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Appeals court overturns misconduct charge against former Sullivan County highway chief

October 5th, 2012 7:18 pm by J. H. Osborne

KNOXVILLE — An appeals court has overturned some of the criminal convictions that prompted former Sullivan County Highway Commissioner Allan Pope’s departure from office in 2010. But the appeals court affirmed other criminal convictions, including a felony conviction that alone could bar his return to public office.


In a decision released Friday afternoon, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals remanded Pope’s case back to Sullivan County Criminal Court “for entry of judgments consistent” with the higher court’s decisions.


“We have thoroughly reviewed the record, the parties’ briefs, and the applicable case law,” the appeals court’s ruling reads, in part. “We reverse and dismiss (Pope’s) convictions for official misconduct and private use of public property; we affirm (Pope’s) conviction for theft of property over $10,000 but less than $60,000; and we remand the case to the trial court for entry of judgments consistent with this opinion.”


Pope was charged with 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 Pope on probation for six years.


Pope’s appeal raised the following issues:


• Whether the trial court erred in denying appellant’s motion for judgment of acquittal or motion for new trial.


• Whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain a conviction for official misconduct.


• Whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain a conviction for private use of county equipment.


• Whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain a conviction for theft of services more than $10,000 but less than $60,000.


• Whether the trial court erred in ordering restitution.


Upon a review of the record, the appeals court agreed with Pope that evidence was insufficient to sustain the convictions for official misconduct and private use of public property, reversed the judgments of conviction, and dismissed those counts of the indictment. But the court affirmed the judgment of the trial court on theft of services more than $10,000 but less than $60,000.


Pope’s appeal argued the trial court erred as a matter of law by failing to consider his ability to pay when it ordered him to repay the county for the estimated cost of work provided by the county highway department for projects listed in his convictions. The ruling reads, in part: “We are unable to review this issue because (Pope) failed to include a copy of the transcript of the restitution hearing.”


The theft over $10,000 conviction is a Class C felony.


Pope was suspended without pay after a trial concluded with a jury’s guilty verdict on Nov. 5, 2010.


In January 2011, Pope was ordered to spend six years on probation for the convictions after Sullivan County Circuit Judge Jerry Beck opted to suspend an effective three-year prison sentence. Before granting probation Beck sentenced Pope, then 61, as a Range I offender to three years and a $10,000 fine for theft over $10,000, a Class C felony; one concurrent year and a $1,500 fine for official misconduct, a Class E felony; and a $50 fine with no jail time for private use of county equipment, a Class C misdemeanor.


Beck denied a motion from Pope’s defense to waive restitution in light of Pope’s lack of a paycheck and the possibility of his not being able to work due to ongoing problems with his eyesight. In addition to the $11,550 in fines the jury had imposed, Beck set restitution at $90,878.20 for work performed on property off Muddy Creek Road and $5,175 for a project off Graybeal Road.


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