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State v. Jones

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 21, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs at Jackson June 6, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Marshall County No. 16-CR-85 F. Lee Russell, Judge

         The Appellant, Michael Eugene Jones, pled guilty in the Marshall County Circuit Court to selling one-half gram or more of a Schedule II controlled substance, a Class B felony. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the trial court was to determine the length and manner of service of the sentence. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that the Appellant serve ten years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the length of his sentence is excessive and that the trial court erred by not sentencing him to community corrections. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          William J. Harold (on appeal and at trial), Lewisburg, Tennessee, and Michael J. Collins (at trial), Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Eugene Jones.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Alexander C. Vey, Assistant Attorney General; Robert J. Carter, District Attorney General; and Weakley Edward Barnard and William B. Bottoms, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., joined.



         I. Factual Background

         In June 2016, the Marshall County Grand Jury indicted the Appellant for selling one-half gram or more of cocaine and delivering one-half gram or more of cocaine. On August 12, 2016, he entered an open plea to the charge of selling cocaine, and the State dismissed the delivering charge. During the plea hearing, the State advised the trial court that the factual basis for the plea was that the Appellant sold $100 worth of cocaine to a confidential informant on October 23, 2015. The sale occurred at the Appellant's home, and the cocaine weighed 0.74 grams.

         During the Appellant's sentencing hearing, the State introduced his presentence report into evidence.[1] According to the report, the then sixty-three-year-old Appellant was single with two adult daughters. He dropped out of school after the tenth grade and did not obtain his GED. However, he entered the National Guard in 1975 and was honorably discharged in 1982. In the report, the Appellant described his mental health as "excellent" and his physical health as "good." Although the Appellant did not report any physical issues, he stated that he successfully completed a thirty-day in-patient drug rehabilitation program in 1999 and again in 2004 or 2005. The report showed that the Appellant worked for Walker Cast Die from 1975 to 1977 and Liberty Steel from 1979 to 1990 and that he began receiving disability payments in 2001 due to a car accident. The report showed numerous misdemeanor convictions since 1991. Specifically, the Appellant had one conviction of possession of drug paraphernalia, one conviction of public intoxication, two convictions of driving under the influence, two convictions of driving on a revoked license, two convictions of simple possession, and three convictions of passing worthless checks. The report also showed that the Appellant had a prior felony conviction of being a habitual traffic offender and that several capiases had been issued for his arrest over the years due to his failure to abide by the terms of probation.

         Defense counsel advised the trial court about a letter from The Lighthouse, a drug rehabilitation facility in Memphis, stating that the facility would accept the Appellant into its program upon his release from jail.[2] Counsel described the program as "a longer term rehab" and requested that the court sentence the Appellant to community corrections so that the Appellant could "get himself cleaned up" and become a productive member of society.

         The trial court noted that as a Range I, standard offender convicted of a Class B felony, the Appellant's range of punishment was eight to twelve years. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-112(a)(2). The court stated that although the Appellant had only one prior felony conviction, he had "around a dozen misdemeanor convictions" and that the convictions spanned "two-and-a-half decades." The court found that enhancement factor (1), that "[t]he defendant has a previous history of criminal convictions or criminal behavior, in addition to those necessary to establish the appropriate range, " was "most assuredly present." Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-114(1). The trial court also found that enhancement factor (8), that "[t]he defendant, before trial or sentencing, failed to comply with the conditions of a sentence involving release into the community, " was present "in a very dramatic way" due to the Appellant's repeatedly failing to meet the terms of release for prior sentences. Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-114(8). The court determined that the Appellant's sentence should be enhanced from eight to twelve years based on the two enhancement factors. In mitigation, the trial court applied factor (13), the ...

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