United States of America Versus Hodge and Hawkins

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Federal Indictments Sealed

Brian Keith Hodge Betty Jane Best Hawkins Monroe County TN Vote Buying InvestigationThe federal attorney general for the Eastern District of Tennessee has sealed its indictments against two Monroe
County residents, according to court records that BUZZ obtained on Monday.

The records, filed on February 7, 2017, specifically named “Brian Keith Hodge, aka Wormy” and “Betty Jane Best, aka Betty Hawkins.” On that date, United States Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr issued a “Motion to Seal.”

It stated: “The United States of America, by and through Nancy Stallard Harr, United States Attorney for the Eastern district of Tennessee, hereby moves to seal the Indictment returned in the above-styled case, along with this Motion to Seal and ensuing Order, until further Order of the Court. In support of this request, the United States submits that the defendants in this case are involved in a pending investigation, and it is believed that prior knowledge of the Indictment would compromise the investigation.”

Assistant United States Attorney Bart Slabbekorn entered the motion into court records on behalf of  Harr.

The court set a trial date for the two before United States Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley, Jr. for 9 a.m. on Monday, April 24.

The case – 3:17-CR-8 will include a pretrial conference at 10 a.m. on April 14. The discovery cutoff was set for March 3, motion cut-off for March 24, response to motions by April 7, and reciprocal discussions and plea cut-offs
by April 14.

The hearing will be a jury trial.

According to court records, initial appearances and arraignments on the indictments by both Hodge and Best-Hawkins were held on Friday, February 24. The two were advised of their rights and of the charges alleged in the indictment. Counsels were appointed and Hodge and Best-Hawkins entered pleas of not guilty. Following the arraignment, both defendants were released from custody.

Michael Menefee will represent Hodge and Benjamin Sharp will defend Best-Hawkins.

Shirley ordered Menefee to be appointed as Hodge’s attorney, saying, “The court finds after review of the defendant’s sworn financial affidavit that the above defendant does not have the funds to retain an attorney of the
defendant’s choice and the defendant wants to be represented by counsel.”

Menefee is a Knoxville lawyer with the Menefee and Brown firm.

Shirley order discovery on Hodge and Best-Hawkins to include any relevant or recorded statements, arrest and convictions records, results of physical and mental examinations, oral statements made before or after arrests in response to interrogations by government agents, grand jury statements related to the charges, materials related to the charges, written notice if defendants intend to rely on insanity defenses, witnesses relevant to the case, rough notes by agents and officers, any lineup identifications, plus other relevant facts or newly discovered information.

Conditions for release included no violations of federal, state, or local laws, cooperation in collection of DNA samples if authorized, no change of telephone number or place of residence without court approval, no travel
outside the Eastern District of Tennessee, and presence in court as required.

Shirley cautioned that violations of release could result in additional prison terms of not more than ten years. To obstruct the investigation now underway, to tamper with a witness, victim, or informant or retaliation against or intimidation of a witness, juror, or officer would be punishable by up to a decade in prison and a $250,000 fine, and significantly more if actions involved a killing or attempted killing.

Hodge is a resident of Philadelphia, Tennessee, and served as an auxiliary deputy for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department and an employee at a firm in Oak Ridge.

Best-Hawkins lives in the Ballplay community and at present is serving a three-year suspended sentence for sale and delivery of Schedule II drugs.

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