Grundy County school board member arrested for filing a false report that led to school lockdown

In a developing story, the Grundy County Herald recently tweeted that a school board member has been arrested for filing a false report that led to a school lockdown.  According to the Herald, Grundy County Schools were on lockdown on November 27, 2017, because information was reported to a principal that a gun was supposed to be brought to school that day but without saying which school.

Depending on the facts, the school board member may be facing the most serious type of false report:

(3) Intentionally initiat[ing] or circulat[ing] a report of a past, present, or impending bombing, fire, or other emergency, knowing that the report is false or baseless and knowing: 

(A) It will cause action of any sort by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with those emergencies;

(B) It will place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or

(C) It will prevent or interrupt the occupation of any building, place of assembly, form of conveyance, or any other place to which the public has access.

T.C.A. § 39-16-502.  The above version of false report is a C felony, which means it carries a sentence of three to 15 years, depending on range, and up to a $10,000 fine.  Also, a conviction may carry some heavy restitution to the agencies that spent resources dealing with the threat.

Then again, there may not be a conviction.  The State will have to prove the “knowing” element beyond a reasonable doubt, which may be difficult to do.  Even if the school board member was wrong about a gun in a school, did she know that the story was baseless?  If someone told her that a person was bringing a gun to a school, that’s not baseless, even if the story was ultimately false.

It will be interesting to see what a good attorney does with this case.


Aggravated assault reduced to assault because PVC pipe was not used as a deadly weapon

In an interesting case from 2012, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reduced a defendant’s aggravated assault conviction to assault because there was insufficient evidence that a PVC pipe was used as a deadly weapon.  It’s incredibly tough to win an appeal based on insufficient evidence because it requires proving that no reasonable jury could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

The essential element at issue in this case was “deadly weapon.”  A deadly weapon transforms a regular assault, an A misdemeanor, to aggravated assault, a C felony.  Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-106 defines “deadly weapon” as a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury; or anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.  Under the same statute, “serious bodily injury” involves a substantial risk of death; protracted unconsciousness; extreme physical pain; protracted or obvious disfigurement; protracted loss or substantial impairment of a function of a bodily member, organ or mental faculty; or a broken bone of a child who is twelve (12) years of age or less.

In this case, the defendant struck the victim ten to twelve times on the legs and buttocks with a PVC pipe that was originally ten to fifteen feet but had broken down to a foot and a half “nub” after the beating.  The victim had welts and bruising from the attack but did not seek medical treatment for her injuries.  She testified that she was not in “severe pain” but was “sore” after the assault.  Based on the foregoing evidence, the jury convicted the defendant of aggravated assault and the trial court imposed a thirteen-year sentence.

Reviewing the facts, the court of criminal appeals determined that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that the defendant used or intended to use the PVC pipe in a manner that could cause death or serious bodily injury.  The appellate court emphasized that the defendant hit the victim on the legs and buttocks and that the PVC pipe shattered down to a nub.  While the evidence was insufficient for aggravated assault, it was sufficient for assault.  Accordingly, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals modified the defendant’s conviction for aggravated assault to assault and remanded the case for a new sentencing hearing.

As a note of caution, I would add that this case could have easily gone the other way.  For example, if the victim had testified that she was in severe pain, that would have likely been sufficient for a finding of aggravated assault.  Or, if the blows had been harder or struck the defendant in a sensitive area, that may have been sufficient to convict the defendant of aggravated assault.  So, the lesson here is not PVC pipe ≠ deadly weapon.  The lesson is PVC pipe may not be a deadly weapon depending on the facts.

State v. Osborne, No. M2010-02581-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 27, 2012)

Felony simple possession modified to misdemeanor simple possession because of a change in the law

This past week, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals modified a conviction for felony simple possession to misdemeanor simple possession because a change in the law provided for a more lenient sentence.  In the case, the defendant had four prior convictions for drug possession, and at the time he committed the crime, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-418(e) (2014) provided that “[a] violation under this section is a Class E felony where the person has two (2) or more prior convictions under this section.”  Applying the above statute, the trial court determined that the conviction was a Class E felony, and the court sentenced the defendant as a career offender to six years.

