A former Blount County judicial commissioner was sentenced on Monday to 12 years of supervised probation for one count of sexual exploitation of a minor.
In addition, Dustin Hatcher must register as sex offender and wear an ankle monitor for five months.
Judge Rex Henry Ogle handed down the sentence against Hatcher in a Sevier County courtroom. Hatcher had accepted a plea agreement to the charge and had waived any right to appealing the sentence.
Al Schmutzer, District Attorney General Pro Tem, said Ogle placed Hatcher on 12 years of supervised probation with the first five months to be with an ankle bracelet. “Then, after 12 years, if he hasn’t messed up, his case would be deferred, and he could get a dismissal and have it expunged from his record,” Schmutzer said. “He will go on the sex offender’s list. The judge also ordered him to attend treatment counseling for sex offenders under the terms of his probation.”
Schmutzer said Ogle also set a number of restrictions on Hatcher, including that he is not to drink any alcohol or take any drugs. He’s not to own or possess a computer nor is he to work at a business that has a computer if that computer has access to the Internet, the prosecutor said.
“He can’t have any contact with the victim or the victim’s family but there’s no evidence he had attempted to do that since this occurred,” Schmutzer said.
The prosecutor said Hatcher had pleaded guilty under the crime so the most that he could receive was four years. “We had him pleading guilty to four years, and it was our position he not be granted deferral and that he be required to serve some time in jail,” he said. “The judge I guess compromised on that by extending the four years probation to 12 years. He says he can do that. Since the defendant agreed not to appeal, there’s no questioning that. I think with that, the family and mother of the victim seemed to be satisfied.”
Schmutzer said he didn’t think the victim’s family or mother would’ve been satisfied if Hatcher had gotten a judicial deferral after four years. “I guess everybody got a little something in what the judge decided,” the prosecutor said.
Schmutzer said he didn’t think Hatcher took full responsibility for what happened in November of 2006 when he called the teenage girl to his office and asked her to put on the lingerie before he took pictures of her bare breasts with a camera phone.
“It was my opinion, when he took the stand, to me he was still placing blame for what occurred on the then 17-year old girl. Some of the things he said were beyond believable,” he said.
Schmutzer said the judge said he didn’t believe what Hatcher had to say, such as that she just volunteered to model this lingerie top and pose nude without him encouraging her or suggesting he had helped her on her unlawful consumption case in juvenile court. “The judge said he didn’t find any of that believable,” the prosecutor said.
“He was basically saying whatever he thought he needed to say to get the most leniency he could from the judge,” the prosecutor said.
Maryville attorney Joe Costner represented Hatcher in the case. “My thoughts were that you have someone in his 20s who made a mistake, who had never been in trouble before and asked the judge for judicial deferral and (the judge) had options,” Costner said. “One was to put him in jail, another option was probation and the last option, one most important to us, was judicial deferral.”
Costner said it appeared all sides in the situation were satisfied. “I think Dustin was relieved it was over with, at least in terms of court proceedings. I think the family of the young lady involved are glad it’s over with and I thought Judge Ogle gave us a fair opportunity to be heard. All things considered, I think the result was fair to everybody,” Costner said.
Costner said he didn’t agree with the prosecutor’s statement that Hatcher hadn’t accepted responsibility. “I don’t entirely agree with that statement,” Costner said. “Dustin said no one was to blame but him, and I really don’t know what else he could have said.”
The Maryville attorney said he has lived with this case for a couple of years. “I know facts about the case not disclosed at the hearing, but there was no point in going there,” he said.
Costner said Judge Ogle asked Hatcher where he saw himself going from this point. “In Dustin’s own words he said, ‘I want to have a wife, children and have a normal life, and I want to be productive, and I want to be successful.’ He talked about enjoying his experience with coaching kids and he wants things all of us want. Those are things that would make anyone happy,” Costner said.
Costner said this case received a lot of publicity because of the position Dustin Hatcher held and the fact his father is Circuit Court Clerk. “I’m not sure all of this would have been handled the same way under different circumstances,” he said.
Costner said lots of people judged Dustin Hatcher on the case before they knew what happened. “If Judge Ogle thought it was as bad as some wanted it to be, Judge Ogle would’ve put him in jail,” Costner said.