Twelfth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Justin Angel is now the second judge to recuse himself from a case in which Tenth Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump is accused of being blackmailed into securing a conviction in a 2018 second-degree murder trial.
The allegations, which Crump has denied, came to light when Chattanooga attorney Bill Speek filed a series of motions seeking a new trial for his client, Miranda Cheatham, who was convicted in the killing of her husband, James Cheatham, in 2016. She was sentenced to 18 years in prison, though she has maintained she was acting in self-defense.
A hearing is set to take place on Oct. 9 to determine whether Crump's entire office should be removed from any involvement in Miranda Cheatham's bid for a new trial. A newly assigned judge could modify that date.
Angel said that, after reviewing the pleadings in the case, he discovered a conflict and decided to recuse himself on Friday. The conflict was not disclosed.
In Freiberg's case, he cited exposure to "pervasive sources of alleged information, opinions and commentary about this case preventing the continued ability to be a fair and impartial jurist" as his reason for recusal.
It's up to Sharp to assign a new judge, or he could ask the Administrative Office of the Courts to step in.
The defense's motions alleged several instances of misconduct by the prosecutors who tried the case — Coty Wamp and Drew Robinson.
They also detail an allegedly incriminating recorded conversation between murder victim James Cheatham's siblings that was never produced at trial despite prosecutors having been made aware of it by the Cleveland Police Department. Police Chief Mark Gibson was the only person who listened to the recording until after the trial, according to prosecutors.
In the recording, James Cheatham's sister, Dana Cheatham, confesses after being confronted by her brother John Loach that she had a prior affair with Crump. She admits to threatening to "f—- his whole life up" by airing their alleged affair if "something didn't happen soon" in prosecuting the case.
In their response to Speek's motions, Crump and assistant district attorney Paul Moyle said there never was an affair.
They claim the recording was actually a ploy to get Crump removed from the case because the victim's family member who created it had been "very dissatisfied with the pace of the investigation and at a meeting in May 2017 stated that if our office didn't charge Miranda Cheatham quickly he would see that someone else prosecuted the case."
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