Note: This story was last updated at 12 p.m. April 12.
CLINTON—The sentencing hearing for Lee Harold Cromwell, who has been convicted of vehicular homicide for a fatal parking lot crash after fireworks in 2015, was postponed Tuesday after Cromwell said he no longer wanted attorney James Scott to represent him.
A public defender will be appointed, although the public defender will need time to review the case and the trial transcript. It’s not clear when the rescheduled sentencing hearing will be held, but it could be this summer.
Scott had represented Cromwell in court hearings, including a preliminary hearing in Anderson County General Sessions Court in Oak Ridge in January 2016 and a three-day trial in Anderson County Criminal Court in Clinton in February 2017.
In court papers, Cromwell has called Scott incompetent and ineffective. On Tuesday, Scott entered Anderson County Criminal Court before the sentencing hearing and asked Cromwell if he wanted to go into a back room and talk, an attorney-client conference.
“I really don’t want you to represent me,” Cromwell said. “You’ve shafted me enough.”
Scott said he would need to discuss that with the judge.
There was a conference in the judge’s chamber between Cromwell, Scott, prosecutor Tony Craighead, and Senior Judge Paul Summers, the judge appointed to preside over the case. After an hour or so, it was announced that the sentencing hearing will be rescheduled, although a date hasn’t been set yet. It’s possible, officials said, that it could be around the end of July or beginning of August.
Public Defender Tom Marshall was in the courtroom on Tuesday, and he joined the conference in the judge’s chambers about halfway through it.
On Friday, Oak Ridge Today asked Scott if he wanted to respond to Cromwell’s claims that he was incompetent and ineffective. Scott said he has been voted by the Knoxville bar for “at least five years running” as one of the top attorneys out of about 7,500 in the community.
“I’ve got the plaques to show for it,” Scott said.
He said his representation of Cromwell was effective, fair, and strategically appropriate.
Scott was referred to the case by a retired judge of no relation who had seen him at work in the courtroom. He had filed a motion to withdraw from the Cromwell case in March, but Summers did not grant it. Scott said he could not discuss the reasons for his motion to withdraw, citing attorney-client privilege.
On Tuesday, he was allowed off the case.
Prosecutors have asked for an effective 11-year sentence for Cromwell. But the defense has cited a plan of supervision included in a pre-sentencing report for Cromwell that would allow for community supervision.
Cromwell has a separate legal battle brewing in Nashville, where he has been charged, along with 10 other people, in indictments that include several hundred counts filed against East Tennessee residents after a one-year investigation into fraudulent liens. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced those indictments the day after Cromwell was convicted of vehicular homicide and aggravated assault in Anderson County Criminal Court on February 15. At last check, 10 of the 11 people, including Cromwell, had been arrested on charges of unlawfully filing liens and making false entries into records, according to the TBI.
Some of those arrested in the fraudulent liens case, which was filed in Davidson County, have been described as “sovereign citizens,” meaning they might not recognize government authorities, or they have taken actions consistent with the sovereign citizen ideology, according to local and state officials.
A hearing for most of the defendants in the fraudulent liens case has been scheduled for Thursday morning in Davidson County Criminal Court in Nashville.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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