Thomas Austin- Former Roane Co. Judge Sentenced To Jail Time

By: Stephen McLamb, Blount County Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Blount County Bureau Chief

After nearly thirty years on the bench, a former Roane County judge is sentenced on extortion charges today to 42 months in a federal prison.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb has more.

Thomas Austin told the judge he takes full responsibility for his actions adding he's lost everything except his children and friends.

Some attorneys testified to the many good things Judge Austin did, but an FBI surveillance tape shows a side of Austin only a few knew.

Former Roane county judge Thomas Austin's own legal problems ended today with his sentence of 42 months for extorting two Roane county driving schools.

Chuck Atchley, assistant US attorney says, "lost his job. He's no longer on the bench and I imagine he'll no longer be a licensed attorney and he's going to prison. It's pretty good punishment."

Greg Issacs, Austin's attorney says, "Tommy was touched by the letters that citizens of Roane county submitted to the court for it's consideration."

So how does a successful man go from the best at what he does to prison?

An FBI surveillance video investigation shows a dark side of Austin only he and few others knew.

Problems with drugs and alcohol, Austin told the court he wasn't proud of what was on the tape but happened when his life was getting out of control.

The tapes show just portions of the thousands of dollars Austin received while taking kickbacks from driving schools where he sent defendants from his own court.

The investigation culminated in his arrest, and although he's going to prison Austin is maintaining his optimism.

When asked if he is going to bounce back he says, "Absolutely."

Austin also told the court he wanted to apologize to the citizens of Roane County.

He remains out of jail until the Bureau of Prisons notifies him and will go to a minimum security facility.


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