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Taylor indicted - allegedly used Heritage Display donations to pay personal expenses

Published: 4:39 PM, 05/31/2012 Last updated: 10:06 AM, 06/08/2012

Source: The Rogersville Review

By Bill Grubb
News Editor

ROGERSVILLE - The Ten Commandments admonish everyone not to steal, advice a former Hawkins County judge should have followed.
    Already facing criminal charges in Davidson County, a Hawkins County Grand Jury has now indicted former General Sessions Judge James Taylor on multiple theft and money laundering charges.
    Taylor, 41, 148 Stewart Hills Drive, Rogersville, was named in indictments handed down Friday that charge him with a count of theft of property valued at more than $60,000; four counts of theft of property valued at more than $10,000 but less than $60,000; four counts of theft of property valued between $1,000 and $10,000; and three counts of money laundering.
    Among the alleged victims, three Hawkins County churches and a business who made donations for a Hawkins County Justice Center Heritage Display that would have included a version of the Ten Commandments. 
    The alleged criminal activity covers a period from May 2007 to July 2010 and involves a reported $192,924.83.
    According to court records, Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr. and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Scotty Ferguson are prosecuting the case.  Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has been appointed to preside over the case.
    The indictments allege that $77,927.57 was "obtained under false pretenses" from Colleen Burns in December 2008.
    In July 2008 Taylor reportedly took $10,064,20 from Julie Rasmussen.
    Taylor is accused of taking portions of two worker's compensation settlements, $34,255.04, from Melissa Deering in May 2007 and $42,000 from Dewayne Horton in October 2008.
    The indictments also allege that in May 2007 he kept $23,511.52 in attorney fees earmarked for two fellow attorneys, David H. Dunaway, of La Follette, and H. Douglas Nichol, of Knoxville.
    The former judge is also facing  criminal charges for using money he collected for the Heritage Display for "paying debts and expenses."  Taylor reportedly collected $1,500 from East Rogersville  Baptist Church, $1,666,50 from Spires Chapel Baptist  Church, $1,000 from Elim Baptist Church and $1,000 from Cellular Communications, all "obtained under false pretenses," according to the indictments.  
    In addition to claims that he used money to pay personal expenses, he allegedly used Horton's funds to pay Dunaway, Nichol and Deering.  Money from Burns was used to pay Horton and personal expenses, prosectors claim.   
    Blackwood set Taylor's bond at $150,000 on the Hawkins  County charges.
    A day before the Hawkins County Grand Jury convened, Taylor turned himself in in Davidson County on 41 theft charges including 36 counts of theft more than $500 and less than $1,000, three counts of theft over $1,000 and two counts of theft less than $500.
    Between September 15, 2010 and July 27, 2011, Taylor is alleged to have filed numerous false claims with the Administrative Office of the Courts requesting payment for services as appointed legal counsel in cases where he did not perform legal services.
    The former judge's bond in those indictments was set at $175,000 and the former judge remains in custody in the Davidson County Jail.
    In addition to several civil lawsuits stemming from his alleged behavior, Taylor is being investigated by the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee regarding complaints about his law practice and is under scrutiny by federal authorities for not paying federal taxes for several years.
    Taylor was elected Juvenile Court judge in 2006, a part-time post that allowed him to continue with a private law practice.  He was appointed General Sessions Court judge in July 2010, following the death of Judge  David Brand.  Rather than face a public trial on multiple charges, Taylor stepped down from the bench effective May 1 as part of an agreement with the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary.

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