On Tuesday, Megan Barry resigned as Nashville’s mayor. But before she announced her resignation, she made a trip to criminal court.
What happened there? Here is what WKRN said about it:
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry pleaded guilty in Davidson County court to felony theft charges Tuesday morning.
One condition of her plea agreement was to resign from the office of mayor.
Barry pleaded guilty to felony theft of property over $10,000 charges. It is a conditional plea agreement for which Barry will receive three years unsupervised probation.
She also must pay $11,000 in restitution and if she follows her plea agreement for next three years, the charges can be dismissed and expunged.
In plain, non-lawyer English, Megan Barry walked into the courtroom never having been convicted of a felony. When she left, she still was not a convicted felon.
Barry entered a plea under Tennessee’s judicial diversion statute, Tennessee Code Annotated 40-35-313. This is often referred to as a conditional guilty plea. In this type of case, the defendant makes a conditional plea but the judge does not enter the judgment (the legal instrument that convicts someone). The person then serves a period of probation and if they successfully complete probation, the charge against them is dismissed and their record can be expunged.
A diversion plea is not that uncommon, nor would it be unreasonable in this case, given Barry’s age and a lack of a prior criminal record.
What makes this so unusual is the plea conditions. She has unsupervised probation. Most people who plead have to meet with a probation officer once a month. They have to take drug screens. If they have restitution, they have to pay it on a schedule. They have to find employment. They have a probation officer looking over their shoulder and if they violate a term of their probation, they go to jail.
Megan Barry does not have to worry about that.
Probably the only time she will meet her probation officer is in the few minutes after her guilty plea.
Why did the DA do that?
Plea negotiations are a give and take. The only card Barry still held was her office. Her attorney probably insisted that in exchange for her resignation, there be no supervised probation.
The average citizen who is like Megan Barry and who was convicted of the same offense, might get diversion.
They would not get an unsupervised probation sentence.