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State v. Woodard

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 10, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs May 30, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Hamblen County No. 16-CR-600 Alex E. Pearson, Judge

         In this interlocutory appeal, the Defendant, Timothy Wayne Woodard, challenges the district attorney general's denial of his application for pretrial diversion and the trial court's affirmance of that denial with respect to his charges for nine counts of removal of government records and nine counts of theft of property valued less than $500. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the district attorney general abused his discretion in denying pretrial diversion and that the trial court erred in finding no abuse of discretion. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the denial of pretrial diversion.

         Tenn. R. App. R. 9 Interlocutory Appeal; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Paul G.S. Whetstone, Morristown, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Timothy Wayne Woodard.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; Dan E. Armstrong, District Attorney General; and J. Bradley Mercer, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          John Everett Williams, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.




         In September 2016, the Defendant, a recent law school graduate, was charged through a presentment with nine counts of removal of government records and nine counts of theft of property valued under $500 for taking multiple court case files from the Hamblen County Circuit Court Clerk's Office between January 2014 and July 2016. Shortly after the Defendant was found in possession of the files in July 2016, he was interviewed by police officers and acknowledged taking the files. He stated that his practice was to copy the files to utilize in his studies at law school and then return the files to the clerk's office. He also stated that Ms. Vickie Moore, the former deputy clerk who had been deceased for approximately two years at the time of the investigation, had given him permission to remove the files for copying so that he did not have to pay the clerk's office to make copies. The Defendant continued the practice even when Ms. Moore no longer worked at the office.

         The Defendant filed an application for pretrial diversion with the district attorney general. He provided information regarding his social history, which included his impoverished upbringing and abandonment by his mother at an early age. He also included information regarding his mental health issues, his treatment history, and his enrollment in the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program ("TLAP"). He provided information regarding his history of community service and volunteerism and his time as a student at the Nashville School of Law, and he attached multiple letters supporting his request for pretrial diversion. The Defendant maintained that he had been cooperative with law enforcement during the investigation and that he had accepted responsibility for his actions.

         The district attorney general's office subsequently sent a letter to the Defendant's counsel denying the application for pretrial diversion. The prosecutor considered the Defendant's good social history, his good physical condition, and his lack of a criminal history as favorable factors. The prosecutor noted that, despite the Defendant's challenging upbringing, he had worked his way through college and law school, was active in politics and philanthropy, and had a good reputation in the community. The prosecutor stated that he considered the Defendant's mental health condition but determined that it did not weigh in favor for or against diversion. The prosecutor also stated that while "it could be argued that pretrial diversion is in [the] Defendant's best interest," the prosecutor determined that this factor was also neutral. The prosecutor considered as negative factors: (1) the likelihood that the Defendant would become a repeat offender and/or the need to deter the Defendant; (2) the circumstances of the offenses; (3) the need for general deterrence; (4) the finding that the ends of justice would not be served by pretrial diversion; and (5) the finding that pretrial diversion was not in the public's best interest. The prosecutor found that these negative factors outweighed the positive factors and denied the Defendant's request for pretrial diversion.

         In summarizing the circumstances of the offenses, the prosecutor noted that when the offenses were discovered, the Defendant was employed by Ms. Jill Talley, an attorney in private practice. On July 8, 2016, Ms. Talley found in the basement of her office original court files from Hamblen County in a four-drawer filing cabinet labeled "Tim's files." Ms. Talley had been involved in at least one of the cases, and the file contained sealed records, which had been opened. Ms. Talley and her husband, Mr. Mike Howard, confronted the Defendant about the files. The Defendant stated that he had "paid for" the files and that Ms. Teresa West, the Hamblen County Circuit Court Clerk, knew he had them. Ms. Talley terminated the Defendant's employment and did not allow the Defendant to take the files with him. She then contacted Ms. West, who notified the district attorney general and law enforcement. Ms. West and law enforcement officers met Ms. Talley at her office, and the officers collected the files.

         On July 9, 2016, Investigator Teddy Collingsworth with the district attorney general's office and Detective David Stapleton of the Hamblen County Sheriff's Department met with the Defendant, who consented to a search of his residence and stated that no files were in his residence. During the search, the officers located two files belonging to the clerk's office in the Defendant's briefcase. The Defendant's interactions with the officers were audio-recorded. Two ...

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