Judge Baumgartner had a sever addiction to prescription drugs and indubitably used them profusely while holding court. Many took note of the Judge’s peculiar behavior but wrote it off as a result of his medical conditions or eccentricities. During his final two years of court he not only bought drugs, but actually bought them during court breaks. He also had sex with an ex-convict sentenced by one of his peers. Furthermore, he bought drugs from the very people he had convicted.
The ex-wife of one man he had resided drug court over, Christopher Gibson, took photographs of Baumgartner’s car in Gibson’s driveway and showed them to authorities. This began the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe into Baumgartner’s drug habits.
In January 2011 he went on medical leave. Baumgartner stepped down from the bench and sought drug rehabilitation treatment soon after. When charged with misconduct, he pleaded guilty and got a deal to remove the felony from his record and keep his pension with no jail time. The plea agreement prevented the judge from using any findings from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The judge who gave him this sentence (or lack thereof) now regrets his leniency as more facts of the case have been released.
Federal agents are investigating the case looking for federal U.S. Attorney violations.
Baumgartner was prescribed painkillers originally for pancreatitis. He already had struggled with alcoholism for which he had gone to treatment. He used a variety of prescription drugs including oxycodone, hydrocodone, xanax, and valium.
Baumgartner had been in several high profile cases, i9ncluding the kidnap, sexual perpetration, and murder of two young adults (Shannon Christian and Christopher Newsom). This high profile case in now being retried and many others Baumgartner convicted are asking to be retried. It is estimated that retrying the cases would cost tens of millions of dollars.
Ultimately, this disgusting abuse of power reminds me of several essential facts. While the authorities hold an awful lot of power, they are far from perfect. He was written off as having medical issues and being eccentric, but if people had been more mindful of his fallibility and humanity, they could have prevented the judge’s abuse of power from lasting for such a long period of time. Furthermore, this reminds me that addiction does not discriminate: the wealthy and the powerful are still susceptible to the disease of addiction.