JACKSBORO (WATE) – A judge denied judicial diversion Monday for Kenny Bartley, who was found guilty of reckless homicide in the 2005 shootings at Campbell County High School, and sentenced him to time served.
The denial of judicial diversion means the conviction will remain on his record.
Bartley was found guilty in February of reckless homicide in the death of Assistant Principal Ken Bruce, but not guilty of felony murder.
Ken Bruce’s widow Jo Bruce took the stand first.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I need to do it,” said Bruce.
She told the judge that the justice system failed her family.
“We have been dragged through eight years of excruciating pain where we have had to learn to understand that the system my husband served to defend is truly about the rights of the accused, and sometimes at the hands of the innocent,” said Bruce.
Wendy Bruce, the sister of Ken Bruce, took the stand saying evidence showed her brother was shot in the back of the shoulder with his hands up.
She was glancing at Bartley while she spoke.
“It is a small community that knows the history of most the individuals in it. It is a community that knows what has been unleashed and now walks freely among them,” said Bruce.
Greg Bruce, Ken Bruce’s brother, also took the stand saying Ken was a mentor to many.
“He even coerced me into getting qualified to substitute teach. I got to be at the school. I got to see what a difference he made,” said Bruce.
The Bruce family hopes he uses the freedom to benefit society.
“We are going to hope that Kenny Bartley moves forward in his life and does good things with his life so we don’t have to look back and think, ‘Oh my gosh, what has happened now?’ So we are praying for good things for everyone,” said widow Jo Bruce.
Jurors found Bartley not guilty in February of attempted first degree murders in the shootings of Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce.
Guilty verdicts were also returned on counts of possession of a firearm at school and possession of controlled substances.
Reckless homicide carries a sentence of two to four years. Bartley had already been in jail for over eight years.
The prosecution asked for the maximum sentences for the guilty verdicts, which would have amounted to 10 years, saying Bartley is a danger.
The defense argued that Bartley is not a dangerous offender and had no prior criminal record.
Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood said that consecutive sentences are only for the worst offenders and that he must rule on the sentencing according to the law.
The judge sentenced him to three years for reckless homicide, three years for drug possession and two years for possession of a weapon at school.
The sentences were ordered served concurrently for a total three year sentence, meaning Bartley has already served his sentence.
The judge told Bartley he now has the opportunity to live his life, but must live with the burden of the death of Bruce.
Community reaction to the sentence
Campbell County native Cathy Wilson was just down the road in 2005 when the school shooting occurred.
She says even though the trial and sentencing are over, the community has changed forever.
“It really affected the community. There were a lot of hurt people. It probably won’t ever be the same,” said Wilson.
Wilson agrees with judge’s decision to deny judicial diversion.
“I think it should be on his record he did the crime,” said Wilson.
The judge sentenced Bartley to three years, time he’s already served.
Wilson was surprised by the sentence length.
“I have never known of anyone getting just that little bit of time for murder. I don’t know what to think about it,” said Wilson.
Lifelong Campbell County resident John Tidwell supports the sentence.
“I think it was fair. I think the boy should be released. He has served eight years,” said Tidwell.
Bartley’s attorney Greg Isaacs says Bartley is remorseful and sympathetic to the victims in the case.
He says Bartley is looking forward to moving on with his life.
Isaacs says the judge followed Tennessee law in giving the three year sentence.