EXCLUSIVE! Inside ‘Teen Mom’ Star Ryan Edwards’ Connections to “Lenient” Judge On His Case

“Back again, eh, Ry?”

Ryan Edwards was sentenced to a year in jail on Thursday by Judge Gary Starnes and, despite the Teen Mom OG dad being accused by the District Attorney of “squandering” the lenient sentence that Judge Starnes gave Ryan last month, Judge Starnes still had nice things to say about Ryan.

As The Ashley previously reported, Judge Starnes called Ryan “a very fine young man” at the court hearing. Judge Starnes also referenced the fact that “we’ve all watched [Ryan] grow up” and that “we all know Mr. Edwards and his family.” 

While many assumed the judge was referring to “knowing” Ryan from seeing him on TV, The Ashley can exclusively confirm that the connection between the Starnes and Edwards families runs deeper that!

The Ashley can confirm that Ryan and Judge Starnes’ daughter, Christina, were friends in high school. They attended Red Bank High School together and they have reportedly stayed in contact in the years since. 

Ryan and Christina as teens…

One local source told The Ashley that the Starnes even attended Ryan and Mackenzie‘s wedding in November 2017. 

Currently, Ryan and Christina follow each other on Instagram. (Ryan’s mom, Jen Edwards, also follows Christina’s private Instagram, as of press time.) 

Speaking of Jen, she and Ryan’s father Larry Edwards live just one street from Judge Starnes’ home. (Only one house and a small road separate the Edwards’ and Starnes’ properties.) 

“Um…there’s also a yard between us. Hello!”

Ryan had been living at Jen and Larry’s home in the days before he went to rehab/jail.

Judge Starnes was criticized by the District Attorney for giving Ryan what she called a “lenient” sentence after he pleaded guilty in March to harassment. His charges of “possession of a controlled substance” was to be dismissed, as long as Ryan completed the terms of his probation and rehab.

 “This defendant received a lenient break from this court and my office in March,” the DA stated, according to The Sun. “He was given the opportunity for the second or third time to pursue rehabilitation…He failed to do that. …The opportunity he had he squandered. That is disrespectful to the court and makes a mockery.”

During Thursday’s hearing, it was clear that Judge Starnes still cared for Ryan.

“I’m trying to save your life,” the judge told him before sentencing Ryan to 11 months and 29 days in jail. “…At some point, I may send you to rehab. You won’t do it now. It’s because the drug addiction is so strong. You can’t do it. You have to grow up and want to save yourself. I’m going to do what I can to save you.”

According to Hamilton County court documents obtained by The Ashley, Ryan had stayed 14 days at the Heartwood Recovery Center in Austin, Texas. (The Ashley hears that Ryan’s MTV connections were instrumental in getting him into the all-male rehab facility.)

“Unfortunately, [Ryan] voluntarily left the rehabilitation facility despite staff advise, on April 3, in violation of his probation and this court’s previous order,” the paperwork states. 

In the court paperwork obtained by The Ashley from Thursday’s hearing, Judge Starnes declared that Ryan “is presently a danger to himself and the public.”

Ironically, Ryan’s defense attorney, Johnny Houston, actually has ties to Ryan’s previous legal issues. In addition to being a defense attorney, Johnny is also a judge in nearby Red Bank, Tennessee.

Judge Houston was the judge for several drug-related charges Ryan received in Red Bank in 2017 and 2018. He is also the father of one of Ryan’s best friends. (The Red Bank judge’s son— also named Ryan— was a groomsman in Ryan and Mackenzie’s wedding!) 

Ryan Edwards and Ryan Houston (son of Tennessee judge/Ryan’s current attorney) on ‘Teen Mom OG.’

At the time, several media outlets called out the city of Red Bank for allowing a judge to preside over the case of a defendant he knows personally. 

To read more about Ryan’s hearing on Thursday, click here

RELATED STORY: Ryan Edwards Sentenced to a Year in Jail; Judge Tells ‘Teen Mom’ Dad “I’m Trying to Save Your Life”

(Photos: MTV; Hamilton County; Facebook) 


  1. Ah the Good Ol Boy network still exists. Jeebus just throw this jerk in jail and I would put a hard eye on that judge as well. Pretty gross to even read. Thanks for the inside scoop TA!

  2. That judge absolutely should have removed himself from the case. It’s like having your uncle as the judge. Ryan will never face the consequences he deserves as long as the community around him keeps licking his asshole 🙄

  3. Somebody should make sure this judge is thrown off the bench. Very UNETHICAL. Someone should file a report against him.

  4. I wonder how many people he threw the books at with those same charges, or even lesser charges.

    But Ryan gets a pass vuz he knew the judge personally. Doesn’t seem fair

  5. I just finished reading all about the Murdaugh murder case, same kind of good ‘ol boy crap. Although it finally caught up with Alec. Right now this is a smaller version, but it could look similar if Ryan gets out and his wife and kids are harmed in anyway. The South is still the South….nothing has changed, but maybe someday.

  6. The judges daughter still associates with this lunatic & he is ok with that?!
    This judge has very poor decision making skills!!! Unfortunately this situation will only escalate.

  7. The Ashley doing some Mandy Matney level investigative work! The time for giving poor Rhine a break is LONG past. He is showing he is not capable of controlling himself. He violated probation, he violated the PFA, and he clearly violated the safety and sanctity of his children’s home. This should be more than enough to not call him a ‘fine young man.’ No. He is a nearly middle aged child who has never transitioned to adulthood.

    1. Nothing to do with race. Why make it a race issue? It’s clearly because the families know one another. Still BS though.

