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Wilkerson pleads to reduced charge of reckless driving

Friday, November 6, 2009

One of the recently resigned members of Marshall County's School Board on Wednesday pleaded guilty to reckless driving, a charge reduced from driving while intoxicated. His sentence includes 48 hours in jail.

Mark Wilkerson, 44, of Chapel Hill, also pleaded guilty of violating the state's implied consent law by refusing a blood alcohol test in the early morning hours of Nov. 16, 2008, by Sheriff's Deputy Tony Nichols who saw Wilkerson drive a Cadillac "in an erratic manner" on U.S. Highway 431.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Cawley presented the state's case to Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler, who handed down a six-month sentence for Wilkerson. However, Crigler suspended all but 48 hours of the term and imposed a $350 fine plus court costs. Wilkerson paid the fine Wednesday after court.

Wilkerson's license to drive was also suspended for one year, according to the agreed order submitted by Cawley on behalf of District Attorney Chuck Crawford.

Asked why Wilkerson was allowed to plead guilty of a lesser offense, the district attorney replied, "He's taking the same medicine as a DUI first offender."

District attorneys have prosecutorial discretion and therefore have the authority to present defendants and charges as they see fit.

"The state, when calculating whether or not to enter an agreement, must consider the punishment, the likelihood of a conviction, but also the fact that 50 people would have to take off work for jury duty which is not only an inconvenience to them but an expense to the taxpayers," Crawford said.

The plea agreement also "keeps him from having a DUI conviction on his record," the prosecutor said.

Pressed on why that's part of the consideration, Crawford emphasized, "because he's taking the same medicine.

"And I can assure you this: If he is caught again, we won't settle for anything less than what a second offense DUI conviction would require," Crawford said after the hearing. "I think he's accepted responsibility and culpability and that shows that further problems are unlikely."

During the hearing, Crigler noted "there's been some discussion about when to serve the 48 hours... and that he will remain on bond until then."

Bussart replied: "Thanksgiving weekend; Thursday to Saturday."

The jail time was acceptable to the state, according to Cawley and Crawford. Wilkerson is to report to the Marshall County Jail at 7 p.m. on Nov. 26.

Noting a report that Wilkerson had accepted a job out of state, Crigler explained that failure to appear for the jail time is a felony and while the judge was "not trying to say anything negative," a statement from the defense was in order.

Wilkerson has been an employee of the United Auto Workers union in Spring Hill, Bussart replied.

In late October, Wilkerson announced that he was resigning from the school board because he'd been offered a job in Kansas City.

"His family is staying here," Bussart said. "His wife works here. His son is in school."

Before his sentencing hearing convened Wednesday afternoon, Wilkerson said he's not moving permanently and he's not selling his house. He'll rent a place from a friend and come back "when there's an announcement" about the reopening of the GM plant in Spring Hill.