Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 17, 2008

Key figure in DA's case has criminal record reinstated

By Michael R. Moser / mmoser@crossville-chronicle.com

A special Criminal Court Judge has reinstated the criminal record of a Putnam County woman whose expungement of charges was central to one of the complaints filed against suspended District Attorney General William (Bill) Gibson.

Donald P. Harris was appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to hear the State Attorney General's motion that the convictions against Tina Marie Sweat be reinstated. He heard arguments during a hearing in Cookeville in December and released his ruling last week.

And while the Putnam County Grand Jury recently found there did not exist enough evidence against Gibson to warrant formal charges against Gibson, the Herald-Citizen of Cookeville reported that the ruling might keep Sweat from her goal of attending law school and becoming a lawyer, and a role in keeping Gibson from getting his license reinstated.

On Dec. 15, 2003, Sweat pleaded guilty to assault and to two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell or deliver and was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days on the assault and three years and six months on the drug charges. Both sentences were suspended and she was then placed on probation for a total of 42 months.

That sentence was entered into the official record on Jan. 15, 2004.

In January of 2006 her attorney, Bill Cameron of Cookeville, filed a petition for post conviction relief and Gibson, as chief prosecutor for the district, then hand-delivered the petition to Judge John Turnbull, telling the judge he supported the move.

Turnbull signed the order but later said he was in error in doing so because he had trusted Gibson when the prosecutor told him the petition was in order. The petition, however, did not meet the time frame outlined under state law.

Under normal conditions the prosecutors oppose or take no position on petitions for post-conviction relief.

Harris ruled that the granting of post conviction relief in 2006 to Sweat in her drug and assault case was given outside the time frame set aside by state law for petitions asking for the action.

The judge ordered the conviction on the charges to be returned to the official record and that Sweat can file another petition for post-conviction relief under grounds allowed by state law for petitions filed outside the one year limit.