After months of delay, a trial date has been set for a Knoxville businessman’s lover accused of a cyberattack on her beau’s ex-wife during a contentious divorce battle.
Senior Judge Don R. Ash has set a Jan. 17 trial date for Allison Beaver Burchett, girlfriend of Bandit Lites founder and owner Mike Strickland and ex-wife of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. Ash was tapped by the Tennessee Supreme Court to handle the case after Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword recused himself.
Sword and Mayor Burchett are both Republicans whose paths sometimes cross in political circles, prompting the judge to agree to Allison Burchett’s request for him to step away from the case.
Allison Burchett is charged with six counts of identity theft, six counts of unlawful access to a computer and one count of creating a fake document to influence the divorce battle between her accuser, Jo Nicole Velasco Strickland, and her live-in boyfriend.
The September indictment came after a raid by the Knoxville Police Department — aided by federal agents — on the home Burchett and Michael Strickland share as well as on the offices of Bandit Lites, a global industry leader in lighting for concerts and other entertainment events such as the Country Music Association Awards.
Nicole Strickland also has filed a lawsuit against Burchett and her estranged husband, alleging Burchett’s crimes were part of a cyber siege against her in 2014 while she battled breast cancer, signed up for food assistance and fought to prove she was forced into signing a prenuptial agreement.
Attorneys in the lawsuit describe an attack on Strickland that included her identity being stolen, her electricity cut off, unauthorized purchases made from her bank accounts, photos from her mastectomy posted on her Facebook account with derogatory remarks, her cellphone hacked, her pharmacy records illegally accessed, a tracking device placed on her car, and fake email and credit card accounts created in her name.
Strickland insists in the lawsuit her estranged husband was not only aware of the cyberattacks but a willing party to a plot to wreak havoc on her life. He is not charged in the criminal case. The criminal charges are directly related to the allegations in the lawsuit.
Allison Burchett is represented by veteran Knoxville defense attorney David Eldridge and well-known Nashville white-collar defense attorney Aubrey Harwell in the criminal case.