Former Knox Trustee John Duncan III granted judicial diversion

Former Knox Trustee John Duncan III granted judicial diversion

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John Duncan did not say anything in court. John Duncan did not say anything in court.
Knox County Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz noted she received many letters of support on Duncan's behalf. Knox County Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz noted she received many letters of support on Duncan's behalf.
"This has been the toughest thing I've ever had to go through," John Duncan III said. "This has been the toughest thing I've ever had to go through," John Duncan III said.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - John Duncan III, the son of U.S. Congressman John Duncan, Jr. who pleaded guilty last month to official misconduct and resigned from office, was granted judicial diversion Thursday morning.

During Thursday's hearing to seek judicial diversion, Duncan's attorney Jeff Hagood told Knox County Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz that "John Duncan and I both recognize how painful it must be to see a young man with a promising career who has experienced and made a failure in a part of his job responsibility."

Hagood said the former Trustee was an ideal candidate for judicial diversion, telling the judge that Duncan accepting responsibility was tough "given the facts."

Hagood then added that Duncan has given back to the community through volunteer work and mission trips he participated in over the years.

"I cannot conceive of any individual who is doing more to help his community and region than John Duncan has done," Hagood said.

As part of the deal made last month in exchange for a guilty plea, Duncan was sentenced to serve one year of unsupervised probation.

Under terms of the judicial diversion, Duncan's sentence will end on Aug 14, 2014 if he stays out of trouble. At that point charges will be dismissed.

Before the sentencing, Judge Leibowitz spoke to how well she knew the Duncan family and how the decision was difficult for her.

Leibowitz recalled a story about shaking hands with Duncan's grandfather, John J. Duncan, Sr., when he served as Knoxville mayor in the early 1960s.

"I must have been about six or seven. I shook hands with the mayor of Knoxville. I still have that token that he gave me. I  prized it as a child and still have it." Leibowitz said.

Lebowitz said Duncan deserved "no more or any less" than what she would give anyone else sitting in his position.

The judge noted she received many letters of support on Duncan's behalf.

Duncan did not say anything in court, but afterward he admitted making mistakes. He said he has done everything he could to make it right.

"I'd just like to thank the hundreds of people who have reached out to me and my family over the last several weeks with words of encouragement," Duncan said. "This has been the toughest thing I've ever had to go through. It hasn't been easy, but I've been able to take comfort knowing all along that everything that happens, good and bad, is part of God's plan."

"This has been a very difficult thing for our entire family, but we've moved through it," Duncan's father added. "I believe John will complete this period of diversion and the case will be dismissed."

The family would not take any other questions.

Charges against Duncan, and the resulting plea deal and resignation, stem from a bonus Duncan gave himself in connection to a continuing education program, the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Services (CTAS) program.

Duncan awarded $60,000 in bonuses to six staffers and himself in December 2010 and October 2011 for taking the online courses. The money was paid before the course work was completed.

All trustee's staff members and Duncan returned their bonuses, but the county law director turned the matter over to the district attorney general's office for further investigation because of accusations the trustee tried to cover up the bonuses.

A state law passed in 2012 prevents officials who commit a crime from receiving judicial diversion, but it does not apply to Duncan because his crime was committed before the law passed.

In December of 2012, Duncan's Chief of Staff Josh Burnett and Tax Attorney Chad Tindell pleaded guilty to facilitation of official misconduct. Both would eventually be granted judicial diversion.

Duncan was elected as the county's trustee in 2010.

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