KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A former Knoxville police officer who resigned in April after pleading guilty to tampering with government records, a Class E felony, won’t serve jail time as long as he adheres to the terms of his plea agreement.
Joseph Roberts, 23, will serve two years of supervised probation and must complete 100 hours of community service as part of the plea agreement. Roberts is eligible for judicial diversion despite objection from state prosecutors, meaning the conviction can be removed from his criminal record if he meets all requirements of the agreement.
The agreement stipulates that 20 of the 100 community service hours must be talking to police trainees/cadets about the importance of integrity in the performance of police duties, Assistant District Attorney Sean McDermott said.
Roberts pled guilty to tampering with government records on April 14. He was placed on administrative leave in January amid an internal investigation into allegations where he lied and made a false entry in an affidavit related to suspects he pursued against department police on Jan. 30.
“Even though the pursuit lasted three and a half minutes, covered over four miles, and reached speeds over one hundred miles per hour, Roberts repeatedly stated that he was not involved in a pursuit,” the district attorney’s office said in a press release when the charges were announced. “When Roberts later swore out warrants for the occupants of the vehicle, he again lied and made a false entry in the affidavit of complaint.”
Roberts turned off his cruiser camera and body-worn camera in violation of KPD policy. The department did not give a reason or explanation as to why Roberts attempted to turn off the cameras.
“Despite his attempt to turn off the cameras, the cruiser camera automatically turned back on eight seconds later when Roberts’ speed reached a certain threshold,” the office said.
The pursuit traveled north on Central Avenue to Heiskell Avenue, then onto I-275 north to I-640 east, ending when the vehicle struck another car at the intersection of the I-640E exit ramp and Broadway. The press release said officers on scene asked Roberts if he was involved in a pursuit and he said he was not.
Tampering with governmental records is a Class E felony that carries a punishment of up to two years in prison.
“It is imperative that citizens are able to trust law enforcement,” DA Charme Allen said. “By repeatedly being dishonest when questioned by his supervising officers and by falsifying his sworn statements, this officer broke the law, damaged that trust and showed that he was unfit to serve as an officer of the law.”