Monday, April 22, 2019  
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NASHVILLE (AP) — Former state Rep. Ronnie Davis has been sentenced to 26 months in prison after pleading guilty to four felony charges.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Echols recommended that Davis, 60, of Newport be sent to a federal prison in Beckley, W.Va., that offers treatment for drug addiction.

"I would just like to say a big apology to my family for ruining their lives and to the state Legislature for damaging their reputation," Davis said in court.

Davis served 18 years as a legislator, including several terms as assistant Republican leader of the House. He pleaded guilty in January to charges of conspiring to sell fake passports to two Texas businessmen and to supplying drugs to his girlfriend and co-conspirator, Diana Burton of Murfreesboro.

Burton cooperated with authorities in helping bring drug charges against Davis in November 2003 by taping conversations with him. Burton also has pleaded guilty in the case but has not been sentenced.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Wasko argued Tuesday that transcripts of those conversations indicated Davis expected Burton to use the drugs to commit suicide. Burton had attempted suicide in April 2003, the day before the pair were scheduled to go on trial together in the original case.

Wasko argued that with Burton dead, Davis would have gone to court on the original charges and blamed everything on her.

Ed Yarbrough, Davis' attorney, said Wasko was engaging in "speculation and suspicion" and "going several steps beyond what the proof really is."

Echols agreed with Yarbrough, saying that "it is unclear to the court that (facilitating a suicide) was his intent."

In sentencing Davis, Echols cited factors ranging from his service to the community and the Legislature to the impact on his family. Davis' wife, Barbara, and other family members were in court Tuesday for the sentencing hearing.

Davis could have been sentenced up to 43 months on his original charges.


Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel,