Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session Date January 14, 2015
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2010-D-2926 Steve R. Dozier, Judge.
John G. Oliva, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jared Booth Spang.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Pamela Anderson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., joined.
ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE
The sparse facts of this case are derived from the factual basis for the plea provided by the State, the Investigation Report prepared by the Department of Correction's Probation and Parole Office for the sentencing hearing, and testimony from Justin Meers's ("the Victim") mother.
The Defendant is a decorated veteran having served as an infantryman with the 101stAirborne Division in Afghanistan. He is married and has one daughter. At the time of the sentencing hearing, the Defendant was 34 years of age and was attending Porter and Chester Institute to become a licensed electrician. At the age of 24, the Defendant became dependent on Percocet. He completed a substance abuse program for opioid addiction in 2006. He was disciplined by the Army for wrongful use of opiates, and his rank was reduced from E-4 to E-1. He received a General Discharge under Honorable Conditions. He was awarded a 50% disability based on Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and a 10% disability based on degenerative joint disease.
On January 16, 2010, the Defendant and two other soldiers ("the Defendant's group") encountered a group of eight individuals including five soldiers, the Victim, who was not in the military, and two females ("the Victim's group") in downtown Nashville. One of the soldiers in the Victim's group was intoxicated and became involved in a verbal altercation with one of the soldiers in the Defendant's group. The altercation led to a fist fight between two soldiers from each group. Initially, the Defendant was not involved in the fight. However, the fight eventually grew to four soldiers from the Victim's group and all three soldiers in the Defendant's group. The Victim was not involved and was standing near one of the females from his group. During the fight, the Defendant struck the Victim one time. The Victim fell backwards, striking his head on the concrete. Both groups left the scene, and a witness called 911. The Victim was transported to the hospital and remained on life support until January 21, 2010, at which time he was pronounced dead.
The Defendant was indicted for voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.
The Plea Agreement and Plea
A Petition to Enter Plea of Guilty ("the plea agreement") was entered into by the State and the Defendant on October 28, 2013. The plea agreement was signed by the Defendant, the Defendant's attorney, and the Assistant District Attorney General. The plea agreement specified that: (1) the Defendant was a Standard Offender; (2) the sentence was to be probated; (3) the State would take no position on whether the sentence would be deferred pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-313; and (4) the trial court would conduct a sentencing hearing to determine the length of the sentence and whether further proceedings would be deferred. On the same date, the Defendant pleaded guilty, and the trial court set the sentencing hearing.
The Sentencing Hearing
The trial court conducted a sentencing hearing on February 7, 2014. The Victim's mother testified that the Victim was 21 years old at the time of his death. He had been promoted to warehouse manager of a tile company and had moved from Cincinnati just ten days before the incident to open and manage a Franklin, Tennessee location. On the night he was struck by the Defendant, the Victim was out with a high school friend, who was a soldier stationed at Fort Campbell. The Victim's mother and father had been in the military, and the Victim's mother stated, "Our son was killed by one of our own." The Victim's mother requested "that at ...