Campbell County School Shooter Free, Denied Judicial Diversion

Apr 8, 2014

Kenneth Bartley, pictured in his February 2014 trial.
Credit Michael Patrick, Knoxville News Sentinel

The man convicted of killing a Campbell County school administrator and wounding two others in 2005 walked out of a Jacksboro courtroom on Monday a free man. Kenneth Bartley, now more than eight years removed from the shooting that killed assistant principal Ken Bruce and wounded Gary Seale and Jim Pierce, apologized to the families of his victims at the sentencing hearing.

State prosecutors asked Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood for a maximum sentence that would have carried punishment for each of the three men Bartley shot. Blackwood instead sentenced Bartley to three years' prison time. Since Bartley spent eight years in prison awaiting trial, Blackwood's ruling set him free.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Bartley pleaded guilty. But that plea was tossed out in 2011, setting the stage for his trial earlier this year.

Bartley's defense attorneys argued at trial that he didn't intend to kill Bruce and injure Seale and Pierce. In February, a jury agreed, convicting Bartley not on charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder, but on reckless homicide. Last week, defense attorneys asked Judge Blackwood for judicial diversion, which would have cleared the conviction from Bartley's record if he adhered to court-prescribed rules for a given length of time. But Blackwood denied that request, meaning the reckless homicide conviction will stay with him for life.