Judge rules against school board member

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Marshall County Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler on Wednesday denied a county school board member's request for dismissal of his charges of driving while intoxicated.

"The judge found for the state," District Attorney Chuck Crawford said of the petition presented by defense attorney Walter Bussart on behalf of Mark Wilkerson who was arrested by Sheriff's Deputy Tony Nichols on Nov. 16.

Bussart argued that Nichols didn't have probable cause to stop Wilkerson when he was driving a white Cadillac on Franklin Pike between midnight and 1 a.m. that Sunday when the school board member allegedly refused to comply with the implied consent law requiring cooperation with a blood alcohol test.

Instead, Nichols used field sobriety tests and called for backup provided by Sheriff's Capt. Sam Bragg, another witness for the state.

"The court..." Crigler ruled, "holds that from the totality of the circumstances ... (that) Nichols had reasonable suspicion based on specific and articulable facts to authorize him" to stop Wilkerson.

As Nichols testified in General Sessions Court before Judge Steve Bowden, who ruled in a similar fashion and raised Wilkerson's bond, the white Cadillac had been observed by the deputy crossing the white fog line on the right side of its lane as well as the center line on Franklin Pike and, before that, on State Route 50, Columbia Highway.

"He was having trouble controlling his vehicle," Nichols said, according to court records, including Crigler's order issued Wednesday.

The judge also set Sept. 9 as Wilkerson's next court date.