Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs at Knoxville June 24, 2015
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Robertson County No. 2014-CR-467 John H. Gasaway, III, Judge
Roger E. Nell (on appeal and at trial), District Public Defender, and Collier W. Goodlett (at trial), Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Eric James Miller.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; John W. Carney, District Attorney General; and Jason White, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE
Facts and Procedural Background
This is Defendant's direct appeal of the sentence imposed by the trial judge in the Robertson County Circuit Court for the offense of theft of property valued over $1, 000. Defendant appeals the denial of alternative sentencing.
On July 17, 2014, a Robertson County grand jury returned a "superseding sealed" indictment against Defendant for: (1) fraudulently altering a vehicle identification number ("VIN"), (2) theft of property valued over $1, 000, (3) resisting arrest, and (4) felony escape. On July 30, 2014, the State filed a notice of intent to seek enhanced punishment as a Range II, multiple offender. On August 11, 2014, after a jury was selected for trial, Defendant entered a best interest guilty plea to the theft charge, a class D felony, as a Range II, multiple offender, with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of the sentence. The remaining counts were dismissed.
During the guilty plea proceedings, the prosecutor provided the following factual basis for the plea:
[O]n February 25th, Mr. Miller showed up at Rawls Auto Salvage, and he was in a pickup truck owned by a Mr. Fitz. A Ms. Jamie Hannah was with Mr. Fitz and Mr. Miller. Mr. Miller was driving. Mr. Fitz would say that it was his truck, that Mr. Miller had asked to use it, and that Mr. Miller had showed up at his house earlier that morning and asked to borrow the truck and then he came back about an hour later with the car on a car dolly and then asked them to . . . go with him or use the truck to go sell it, and Mr. Fitz said he wouldn't allow him to, but he wanted to go with him. So then . . . Mr. Miller drove it here to Rawls.
When he went into Rawls, he went in and gave the clerk his ID and filled out the paperwork. As the clerk was looking at the VIN, the clerk noticed something suspicious about the VIN, that it looked like it was kind of bolted on there and not consistent with how it is usually placed on there. At that point, [the clerk] called for Mr. Rawls and Mr. Rawls came down and made the same observation and at that point, called for . . . Detective Burnett with Springfield Police Department, who in turn called the Sheriffs Department due to Mr. Rawls's business is just right in the county.
Upon arriving, Detective Hudgens observed the car, observed that a plate had been put over the original VIN number and that the VIN had been altered or that the fake plate had been put over the original one for that plate and then at that point, researched the car to see if it was stolen and it had not been reported stolen yet. Two days later, he researched it again, and indeed it had been stolen.
The victim, Ms. Hess, who is here in Court, would say that it was her car and . . . that on Sunday night it had broke[n] down, and she had been having trouble with the alternator[.] [I]t was broke[n] down on Interstate I-40 around the 206 mile marker, which . . . is right by the Briley Parkway, I-40 West interchange, . . . and Ms. Hess would say that she got a ride home and the next day called a tow company. They couldn't meet her until Tuesday and ...