Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs November 8, 2016
from the Circuit Court for Bedford County No. 18035 F. Lee
Bedford County Circuit Court, the defendant, Jason Larry
Russo, pled guilty to second offense driving on a revoked
license, a Class A misdemeanor, and was found guilty by a
jury of promotion of the manufacture of methamphetamine, a
Class D felony. He was sentenced to eleven months and
twenty-nine days for the driving offense and twelve years for
the drug offense, to be served consecutively. On appeal, the
defendant argues that the trial court erred in imposing
consecutive sentences. After review, we affirm the judgments
of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit
Wesley Hall, IV, Unionville, Tennessee (on appeal); and Brian
Belden, Shelbyville, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant,
Jason Larry Russo.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark
B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Robert J. Carter, District
Attorney General; and Michael D. Randles, Assistant District
Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., joined.
E. GLENN, JUDGE.
State's evidence at trial showed that Agent Shane George
of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force was
investigating suspicious purchases of pseudoephedrine from a
Walmart in Shelbyville, Tennessee, on August 26, 2014. Based
on this investigation, Agent George followed a vehicle driven
by the defendant whose passenger had just bought
pseudoephedrine at Walmart. Agent George recognized the
defendant and knew that his driver's license was revoked
or suspended. The defendant stopped at a Rite Aid pharmacy,
and another passenger went into the pharmacy but emerged
"empty handed" and appeared to be agitated. Agent
George made a traffic stop of the defendant's vehicle
after it pulled into the driveway of a residence that was a
suspected site of methamphetamine manufacturing.
defendant immediately informed Agent George that he did not
have a valid driver's license. With the defendant's
consent, Agent George searched the defendant's vehicle,
during which he found a box of pseudoephedrine tablets and a
quart-sized container of lighter fluid. Pseudoephedrine is
the chief precursor of methamphetamine, and lighter fluid is
used along with other chemicals, such as lye and ammonium
nitrate, to make the drug. Agent George apprised the
defendant of his rights, which the defendant waived and
agreed to answer questions. The defendant told Agent George
that he also had ammonium nitrate in his bedroom in the house
and planned to use the chemicals to manufacture
methamphetamine in the near future.
on these facts, the defendant was indicted in count one for
second offense driving on a revoked license and in count two
for promotion of the manufacture of methamphetamine. The
defendant pled guilty to count one and, after a trial, was
convicted by a jury of count two.
trial court conducted a sentencing hearing at which the
defendant's presentence report was first entered into
evidence. Agent George then testified that methamphetamine
investigations were the main focus of the drug task force.
These investigations involved both "one-pot shake and
bake labs" such as in the defendant's case, as well
as seizures of large quantities of cartel-supplied "ICE
methamphetamine" that resulted in prosecution in federal
court. He explained that the "home brew labs" took
a backseat when the "ICE epidemic" hit but then had
a resurgence whenever the task force took a major
"ICE" source off the streets. Both home brew labs
and imported methamphetamine were major issues in the
judicial district. The methamphetamine epidemic was
increasing and had crossed racial and economic boundaries.
Agent George believed that incarceration was a deterrent and
that the judicial district's reputation for extended
sentences "seems to have a very visible impact."
making extensive findings on the record, the trial court
imposed a sentence of twelve years at 60% as a career
offender for the Class D felony drug conviction and a
consecutive eleven-month-and-twenty-nine-day ...