Former District Attorney General Bill Gibson Disbarred

March 27, 2009
Bill Gibson

Former District Attorney General William E. Gibson, a Cookeville attorney, was disbarred by Order of the Tennessee Supreme Court entered March 20, 2009.

He can no longer practice law.

According to a news release on the Tennessee Bar Association's web site, "By Judgment filed January 15, 2009, a three (3) member Hearing Panel found that Gibson, the former District Attorney for the 13th Judicial District, engaged in intentional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation that seriously adversely reflected on his fitness to practice law."

Gibson's legal troubles began in September of 2006 when it was discovered that he had improperly counseled Chris Adams, a man that his office was prosecuting in a murder case.

He also improperly helped Tina Sweat, a young woman who had been convicted of meth and assault offenses, by getting her conviction reversed and removed from the record.

As a result of the allegations, Gibson's law license was suspended in the fall of 2006, forcing him to step aside as top prosecutor, and assistant DA Tony Craighead filled the vacancy in Gibson's absence.

Gibson was investigated by the TBI and the case was presented to a Putnam County grand jury but he was not indicted .

Last year, as the state legislature prepared to oust Gibson from office, he resigned. Crossville attorney Randy York was later appointed by Governor Phil Bredesen to fill Gibson's position as District Attorney General for the 13th Judicial District, which includes DeKalb County.

The news release states that "The Hearing Panel further found that Gibson, as an elected official holding a governmental position, knowingly misused and abused his position with the intent to obtain a significant benefit for another, and caused serious injury to the integrity of the legal process. The Hearing Panel found that while Gibson was the District Attorney, Gibson improperly communicated with Christopher Adams who was incarcerated and charged with first degree murder and other serious felonies.

Additionally, the Panel found that Gibson as a District Attorney influenced the outcome of the Adams prosecution, while misrepresenting the strength of the State's case to the family of the victim.

The Board of Professional Responsibility also charged Mr. Gibson with engaging in a conflict of interest in improperly assisting Tina Sweat in obtaining post-conviction relief. The Hearing Panel found that Gibson intentionally deceived the Court in the handling of the Tina Sweat Petition for Post-Conviction Relief and submission of an Order granting her request by making misrepresentations, improperly withholding material information, and causing a significant adverse effect on the legal proceeding.

The Hearing Panel found Gibson violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.3 in Gibson's prosecution of Christopher Adams for first degree murder and by failing to act with reasonable diligence in representing the State of Tennessee in response to Tina Sweat's Petition for Post-Conviction Relief. Gibson violated Rule 1.6 by breaching confidentiality during Gibson's ongoing personal relationship with Adams and by Gibson's actions in Tina Sweat's Petition for Post-Conviction Relief. Gibson violated Rule 1.7 by engaging in a conflict of interest regarding the prosecution and post-conviction petition of Adams and the post-conviction of Sweat.

Gibson violated Rule 3.5 in his ex parte communications with Judge (Lillie Ann) Sells and Judge (John) Turnbull regarding the Sweat Petition for Post-Conviction Relief. Gibson violated Rule 4.1 by making dishonest and deceitful communications with the Court in the Sweat Petition for Post-Conviction Relief. Gibson violated Rule 4.2 by communicating with Christopher Adams and Tina Sweat, both of whom were represented by counsel. Gibson violated Rule 8.1 by misrepresenting the nature of his relationship with Tina Sweat to the Board of Professional Responsibility. Gibson violated Rule 8.4 by engaging in deceitful conduct in the Adams case and engaging in conduct in the Sweat case which was a misrepresentation to the Court and in both cases was prejudicial to the administration of justice.

On September 25, 2006, the Tennessee Supreme Court temporarily suspended Gibson's law license for posing a threat of substantial harm to the public based upon reports by Judge Leon Burns and attorney John Parsons concerning Gibson's actions in the Adams case. Gibson has remained temporarily suspended since the Supreme Court's September 25, 2006 Order.

Neither Gibson nor the Board of Professional Responsibility appealed the Hearing Panel's Judgment and by Order entered March 20, 2009, the Supreme Court accepted and adopted the Hearing Panel's Judgment disbarring Mr. Gibson."

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