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Bond recuses himself in Lebanon sewer plant case
Nov 22, 2005 12:00 am
November 16, 2005
A judge Tuesday recused himself from presiding over the case of the one-time head of Lebanon's wastewater treatment facility, who is charged with falsifying records submitted to state environmental officials.
Criminal Court Judge J.O. Bond made the decision during a brief court appearance for James "Butch" Arnold, who is challenging a decision by the District Attorney's office denying him pretrial diversion in the case. Pretrial diversion is most often compared to probation with charges against a defendant retired if he meets certain court-imposed requirements within a specified period of time.
Arnold is facing six counts of falsifying records and six counts of forgery for allegedly submitting documents downplaying to state officials the amount of "wastewater … being released into the community untreated," according to court documents on file.
Bond, in recusing himself from the case, cited a longstanding personal relationship with the defendant and his family, saying he was stepping aside to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
Afterward defense attorney Gary Vandever said the case will be moved to the docket of Circuit Court Judge John Wootten Jr.
Vandever declined further comment on Bond's decision.
Arnold was moved to another job in city government after his indictment earlier this year, which followed an investigation by the state Department of Environment and Conservation.
Court documents on file claim Arnold – a longtime city employee – falsified records submitted to the state to show compliance with state and federal laws "when in fact wastewater was being released into the community untreated."
Vandever filed a motion seeking pretrial diversion for his client which was rejected by the DA's office, which filed a letter with the court citing the need for "deterrence" in the case.
"The harm to the environment and danger to the people downstream are such that deterrence is important," Assistant District Attorney Buck Chambers wrote in a letter denying the request.
In rejecting the request, the DA's office also cited the multiple charges against Arnold.
In a reply from Vandever, the defense attorney said the decision by the DA's office to deny pretrial diversion was "arbitrary and an abuse of the District Attorney General's discretion," alleging the fact his client faces multiple charges should not be held against him.
In court documents Vandever cited a state law which he maintained "provides that multiple offenses do not render a defendant ineligible for pretrial diversion" and stated deterrence should not be an issue in the DA's decision in denying pretrial diversion.
"Deterrence obviously has little or no relevance in the pretrial diversion setting," the motion challenging the denial states. "By deliberate design, invocation of the diversion statute awards the consequences of a public prosecution and conviction, and then any 'deterrent effect' on others in the community is intentionally minimized or eliminated. The 'deterrent value' to the individual defendant comes as the result of the program itself, which should be devised to encourage the defendant's rehabilitation … and to ensure he or she will not be subject of criminal charges in the future."
With Bond's recusal Tuesday, a hearing on the defense motion seeking diversion is now set for Dec. 5.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.