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State v. Gordon

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 15, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs November 14, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lawrence County No. 33394 Robert L. Jones, Judge

         The Defendant, Gregory Lee Gordon, pled guilty to aggravated assault by strangulation, a Class C felony, and after a sentencing hearing, was ordered to serve nine years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in denying his request for an alternative sentence. After review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

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

          Brandon E. White, Columbia, Tennessee (on appeal); Claudia S. Jack, District Public Defender; and Robert H. Stovall, Assistant Public Defender (at hearing), for the appellant, Gregory Lee Gordon.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; and Gary M. Howell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Norma McGee Ogle, JJ., joined.


          ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE.


         The Defendant was indicted for aggravated rape, aggravated assault by strangulation, especially aggravated kidnapping, and tampering with evidence arising out of his encounter with the victim on June 13, 2015. On January 12, 2017, the Defendant pled guilty to aggravated assault with the sentence to be determined by the trial court following a hearing. As part of the plea, the remaining charges were dismissed, and the parties agreed that the Defendant would not be sentenced as more than a Range II offender.

         The trial court conducted a sentencing hearing, at which Alisha Helton with the Tennessee Department of Correction's Probation and Parole Office testified that she prepared the Defendant's presentence report. The report contained the Defendant's verified criminal history, spanning a time period from 1987 to 2014 and nine pages of the presentence report. The report also contained the Defendant's history of supervision, including times he was placed on probation or paroled. Ms. Helton testified that a risk assessment of the Defendant was included in the presentence report. The assessment showed the Defendant to be high risk for violent behavior, low risk for friends, low to moderate risk for attitudes and behaviors, and moderate to high risk for aggression. Ms. Helton said that the Defendant was also assessed using the Vermont Assessment Tool for Sex Offender Re-Offense because he was on the sex offender registry, and he scored high on the assessment, meaning GPS monitoring would be required if he were placed on probation.

         The Agency Statement in the presentence report detailed that the victim conveyed that she and the Defendant were dating, and they met the evening of the incident to discuss the future of their relationship and the Defendant's past history. The Defendant got into the victim's car and drove around to talk and procure some crack cocaine. The Defendant drove to a wooded area where he forced the victim to perform oral sex on him and became angry when she did not do so satisfactorily. The Defendant then hit the victim repeatedly on her head and also tried to suffocate and choke her. He forced her into the trunk of the car and drove around. The Defendant subsequently made several stops, including times he stopped and hit the victim on the head with a flashlight and threatened her with a screwdriver, as well as a time he forced her to wash off in a creek. The Defendant also took the victim to a gym "where he made her take a shower to remove the blood from her hair and body."

         Investigator Blake Grooms with the Lawrenceburg Police Department, one of the investigators in the case, recalled that the police collected swabs of several reddish-brown stains, indicative of blood, from various items, which were compared to swabs taken from the Defendant and the victim. Swabs from the seal inside the car trunk were positive for the victim's blood. Swabs from the shower area of the gym returned a DNA profile consistent with a mixture of at least two individuals, including at least one male, and the victim as the major contributor. The police searched the Defendant's phone and found a text message from the offense date in which the Defendant said, "Me and Girl went out last night, she got drunk and started running her mouth as usual and smacked me. I kicked her ass." On cross-examination, Investigator Grooms confirmed that the victim was not present at the sentencing hearing to testify about what happened.

         The Defendant acknowledged that he "kind of over did it with [the victim]." He said that the victim drank a twelve-pack of beer while they were together, but he did not drink. They made three or four trips to buy cocaine, and an "argument developed over who was going to use the last part of the cocaine." They also argued about a woman who called the Defendant while he and the victim were together. The Defendant admitted that he hit the victim in the head with his hand and that she sustained a "small slit" as a result. He also admitted that he grabbed the victim by the neck and pushed her against the car window while he was driving but denied "choking her out." He further denied hitting the victim on the head with a flashlight. He did not know how the victim's blood got on the head of the flashlight, but he explained that they had used the flashlight while they were "getting high." The Defendant said that the victim got into the trunk voluntarily to hide from a drug dealer who refused to sell to the Defendant when the victim was present. The Defendant could not explain, however, how the victim's blood got inside the trunk when the fight allegedly occurred after that final drug purchase. ...

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