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Snake-handling East Tennessee pastor pleads not guilty at hearing, vows religious fight

November 15th, 2013 10:34 am by Les Neuhaus, Knoxville News-Sentinel

Snake-handling East Tennessee pastor pleads not guilty at hearing, vows religious fight

Members of the Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette protest outside the courthouse in Jacksboro, where their pastor is on trial over the use of poisonous snakes in ceremonies. Photo by J. Miles Cary.

JACKSBORO — A snake-handling pastor from Campbell County pleaded not guilty Friday to possessing more than 50 venomous snakes.

Andrew Hamblin, pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, entered the plea during an arraignment in Campbell County General Sessions Court, which was packed.

A prelminary hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Dec. 17.

Hamblin, 22, who appears on the National Geographic reality television show “Snake Salvation.” is charged with possession of Class 1 Wildlife, a species inherently dangerous to humans, which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and a $2,500 fine per count.

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