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Judge steps down from case against former DA Crumley

October 4th, 2011 9:38 am by Becky Campbell

A second court official stepped away from a criminal case charging a former prosecutor with reckless endangerment and evading arrest.
Sessions Judge James Nidiffer said Tuesday that he felt he could be fair to the state and to Joe Crumley, who served as the district attorney general from 1998 to 2006, but he didn’t want there to be any appearance of favoritism to either side.
Crumley, 58, 215 Scott Lane, Jonesborough, is charged with reckless endangerment, evading arrest, failure to yield to blue lights/sirens and reckless driving. The charges stem from an incident in Jonesborough last month in which police said Crumley wouldn’t pull over when they tried to stop him.
He made his first court appearance on the charges Tuesday with his attorney, Jim Bowman.
“I think I can be fair to the state and I think I can be fair to Mr. Crumley,” Nidiffer said, but added he had already asked Circuit Court Clerk Karen Guinn to contact the Administrative Office of the Courts to request a new judge.
“I’ve known Mr. Crumley for 35 years,” Nidiffer said, indicating his presiding over the case could appear inappropriate. “Someone else probably needs to hear it. I think that’d be the best thing to do.”
Crumley was arraigned on the charges Tuesday, but there was no other court action.
District Attorney General Tony Clark said earlier this week that his office had already requested a substitute prosecutor for the case.
Clark said that most employees in his office were hired by Crumley. Adding to that the fact that Clark beat Crumley in the last election, he said it would be inappropriate for his office to handle the case.
A Jonesborough Public Safety officer stated in a court affidavit that Crumley nearly hit his cruiser head-on when he crossed the center of West Main Street around noon on Sept. 21, then wouldn’t pull over when the officer got behind him and activated his blue lights and sirens.
After officers finally got Crumley stopped, the former prosecutor suffered some type of medical emergency and was taken to Johnson City Medical Center.
He turned himself in at the Washington County Detention Center on Friday after nearly a week in the hospital.
In court documents filed Monday, police revealed they found a loaded 9 mm handgun in the center console of Crumley’s vehicle.
According to a state database, Crumley has a handgun carry permit that is valid until Jan. 26, 2014.
If Crumley is ultimately convicted of the charges, he would face one to two years in jail on the felony reckless endangerment charge and two to four years on the felony evading arrest charge. The other charges are misdemeanors and carry no more than one year in jail.
Crumley has no prior criminal record, which would be considered in any future sentence.
Nidiffer set Crumley’s case for Oct. 13 for a status hearing to see if a judge and prosecutor have been appointed to the case.
Bowman asked for a preliminary hearing in the case within 30 days.
Crumley is free on $12,500 bond.

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