State of Tennessee v. Todd Joseph Sweet a/k/a Jamie Lee Turpin – Denial of Counsel

Todd Sweet, who I introduced in this posting, is upset that the Court denied him access to counsel but he had laid the foundation for the courts refusal, when he admitted to owning multi-millions in an account in Malaysia.

During the Defendant’s November 17, 2008, arraignment, the trial court inquired about the Defendant’s ability to hire an attorney. The trial court first swore in the Defendant, who then testified that the TBI had seized the land that he owned. Upon further questioning by the trial court, the Defendant testified that, while he did not have any money in the United States, he had “[m]ulti-millions” in an account in Malaysia. The trial court informed the Defendant that, based on these assets, he would be required to hire his own attorney, to which the Defendant responded, “Okay.” The trial court set an “attorney date” for January 26, 2009, informing the Defendant that he would need to be present in court with his attorney on that date.

He even elaborated further

The Defendant then filled out the affidavit, was sworn by the trial court, and maintained that he had over ten million dollars in off-shore bank accounts. The Defendant further claimed that he owned vehicles valued at $750,000, trucks valued at $200,000, snowmobiles valued at $20,000, and two motorcycles. The Defendant said that he could not access his money “from here.” The trial court expressed doubt about the accuracy of the Defendant’s testimony and appointed him an attorney. The trial court stated that the State needed to proceed on at least one of the indictments by April 13, and the State informed the trial court that it would proceed on indictment 08-081. The trial court set a trial date for case 08-081 for February 24, 2009.

Things get better

On January 26, 2009, the State informed the trial court that the Defendant had come to Monroe County from another state in November and that, according to the Interstate Compact, the State only had six months to try at least one of his cases. The trial court noted that the Defendant did not have an attorney present, and the Defendant said he had not hired one. The Defendant requested the trial judge “contact the U.S. Department of Homeland Security” because there were “explosives sitting in Sweetwater right now.” The trial court informed the Defendant that, as a judge, he could not comply with this request to contact the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he asked the Defendant to fill out an affidavit of indigency. The Defendant said he would not do so because he was “not going to perjure [him]self.” The trial court implored him to simply tell the truth.

When he claimed that he was unable to access the money, the court appointed a lawyer for him. If Todd wanted to hire a different lawyer, using his own money, he could and should have done so. The court, in spite of the admissions by Todd that he owned multi million dollars and other assets, assigned counsel to him.