However, before the defendant was sentenced, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-418(e) was amended to provide that “[a] violation under this section is a Class E felony where the person has two (2) or more prior convictions under this section and the current violation involves a Schedule I controlled substance classified as heroin.”  Under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-112, when a penal statute is amended and the subsequent version “provides for a lesser penalty, any punishment imposed shall be in accordance with the subsequent act.”  Since the statute was amended before the defendant was sentenced and the defendant’s current conviction did not involve heroin, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case for the imposition of a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days for a Class A misdemeanor.

State v. Hester, No. W2016-01822-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 21, 2017)

Gordonsville man arrested for the attempted murder of his son-in-law

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation just announced that an investigation by their Special Agents has led to the arrest of a man from Smith County, Tennessee, for attempted first-degree murder.  On November 25, 2017, District Attorney General Tom Thompson requested that TBI Agents investigate an officer-involved shooting.  That night, Smith County officers responded to a shots-fired call in Gordonsville, and upon arrival, someone from a wood line began shooting at the officers.  The officers returned fire, and the defendant was struck.  According to the TBI’s joint investigation with local law enforcement, the defendant had gone to his son-in-law’s residence earlier that evening and fired shots at his son-in-law.  The defendant is currently held on a $150,000 bond for the Criminal Attempt to Commit First Degree Murder.

Under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-202, first degree murder is:

(1) A premeditated and intentional killing of another;

(2) A killing of another committed in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate any first degree murder, act of terrorism, arson, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child or air craft piracy; or

(3) A killing of another committed as the result of the unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.

The above statute defines “premeditation” as:

[A]n act done after the exercise of reflection and judgment.  “Premeditation” means that the intent to kill must have been formed prior to the act itself.  It is not necessary that the purpose to kill preexist in the mind of the accused for any definite period of time.  The mental state of the accused at the time the accused allegedly decided to kill must be carefully considered in order to determine whether the accused was sufficiently free from excitement and passion as to be capable of premeditation.

Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-12-101 defines criminal attempt:

(a) A person commits criminal attempt who, acting with the kind of culpability otherwise required for the offense:

(1) Intentionally engages in action or causes a result that would constitute an offense, if the circumstances surrounding the conduct were as the person believes them to be;

(2) Acts with intent to cause a result that is an element of the offense, and believes the conduct will cause the result without further conduct on the person’s part; or

(3) Acts with intent to complete a course of action or cause a result that would constitute the offense, under the circumstances surrounding the conduct as the person believes them to be, and the conduct constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of the offense.

(b) Conduct does not constitute a substantial step under subdivision (a)(3), unless the person’s entire course of action is corroborative of the intent to commit the offense.

To prove attempted first-degree murder in this case, the State will need to show that the defendant was trying to kill his son-in-law when he fired those shots.  This is obviously going to be very fact specific.  Where was the son-in-law when the shots were fired?  Where was the defendant pointing the gun when he fired the shots?  Was the son-in-law threatening the defendant or someone else when the shots were fired?  I’m sure the police, the district attorney’s office, and the defense attorney(s) will closely examine the evidence to see exactly where the bullets were fired from and where they landed.


Affordable Criminal Defense Attorney in Celina, TN

$200 Criminal Defense in General Sessions Court

Many good people charged with crimes don’t have a lot of money to hire a lawyer.  You’re a hardworking man who supports his family but got caught with some marijuana.  Maybe, you’re a college kid that had too much to drink one evening and are now charged with DUI.  Or perhaps, you’re a parent of a young man or woman in trouble with the law.  You need guidance on how to get them through this troubling time.  I became a lawyer to help people just like you.

My goal as a lawyer has never been to get rich.  In law school, I graduated second in my class, and yet, the big Nashville firms and rubbing shoulders with the wealthy never appealed to me.  See, I grew up in an area smaller than Celina – Hickory Valley, on the border of White and Van Buren Counties.  I had cows and at one time a goat.  I’m from a family of teachers.  We were never poor, but we were never rich, either.  My family likes to hunt.  I have one cousin that would spend all night in the mountains.  These are the types of people I’m here for.

Don’t get me wrong.  I stay up to date on the latest legal issues, just like those big firms do.  I pride myself in working as hard as the top firms.  But, their lifestyle, that’s not for me.  I’m here to help regular working people.

I handle most criminal cases in Clay County General Sessions for as little as $200.  My criminal court prices are more, but I try to keep them at or below market rates.  I’m also available for family law, landlord/tenant disputes, civil litigation defense, and drafting basic documents, such as wills and powers of attorney.

If you need an affordable defense attorney, contact my office today at (931) 310-6945.


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