- Associated Press - Friday, April 15, 2016

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Knox County prosecutors say they are going to continue to use a law that enhances the sentences of gang members despite a state appellate court’s striking it down as unconstitutional. And at least one Knox County judge is willing to let the district attorney’s office continue to use that law.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (https://bit.ly/1SQbkHd ) that prosecutors say they will continue to seek charges under the gang enhancement law.

The law was designed to punish violent offenders who commit crimes on behalf of or in service to the gang. But last week the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the law is so broad it could encompass fraternity members and it allows gang members to serve longer sentences for crimes that had nothing to do with the gang.

It’s not clear whether the state attorney general’s office will appeal the court’s decision.

Prosecutors insist they are not flouting the appellate court decision, saying they should continue to use the law until the issue is settled.

Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword said he will continue to allow prosecutions under the gang enhancement law until there is a final resolution. The judge disagreed with last week’s decision.

“I think the Court of Criminal Appeals is defining (gang-related crimes) too narrowly,” the judge said.

Defendants would have to be resentenced if the Supreme Court were to take up the case and then decide to uphold the lower court’s ruling.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com


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