Joint Committee To Meet On Removal of Cookeville DA

Ten members of the Tennessee state legislature will meet later this month on the possible removal of the District Attorney for the Cookeville area.

DA Bill Gibson, of 13th District, is still drawing his pay for the job even though state courts have suspended his law license. Gibson was at the state capitol today watching as the joint committee set his hearing date.

“Well of course, I’m obviously not happy. I’ve been the district attorney in my district for a number of years, for eighteen years. The people back in that district are not calling for this action. As a matter of fact there’s a petition circulating with hundreds of signatures, asking that there not be any removal action.”

Gibson had his license suspended in September, 2006. The Board of Professional Responsibility found he had broken rules in trying to aid a murder defendant who was being prosecuted by his office.

Gibson was replaced by a “district attorney pro tem,” but he has since drawn more than $190,000 in salary from his office.

The joint committee must decide whether or not to recommend his removal to the full legislature.

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Gibson says the move to oust him is unfair.

“They sought a criminal indictment on me in January, and the Grand Jury refused to return any sort of indictment finding no probably cause for any criminal activity. The only other times this Article Six removal has been used in the past involved two judges, each of which had huge felony convictions, not…not indictments, not pending trials, but convictions. So I think we’ve got a completely different fact situation here. I think it’s unprecedented that it moved forward under the facts of this case. And it’s my plan, at this point in time, to come and participate and present my case.”

The joint committee is expected to meet April 28, to hear testimony from witnesses, and debate a recommendation on April 29.

Acting as attorney for the committee is Paul Summers, former state attorney general.

“I’m a legal advisor, trying to do what’s fair and trying to present evidence in an orderly manner. But it will appear, I’ll look like a prosecutor, but I am not. I’m just trying to do the right thing and try to present what evidence there is and let the committee decide what they want to do so far as a recommendation to the whole body.”

The committee is meeting under the authority of Senate Joint Resolution 247 Kyle and House Resolution 288, Buck, Fincher, Winningham, Swafford and Curtiss.

The Board of Professional Responsibility found that Gibson went outside the rules of his own office when he contacted two felony suspects and advised them to the detriment of his own office.

Part of the evidence of that hearing was a letter from Gibson to a murder suspect, which reads, in part,

Dear Chris,

I am taking a chance by writing to you without your attorney knowing it. It would mean a lot of trouble for me if you ever mentioned it. It is against the rules to communicate with someone who has counsel without the permission of the lawyer. You are learning the law so you can look in the disciplinary/ethical rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court if you are interested. Anyway, what I want to say to you is not necessarily anything I want to get his approval on. So please keep this between you and me. …..

[the letter finishes]

…The 35 year thing also gives you hope of physical freedom one day, but your real freedom is already secured by the blood of Jesus. am beginning to sound like a preacher! Got to go get this in the mail. I will see you Friday one way or the other. Let David Brady tell you the news and act surprised. Discuss it with him and decide what you want to do. Stay in touch.

Your friend and brother (and prosecutor),

[signed] Bill Gibson

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