Federal judge steps out of case against Rep. Joe Armstrong

Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan has recused himself from the tax fraud conspiracy case against state Rep. Joe Armstrong of Knoxville. (Source: TimesFreePress)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan has recused himself from the tax fraud conspiracy case against state Rep. Joe Armstrong of Knoxville.

Multiple news outlets report that Varlan did not give a reason on Wednesday for his recusal. Varlan served as law director for the city of Knoxville for several years.

The 58-year-old Armstrong pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and tax evasion charges last week in connection to an increase in the state’s cigarette tax.

The June 16 indictment accuses Armstrong of devising a scheme beginning in 2006 to profit from the cigarette tax hike planned by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen.

The lawsuit says Armstrong failed to report more than $318,000 in income.

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