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State v. Needham

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

October 31, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs September 25, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for McMinn County No. 13-CR-405 Andrew Freiberg, Judge

         The Defendant, Christian Aaron Needham, appeals the McMinn County Circuit Court's order revoking his probation for his convictions for two counts of felony theft and one count of aggravated burglary and ordering him to serve the remainder of his effective six-year sentence in confinement. T he Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering his sentence into execution. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          C. Richard Hughes, Jr., District Public Defender, and Tim W. Wilson, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Christian Aaron Needham.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Stephen D. Crump, District Attorney General; and Matt Dunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.



         On February 3, 2014, the Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and to aggravated burglary and received an effective six-year sentence to be served on probation, which was ordered to be served consecutively to the sentence in an unrelated case. In exchange for his guilty pleas, additional theft-related and firearm-related charges were dismissed. On October 30, 2017, a probation violation warrant was issued, after the Defendant's probation officer alleged that on October 6, 2017, the Defendant failed a drug screen by testing positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine, marijuana, and benzodiazepine and that the Defendant signed a form admitting the drug use.

         On September 10, 2018, an amended probation violation report was submitted to the trial court, alleging that the Defendant had absconded from supervision and had last reported to his probation officer on October 6, 2017. An "[a]ddendum" to the probation violation warrant was issued on September 10, 2018.

         At the probation revocation hearing, the Defendant conceded that he had violated the terms of his release by failing a drug screen and by absconding from his supervision. After the trial court advised the Defendant of his constitutional rights, he submitted to the probation violation. The Defendant stated that he "wrote an admission of guilt" relative to the failed drug screen and discussed it with his probation officer. T he Defendant said that he had not used methamphetamine but that he had consumed Adderall, which could produce positive results for methamphetamine or amphetamine. He said he admitted to his probation officer he had relapsed. He admitted using marijuana and Xanax, as well, although he had completed a six-month program at Christian Home Ministries. The Defendant, likewise, admitted to the court that he stopped reporting to his probation officer after the failed drug screen. Based upon the Defendant's admissions, the trial court determined that the Defendant had violated the conditions of his release.

         The Defendant testified that he voluntarily and successfully completed the six-month Christian Home Ministries program in 2017, that he underwent drug screens twice per week, and that he participated in religious study three times per week. He said that the Prison Outreach Ministries assisted him with obtaining employment as a pipe welder and that he paid his fees and restitution. H e said that he left Nashville and moved to McMinn County in 2017 and that this proved to be a poor decision. He said that he began a romantic relationship with a woman, that she became pregnant, and that she suffered a miscarriage, which he said "sent [him] a little over the edge." He said that the month leading up to his failed drug screen was "bad."

         The Defendant testified that after he failed the drug screen, he and his probation officer talked about whether the probation officer would submit a probation violation report to the trial court and that the probation officer told the Defendant to give her a couple of weeks. He said that during this time, he returned to the Christian Home Ministries in Nashville because he knew this was best for him. He conceded he made a mistake by absconding from supervision. He said his son was age eighteen. Three letters of support were received as exhibits. The Defendant apologized to the trial court for "having to be here" and thanked the court regardless of the court's decision at the hearing.

         On cross-examination, the Defendant testified that this was not his first probation violation and agreed that he failed to meet with his probation officer in an unrelated case. He agreed that he had not met with his probation officer consistently in the present case. He agreed that relative to the previous probation violation, he absconded from supervision between October 2014 and August 2015. He agreed that relative to the current violation, he absconded from supervision between October 2017 and August 2018. H e stated that he had paid toward the fees and ...

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