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Tennessee real estate appraiser acquitted

Was charged with inflating value of lumber mill

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A federal jury last Friday acquitted a Tennessee appraiser accused of inflating the value of a state senator's lumber mill, a verdict that could slow any government pursuit of new charges in a case laced with political connections, media reports said. The appraiser, James B. Passons, 61, declined to comment after the verdict as he hugged relatives and friends outside the courthouse, Associated Press reported. Passons admitted on the stand that he prepared an inflated appraisal of a lumber mill owned by state Sen. Jerry Cooper, (D-Smartt), but with assurances by Cooper that the appraisal would only be used to show the projected value of the property with a planned rail spur, reports said. "My error was in trusting Jerry Cooper," Passons testified, according to reports. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Humble had argued to jurors that Cooper used that inflated appraisal and his political connections with Lt. Gov. John Wilder and former economic development commissioner Bill Baxter in a borro...