        1. Completely agree. Race has nothing to do with having connections.
          If Ryan and the judge were black.. the race card wouldn’t even be mentioned.. actually, people would probably agree with sentence then..
          Ryan among others of all races have connections in the legal system… the judge should have recused himself from the case.. but he didn’t…
          We all agree- the sentencing should’ve been longer.. but oh well. OJ Simpson should’ve been charged with double homicide.. but he wasn’t..
          Those throwing around the race card are the racists and lack intelligence. Like she said it’s typical and boring.

  8. So…basically he would have given him a harder sentence but because he knows him, he did not? I’m sorry but esp using those kinds of words won’t straighten this man out. Maybe you will stop coddling him when he eventually overdoses again? But then it might be too late…

  9. First Ryan was just “tired” often, now he is just addicted but such a fine young man. Has the judge even seen footage of the house? That’s not just drugs.
    This smells like a Josh Duggar like slap on the wrist, abusing connections and power to do so and let him off easy.
    Ryan is going to dissapoint them, he was never really sober since rehab, has agression issues, animal cruelty in the past. The monster has been created for years, they are petting it. He might kill a human in the future when he is “just addicted” again.

  10. The fact that this Judge doesn’t recuse himself from Ryan’s cases is BANANAS. That is SO inappropriate. What is he thinking? Risking his reputation as a judge for freaking Ryan Edwards?

    1. Obviously this judge has no ethics! I had a judge recuse himself from my case for a custody hearing because him & I attend an annual party. I don’t really know him, but we have met & he does know my husband. I didn’t even recognize him at first until he said that at court & then I remembered. He did the right thing as we didn’t want anyone to say I got special treatment. Ryan will never take responsibility because no one makes him.

    2. My mind is just blown that this judge was not *forced* to recuse himself. The prosecutors in my county would throw an absolute FIT if a judge this closely associated with a defendant were assigned to a case, especially when the judge spoke in open court about his ties to him! The prosecutor would be appealing the case to a higher court and the conviction would likely be vacated and the judge would be in trouble. I guess things must be really different in Tennessee.

  11. anyone ever question why his estranged wife stuck around with his addiction before getting pregnant and married to him

    1. Not everything is a race issue. That’s so overused. The families know one another so the judge is being lenient AF which isn’t cool. The overuse of the race card just causes more division.

      1. Stop replying about the topic of race causing more division. It’s crazy how typically the people who claim the overuse of the race card are also in denial when it’s possibly in play. The race card exists because racism is alive and well. You can disagree with it being about race, but don’t sit there and talk about the “overuse of the race card” because you fail to acknowledge how frequently it happens.

        1. Tina, I don’t think it’s necessarily about race. It may be, it may not be. You can’t summarily dismiss it as you did earlier in the comments any more than anyone can prove that it was about race. I would advise you to not be so defiant to it being a possibility. Racism does exist and the court has a track record of leniency toward specific races while others don’t receive the same treatment.

          What I do know is that the judge failed the call for ethics and recusing himself from the case. He has a bias that clearly impaired his judgment in this case.

      2. I respect your right to a different opinion. If you are a person of color, you might see world differently. I wish I had the words to explain there are small town white privilege undertones here. But, bigger issue is that Judge should have recused himself!

      3. While I can agree that the race issue is sometimes overused, in this case it does seem fitting. With the record Ryan has at this point, if he was an African-America male do you think the judge would be calling him a “fine young man” and be so damn lenient?? I think not.

        1. Ryan didn’t start getting in trouble with law until he was well into his 20s. He wasn’t having run ins with law when he was a kid or in high school. So yeah if Ryan was black and the judge knew him and his family as well as this one does, yes I think he would’ve gotten the same treatment. It’s about connections in this instance- not race. Chattanooga isn’t some small town full of white people. There are a lot of black people too.. that goes for many towns in Tennessee . So it’s not a race issue here, it’s about who you know.

  12. To quote Lady Merton:
    “There can be no special cases…because everyone is a special case to someone”

  13. Well that explains a lot and in the end these judges did Ryan (or at least his kids) no favors by letting him continuing to get off easy all these years. Probably only added to his entitled attitude and it’s all about who you know. No way someone without those connections could have gotten away with what he did, particularly a person of color. At the very least he should have been stripped of his driver’s license for 10+ years for multiple DUIs. Fortunately he hasn’t killed anyone, but he’s caused plenty of damage to those around him.

    In the arrest video, that female cop wasn’t taking any of Ryan’s BS and even gave him a hard time about his known heroin use and the potential for needles on him. Ryan needs more of that and less coddling.

  14. Am I surprised that in a small town everyone knows each other. Nope.

    I am surprised, that this judge knew Rhine and didn’t recuse himself due to a personal relationship with the judge and his family. Nope.

    Am I surprised that none of them are going to face any consequences, nope.

    Am I surprised that the judge actually is making Rhine face consequences, now that one, Yeah I’m actually truly surprised about…

    1. And to your last point, I have zero doubt the judge finally gave a somewhat significant sentence because Ryan was starting to make him look bad. I’m sure the judge knew people were getting sick and tired of the special treatment and starting to connect the dots. Now that the judge’s complete lack of ethics and integrity are being exposed, he’s had enough of it. It’s something. But it’s not by any means for the right reasons.

      1. Yeah. There are a lot of eyes on this case. His initial charges stem from DV of his wife.

        There are only so many chances you can give someone before, you have to actually hold them accountable, or someone else will hold you accountable. And the judge will not let Ryan Edwards be the downfall of his legal career.

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