City man pleads guilty in scheme to kidnap judge’s wife, prosecutor’s child

Becky Campbell • Nov 5, 2012 at 8:55 PM

A Johnson City man who made a down payment to have a judge’s wife and a prosecutor’s child abducted pleaded guilty to solicitation to kidnap and retaliation charges Monday in a Washington County courtroom.

Shawn Allen Hughes, 34, pleaded guilty to two counts of solicitation to commit kidnapping and two counts of retaliation for past acts.

Prosecutors said Hughes’ targets were one of Assistant District Attorney General Erin McArdle’s children and Diane Cupp, the wife of Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp.

Hughes was apparently angry about a previous case that sent him to prison. In 2007 he was charged with two counts of aggravated rape — a case in Cupp’s court and prosecuted by McArdle. He pleaded guilty to those charges in December 2011 and was sentenced to 15 years at 100 percent service.

“I was in the courtroom when he pled and he was smiling and laughing at Erin,” said District Attorney General Tony Clark.

The investigation into the kidnapping scheme, conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, started after officers at the Washington County Detention Center intercepted information about what Hughes was planning.

“We accessed his phone records and used a wireless device in the cell, which we’re allowed to do,” Clark said.

After Hughes’ indictment, Clark said it isn’t unusual for prosecutors or other court personnel to be threatened, but Hughes went a step further with his plan.

Clark said Hughes paid toward the job, and had a location — a cabin in the region — for the victims to be taken and held.

“The cabin exists. It is a real place,” Clark said. Clark also said that Hughes had some personal information regarding McArdle that made the threat all the more believable.

“His statements were that he had nothing to lose and when he got out his family would be gone,” Clark said.

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood took Hughes’ plea, which gave him a total of six years in prison. It is consecutive to the 15 years on the rape conviction.

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