(Jan. 13, 2019) — On Sunday evening, Christian missionary George Raudenbush contacted The Post & Email to say that he very recently learned that an exoneration request he made last year to outgoing Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam might not have been received.
By Sharon Rondeau / The Post & Email
Evidence forwarded to the Tennessee Board of Parole showing his innocence may not have been forwarded to the Governor, Raudenbush said. Haslam leaves office on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. Raudenbush is asking for individuals to contact the governor’s office at (615) 741-2001 in support of the exoneration.
On December 30, 2010, Raudenbush was arrested in the town of Tellico Plains in Monroe County, TN for seven alleged vehicular infractions which he said he did not commit. At trial, in violation of the Sixth Amendment, he was not allowed defense counsel and was convicted by a jury on all charges.
He spent more than two years in state prisons when a state appellate court reversed his conviction on the grounds that he had been denied his constitutional right to an attorney by now-retired Judge Carroll Lee Ross. A new trial was ordered.
In December 2014, a jury again convicted him on all charges, this time expressed at lower levels in an apparent attempt to avoid the “double jeopardy” provision of the Fifth Amendment. Fellow missionary the late Gary Church, who was an eyewitness at the trial, told The Post & Email afterward that the procedure was “rigged” and the outcome “predetermined.”
On February 1, 2018, Raudenbush applied to the governor for a full “exoneration” of his conviction.
Raudenbush believes then-Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens exercised “retaliation” against by ordering the confiscation of a Youth Missions trailer containing tools and equipment valued at over $120,000 owned by Appalachian Youth Missions.
Since the fall of 2009, a myriad of Monroe County citizens have reported to this publication systemic judicial, jury and prosecutorial corruption. Beginning with the Monroe county grand jury, our coverage later expanded to Tennessee county jails and state prisons, where dangerous conditions exist and contraband is introduced on a virtually daily basis, according to inmate reports.
Although convicted a second time, at sentencing Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood announced that he could not assign Raudenbush to further prison time since he had served the maximum allowable by law. Initially given probation, the Parole Board oversentenced Mr. Raudenbush and discontinued the parole when he brought it to the attention of The Tennessee Department of Corrections.
Of his request of the governor, Raudenbush said in explanation, “I am not asking for a pardon because I did not commit a crime. I am asking for a complete exoneration which is the highest and most powerful remedy the governor can give as a result of judicial misconduct. An Exoneration says that I was innocent of the charges against me.”
PETITIONER’S SUMMARY BRIEF
Feb. 5, 2018 — In 2003, I accepted an invitation to move Appalachian Youth Missions to Tellico Plains in Monroe County, Tennessee. I had been transporting youth from the copper basin area in Polk County on Friday and Saturdays for the previous two years, to a youth outreach in Tellico, called W.W.J.D. God had given me perfect peace in that move, and I was warmly welcomed by the community.
By George J Raudenbush III, Appalachian Youth Missions
In 2004, Appalachian Youth Missions acquired 7.4 acres of land to relocate and build on. I worked closely with state officials to make sure we were in compliance with EPA Regulations and the Federal Wet Lands Act. That’s when I discovered a meth production operation within 500 feet of the youth mission. Upon further investigation, I discovered officers in the Monroe County Sheriffs Department were involved overseeing the operation. I was told that it was under the jurisdiction of the sheriffs department and to go about my business.
For the next couple of years I coordinated youth groups from all over the world on short term missions trips to the Tellico area. These groups brought lots of funds to do repairs and projects in the community and generated good business for the small town community. I was discerning and selective as the youth mission was in high demand, as it was always free to all groups.
In 2005, I booked a Black Christian Youth Group from Maryland. The day the group arrived in their church bus, two Monroe County Sheriff’s Department cruisers pulled up. Four officers stood blocking the entrance to the community center where the group would be staying. The adult leaders immediately asked me what was going on. I replied I will go ask. The officers said they were just out enjoying the weather. I went back to the adult leaders and explained that the officers were just taking a break.
One of the officers approached an adult female church leader and after a brief conversation the adult leader instructed the group to put all their belongings back on the bus. The group left in a hurry and never returned. A few months later, I received a call from their pastor apologizing for the abrupt leave.
I was the one that apologized, as I was told by officer Michael Morgan after the group left that would be the last black group coming in to Monroe County.
God was really doing a work, as many youth were confiding in me about the darkness in their lives and their town. I was horrified at some of the things they would disclose. One day two pastors came to me and said, “George, you need to get out of Tellico; they are going to kill you”. I knew who they were. I stayed because God had not lifted the peace from my heart. I stayed after thousands of dollars of property damage to the mission property. I stayed after our mission vehicle was fire bombed and burnt to the ground. I stayed until I was abducted and tortured for two hours outside our office on McConnell Street. I prayed for my assailant as I laid bleeding and semi-conscious. I stayed because God had not removed the peace from my heart. I was right where he wanted me, and he gave me the peace that surpasses all understanding to carry out His work. It is not my job to question God, why? Its my job to listen and see all the opportunities around me, to be His light in a dark world.
Fateful traffic stop: Shattered glass
Thursday, December 30, 2010,at between 10:30 and 11:00 pm, I was pulled over by, Tellico Plains Police officer Brian Millsaps. His intentions were very clear, to provoke me, to give him cause. I fully cooperated and this made him angry. He told me to get out of the car. I was not prepared for what happened next. As I rolled up the window and reached for the door lever I heard a thump on the window. I lifted the lever and pushed but the door did not open.
That’s when Brian broke the glass with his long heavy flash light and began beating me in the head and face. As blood seemed to be everywhere I looked at Brian as he was removing his gun, and the peace that God had bestowed upon me all this time was no longer there to comfort me. Instinctively, I drove forward. The vehicle wheels were straight and I went to a neighbors house and called 911 three times asking for the Tennessee Highway Patrol. I was told in court the jury would never hear the 911 recording, as it was banned from being entered as evidence. I have that recording to this day.
If I did not pull the vehicle forward that night, I know with certainty I would not be here today writing this petition, and you would not be reading it. I believe God removed His peace because Brian’s heart was blinded with so much hate and anger that He gave me and Brian a way of escape. Free will can become a terrible thing. God has given me so many opportunities since that night to share His love with so many in places I would not have imagined being in. I am honored and count it all joy that God allowed me to be his light in prison. That is where he returned His peace to me in the darkest of places.
Why am I bothering to write this petition? I certainly would like to be doing other things. However, I have to be obedient because it is better than sacrifice. Its an opportunity to share my faith and love for others that God has put into my path, or maybe he has put me in your path for a purpose and reason.
I have forgiven all my assailants and hope that one day each of my assailants can experience the perfect peace that surpasses all understanding.
Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to share my faith.
George J Raudenbush III, National Missions Coordinator, Appalachian Youth Missions. Knoxville. (865) 228-9170. Standfast4truth@yahoo.com. aymissions.org.