Author: Gilbert Soesbee Source: The Newport Plain Talk
NEWPORT-In a productive week of criminal court, Circuit
Judge Ben W. Hooper II accepted negotiated plea agreements in more than two
dozen cases last week, clearing them from an already crowded criminal court
Judge Hooper held court well into the evening on one day
and heard various cases along with plea agreements. In addition to the
arraignments of 84 defendants accused by the session of the Cocke County Grand
Jury this month, Judge Hooper heard motions and disposed of cases naming
defendants indicted by previous grand juries.
"We've had a very good week disposing of
cases," Judge Hooper said. "But it seems like all we're doing is
making room for more every time the grand jury meets."
After a hearing in which Judge Hooper emptied the
courtroom to hear the testimony of the teenaged alleged victim, James Albert
Wise, 37, of Splashaway Road, was sentenced to eight years in jail in a sexual
Wise pled guilty to incest and sexual battery by an
authority figure in connection with an alleged sexual assault of a girl less
than 18 years old from November 2006 through January 2007.
Under the terms of the plea-bargain, Wise was sentenced
to four years on the incest charge and a consecutive sentence of four years on
the sexual battery charge. A charge of rape was dismissed as part of the
Wise will serve a full year in jail with the balance of
the sentence on supervised probation. He was also ordered to have no contact
with the alleged victim in the case.
Here is a listing of other defendants who accepted
plea-bargains offered by state prosecutors last Wednesday and Thursday.
¥ Both Anthony Rio Blisard, 21, of 504 Old Newport
Highway, White Pine, and Erika Francis, 20, of 835 Highway 113, White Pine,
entered guilty pleas on Wednesday to conspiracy to commit burglary, conspiracy
to commit theft, and theft of property valued at more than $1,000.
Under the terms of the plea-bargain in the case, both
defendants received two-year sentences in the Community Corrections Program and
were ordered to pay restitution to the victims in the case.
The pair were arrested by Newport police in connection
with an incident that occurred at the Murphy USA gas station at 1077 Cosby
Highway on August 30. Francis was reportedly an employee of the station when
approximately $4,327 was taken from the station's register, police reported.
¥ Patrick A. Heron was given a sentence totaling four
years in jail after pleading guilty to offenses contained in two separate
indictments on Wednesday.
Heron entered guilty pleas to six counts of theft of
property valued at less than $500, theft of property valued at between $500 and
$1,000, and a total of 14 counts of forgery. Under the terms of the
plea-bargain, he will serve 90 days in jail with the balance of the sentence on
The charges stem from the theft of checks belonging to
Teresa and Ricky Stephenson, of 2079 Cosby Highway, on March 20 and the alleged
forgery of checks from the account on April 2 and 3.
¥ Anthony Ball, 39, of Industrial Road, entered guilty
pleas on Wednesday to joy riding, three counts of assault, second- or
subsequent-offense driving on a revoked license, evading arrest, and resisting
a stop by law enforcement officers.
The charges were filed in connection with an incident
last September in which Cocke County sheriff's deputies attempted to stop a
stolen vehicle allegedly driven by the defendant.
After the deputies stopped the vehicle, Ball is alleged
to have assaulted three deputies by kicking and spitting on them. He is also
alleged to have kicked out the window of a sheriff's department cruiser.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Ball will serve
concurrent terms of 11 months, 29 days on each count and the local sentence
will be served concurrently with a prison term Ball is reportedly required to
serve in Florida.
¥ Joshua Doyle Gunter, 23, pled guilty on Wednesday to
driving under the influence (DUI), possession of drug paraphernalia, simple
possession of marijuana, and leaving the scene of an accident.
Gunter agreed to five days time served of an 11-month,
29-day jail term with the balance of the sentence on supervised probation. He
was also fined a total of $750, and a charge of reckless endangerment was
dismissed in the plea agreement.
Assistant District Attorney General Brownlow Marsh told
the court that the defendant was arrested last August 25 after a vehicle he was
driving was involved in an accident on Old Sevierville Road. After being
discovered hiding in a wooded area nearby, he was found to have a blood/alcohol
content of .11 percent, compared to the legal limit of .08 percent. A later
search of his residence yielded nine marijuana plants and various items of drug
paraphernalia, Marsh said.
