CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Former Bradley County Commissioner Howard Thompson pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of attempted theft, one day after resigning from the commission.
Judge Carroll Ross sentenced Thompson to two years in prison, and then suspended the sentence. Thompson was placed on two years probation.
Thompson pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted theft greater than $1,000 and less than $10,000. A second count against him, filing a false report, was dismissed.
He had been accused of receiving stolen goods at his U.S. Highway 64 flea market.
In sentencing Thompson, Ross said it was a sad day for Bradley County and Thompson's family.
"You were held in a position of high trust in the community, and you betrayed that trust," the judge said.
The search for an interim commissioner to replace Thompson in the 4th District has begun.
Thompson was a commissioner for 17 years. Police raided his flea market business in December 2010.
The 4th District's other commissioner, J. Adam Lowe, said he will begin talking to those who may want to serve the remainder of Thompson's term, through August 2012.
"It has been the custom of the commission to look to the sitting district commissioner for a recommendation for replacement," Lowe said. "Though the appointment is always made by the full commission, the recommendation of the district has historically been held in high regard."
Lowe said "to be objective and equitable" with his recommendation, he is asking all interested candidates to complete a questionnaire and return it to him by noon Monday, the time of the commission's regularly scheduled work session. He requests a current resume and two letters of recommendation.
"Over the past several weeks, I have felt the kind of love and support that family members give to one another," Thompson read from a written statement Monday to commissioners. "My first response to the publicity of a few weeks ago readily acknowledged that I am a mortal human being. I have made mistakes in my life, and I said I would do the right thing. Tonight I am giving up something which is one of the most important things in my life."
Friends and relatives told the commission Thompson is a good and kind man who spent the weekend tirelessly working to help people in his district deal with tornado devastation.
"I would trust this man with my life," said Guinn Green, pastor of Kinser Road Church of God, where Thompson is a member.
Contact Randall Higgins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-314-1029.