Tennessee Judge Resigns After Sexually Deviant Tape is Disclosed

Tennessee judge John B. Hagler has resigned in a bizarre scandal over a tape that reportedly records him enrages in violent and disturbing sexual fantasies. While everyone is calling for the tapes release, however, it is worth considering who released a tape that was found not to be evidence of a crime and protected by privacy. After all, Hagler is entitled to his own private fantasies so long as he does not hurt anyone else or commits a crime.

When the tape was first handed over to the FBI by a former employee, agents thought that it recorded actual torture and investigated a possible link to an unsolved murder. They ruled out any connection and concluded that it was pure fantasy, albeit highly disturbing fantasy. The tape first surfaced over two years ago when a secretary said that she found it on a tape with some dictation. T

Chattanooga police Sgt. Alan Frank stated that “It sounded like someone being tortured . . . The content was so shocking. I have been a police officer for 24 years.” After two years, however, someone told the Chattanooga Times Free Press learned about the tape and Hagler resigned. Hagler is 65 and married.

“The description of it as containing ‘graphic fantasies’ … is an accurate and sufficient description and all any decent person would want to hear of it,” the judge said in a statement.Bebb, the district attorney, said he, too, concluded the recording was not connected to any crime, but what he heard led him to persuade Hagler, whom he describes as a longtime friend, to resign.”This would disturb any human being who heard it,” Bebb said.The judge strongly suggested the leak was committed by someone with a grudge against him, perhaps someone he ruled against.”In my opinion, the real story here, so strongly expressed by an alert and outraged public, is not about me or my sins, but about whether one of our essential public institutions, the judiciary, has been the victim of a retaliatory attack,” Hagler said in his statement. He did not elaborate but alluded to a dispute within the local bar association.The district attorney has disputed speculation the leak was related to the judge’s recent ruling against a local sheriff’s department’s request for more funding.Members of the local bar have asked federal prosecutors to investigate how the existence of the tape became public. Police said FBI agents are asking them questions about the leak.The judge is fighting a request by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Associated Press and other news organizations that the tape be released.

Hagler has a point. It does appear that someone had an grudge against him and used the tape to retaliate. If it were a government official, it would constitute a serious breach of ethics and the law. Clearly, the judge’s apparent interest in sadistic fantasies is highly disturbing. However, privacy does not protect socially approved conduct. It protects all lawful conduct. Just as a judge is expected to protect the privacy of citizens, he is entitled to such protection himself.

The testimony came out in the hearing to consider Hagler’s effort to prevent disclosure of the tape. At the hearing, details were given on the connection to the earlier murder investigated by police.

Deputy Chief Mark Rawlston said, “It would be exculpatory evidence in whoever is charged in the murder of Marty Davis.”

On July 16, 1997, the 35-year-old Davis was found dead at his home at 3917 Sunbeam Ave. around 10:20 a.m. He was found by a neighbor who came by to check on him after observing suspicious activity at the house. The victim had been shot several times.

A possible suspect was seen entering and leaving the victim’s house shortly before the murder was discovered. This suspect was also seen walking in the neighborhood around the time the murder occurred.

Sgt. Phillips said Judge Hagler does not match the description “of the person who pulled the trigger.”

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