Judge Hooper agreed to defer entry of all of the
convictions except the DUI charge, meaning Gunter may return to court after a
year of good behavior and ask that his record be cleared.
¥ Dwayne M. Walker entered a "best interest"
plea on Wednesday to fifth-offense DUI, violation of the state implied consent
law, evading arrest, theft of property, escape, and unlawful operation of an
off-road vehicle on Wednesday.
Entry of a "best interest" plea means that the
defendant does not admit his guilt but agrees that the state's evidence against
him is strong enough that it is in his best interest to accept a negotiated
Walker was sentenced in the plea-bargain to time served
in the Cocke County Jail with the balance of an 11-month, 29-day jail sentence
on supervised probation. The defendant will lose driving privileges for five
years and will be required to attend an alcohol treatment program twice a week.
The offenses are alleged to have occurred last June 10.
¥ James Stephen Miller Jr., 35, was placed in the
Community Corrections Program for two years and ordered to pay restitution
after pleading guilty on Thursday to theft of property valued at more than
Prosecutor Marsh told the court that Miller
"participated in the sale" of a Honda four-wheeler which had been
reported stolen from John Long in November 2007 and pocketed $100 of the money.
¥ Forty-seven-year-old Bonnie Lou Jenkins pled guilty on
Wednesday to introduction of contraband into a penal institution and received a
sentence of three years in the Community Corrections Program.
Prosecutor Marsh told Judge Hooper that Jenkins came to
see her husband in the Cocke County Jail last August 31 and tried to bring him
a Bible in which nine OxyContin pills were concealed.
¥ Robert Edward Raines, 25, also pled guilty on Wednesday
to introduction of contraband into a penal facility and was ordered to serve
six months of a three-year jail sentence with the balance in Community
Instead of drugs, Raines was found to have a concealed
cell phone in his possession while he was an inmate in the Cocke County Jail,
Marsh told the court.
¥ Fifty-seven-year-old David Edward Rice received a
six-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty on Thursday to an amended
charge of reckless driving and violation of the state vehicle light law.
Assistant District Attorney General Amanda Lowe told
Judge Hooper that Rice was stopped by the Cocke County Sheriff's Department
driving recklessly in a vehicle with a broken taillight on Carson Springs Road on
March 30 of last year.
¥ David Scott Turner, 36, will spend 150 days in jail
with the balance of a two-year jail sentence in Community Corrections after
pleading guilty to several offenses on Thursday.
Turner entered guilty pleas to fourth-offense or greater
DUI, violation of the state implied consent law, violation of the Tennessee
Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender (HMVO) Act, and driving on a revoked license.
In addition to the jail time, the defendant will lose driving privileges for
The charges were filed after Newport police stopped a
vehicle driven by Turner on Highway 25/70 on January 3 of this year. The
defendant performed poorly on field sobriety tests and was found to be driving
on a revoked license after having eight previous convictions for the same
offense and having been declared an HMVO offender, prosecutor Lowe told the
¥ Laythaniel Haney Jr. was sentenced to 11 months, 29
days in jail after entering guilty pleas on Wednesday to fourth-offense driving
on a revoked license, violation of the state financial responsibility law,
failure to appear in court, driving on a suspended license, and two counts of
vehicle seat belt violations.
Haney was named in three indictments returned by the
Cocke County Grand Jury.
¥ David Allen Valentine will serve 328 days of a
three-year jail sentence after pleading guilty on Wednesday to two counts of
introduction of contraband into a penal facility. The balance of the three-year
term will be served on supervised probation, under the terms of the
¥ A suspended sentence of 11 months, 29 days on
supervised probation was approved by Judge Hooper for James Howard, who pled
guilty on Wednesday to two counts of prescription fraud. The judge also agreed
to waive both fines and court costs in the case.
¥ Derrick L. Smith pled guilty on Wednesday to one count
of sale of more than a half-gram of cocaine and one count of sale of less than
a half-gram of cocaine. In the plea agreement, Smith will serve six months in
jail of an eight-year jail term with the balance in Community Corrections. He
was fined a total of $4,000 plus court costs and ordered to pay $400 in
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