judge denies pretrial diversion for former prosecutor

January 31st, 2012 11:29 pm by Jeff Bobo

RUTLEDGE — Judge Duane Slone refused Monday to overrule the denial of a pretrial diversion for former Rogersville prosecutor Doug Godbee. Godbee faces one count of official misconduct in connection to sex-for-leniency allegations made by nine female drug defendants or their mothers.

Godbee’s attorney, Paul Whetstone, said Tuesday he intends to appeal Slone’s decision.

In December, special prosecutor Russell Johnson of Kingston denied Godbee’s request for a pretrial diversion, which would have expunged Godbee’s record upon completing a term of probation.

Whetstone then filed an appeal to special appointed trial judge Slone seeking to overturn that denial.

Although Godbee was granted a change of venue to Jefferson County Criminal Court due to media exposure at home, Monday’s hearing took place in Grainger County Criminal Court in Rutledge, where Slone’s circuit schedule had him sitting that day.

Slone upheld the denial of pretrial diversion, citing reasons similar to what Johnson noted in his written denial including the importance of maintaining the integrity of the judicial system, and that an assistant attorney general is held to a higher standard.

Johnson told the Times-News Tuesday that during Monday’s hearing “I talked about a DA’s job is to seek the truth and administer justice based on that truth, and in this case I felt that he (Godbee) was held to a higher standard as a district attorney. He was preying on people who were vulnerable and at their weakest point.”

Before making his decision, Slone was presented with the sealed Tennessee Bureau of Investigation file from 2006 when Godbee was accused of having a sexual relationship with the victim in a case he was prosecuting. That allegation led to Godbee’s resignation, although he was reinstated as Rogersville’s lead prosecutor in 2008.

Johnson said Godbee’s previous indiscretion was a large part of the basis for denial of the pretrial diversion.

Godbee, 58, served as Rogersville’s chief prosecutor for more than three decades prior to his resignation in September 2010 amid the sex-for-leniency allegations.

Since his resignation, Godbee has operated a private law practice based in Rogersville, although his law license was temporarily suspended last week by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility for failure to comply with the terms of a mental health/substance abuse monitoring program.

Aside from appealing Slone’s decision Monday, Whetstone has also filed for Godbee’s law license to be reinstated.

“I am going to attempt to have the Court of Criminal Appeals review the judge’s ruling by way of an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Rule 9 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure,” Whetstone said. “The granting of the appeal is discretionary and must receive the assent of both the trial judge and the Court of Criminal Appeals. Presently we are awaiting a hearing on our petition to dissolve the temporary suspension that we filed with the Tennessee Supreme Court.”

Whetstone noted that Godbee has been readmitted to the Supreme Court’s Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program, which offers mental health and substance abuse services for lawyers, judges and law students.

“The temporary order of suspension signed by Justice Koch was entered because Doug had not been able to meet the demands of the program,” Whetstone said. “He has no substance abuse problems and has been sober for some 21 years. However, he is addressing some psychiatric issues that have plagued him. We provided the Supreme Court with all of the documentation that emanated from his readmission to the programs.

“I suspect that the next hurdle will involve a telephone hearing to assure the court that Doug is complying with his revised obligations with TLAP.”

As for the criminal case, Godbee is set for a motions hearing March 26 in Dandridge. Assuming the case isn’t held up by an appeal, a trial date will be set at that hearing.

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