ROGERSVILLE — If former Hawkins County prosecutor Doug Godbee persists with a new motion to dismiss his felony official misconduct charge, he may find himself facing nine felony charges instead of one.
On Monday, Godbee appeared in Jefferson County Criminal Court, where his case is being heard due to a change of venue order.
The lone charge is based on the accusations of nine women who allege that Godbee requested, and in some cases received, sex in exchange for leniency in drug cases he was prosecuting.
After 30 years as Hawkins County’s lead prosecutor, Godbee resigned amid those allegations in September 2010 and has since been operating a private law practice based mainly in Rogersville.
On Monday, special appointed Judge Duane Sloan postponed a hearing pertaining to a motion to dismiss the charge against Godbee filed by his defense attorney, Paul Whetstone.
The basis of Whetstone’s motion is a 1993 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that criticized compiling multiple accusations into one indictment, stating that a jury should be presented with specific charges “instead of creating a ‘patchwork verdict’ based upon different offenses in evidence.”
Special prosecutor Russell Johnson of Kingston, who was appointed to prosecute the Godbee case, wasn’t able to attend court Monday. Sloan reset Godbee’s motion to dismiss hearing for Oct. 1.
Johnson told the Times-News Wednesday he has offered Godbee an opportunity to plead guilty to the original felony indictment charge “before it gets worse for him.”
“I’ve told him I’m going to oppose it (the motion to dismiss), and if he really pushes it hard, we’ll just go back and indict on all potential charges,” Johnson said. “He’s asking us to split them up and charge them individually, which doesn’t sound very smart from their standpoint. If the judge dismisses (based on Whetstone’s motion) we’ll just re-indict on all potential charges.
“Jeopardy hasn’t attached yet, so we’re considering just going back and indicting him on everything he’s insisting we indict him on.”
In June, Johnson received a complaint from a client represented by Godbee alleging Godbee had traded legal services to the woman and her son in exchange for sex with the woman.
Johnson said he wasn’t able to file a criminal charge related to the woman’s allegations.
Instead, Johnson forwarded the woman’s statement to the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, which suspended Godbee’s law license earlier this month based on her statement.
Godbee has denied the allegations, and Whetstone has filed a motion to have his suspension dissolved.
A TBPR hearing had been set for Monday and Tuesday to determine if Godbee’s law license will be revoked, but that hearing has been reset for Oct. 23-25.
Johnson said at first glance the new allegations against Godbee might suggest a prostitution solicitation charge is appropriate.
State law says otherwise, Johnson added.
“The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals said it’s not solicitation of prostitution unless the person you’re compensating for sex is engaged in the business of prostitution,” Johnson said. “There’s no evidence that this lady was engaged in prostitution. It’s just like having sex with someone and then taking them out to eat. It’s going to be hard for people to understand why that isn’t a criminal act, but that’s what the Court of Appeals has decided.”
Johnson added, “The standards for the Board of Professional Responsibility are a little different, and that’s why I gave it to them instead of charging him on it. Certainly we may use it in the future, but our position right now is if they want to persist with the motion to dismiss, we’ll re-present it for indictment.”
Johnson said he’s trying to convince Godbee to plead guilty before additional felony charges are added.
“Our offer is for him to plead as charged, especially in light of this new information,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘Go ahead and get this out of the way before it gets worse.’”