Victim says: 'He intended to kill me'

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

There were cuts to the face and ear in one case and a head-on collision in the other.

Both defendants pleaded guilty and both were led from the Marshall County Circuit Courtroom in handcuffs on Wednesday when they started serving jail terms.

Henry L. Rhiner, 49, of State Route 64, had previously pleaded guilty to an aggravated assault charge so he was in court for a sentencing hearing.

"I think he intended to kill me," Clebron Mealer Jr., 41, testified about when he suffered cuts to his face and ear. It was an unprovoked attack by Rhiner, Mealer said.

Mealer was transported to Vanderbilt on Dec. 5 when 24 stitches were needed to close his wounds.

"This man needs to be incarcerated," Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard said.

Rhiner's attorney, Bill Harold of the Public Defender's Office, argued that his client had been provoked, and asked for alternative sentencing.

However, it was "a crime of violence," Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler said, and there had to be some incarceration for cutting somebody. He sentenced Rhiner to four years, and ordered him to serve 90 days, as well as pay restitution and court costs. The restitution is supposed to be the exact amount of Mealer's medical bills.

Meanwhile, Darwin Dudley Stovall, 29, of Franklin, pleaded guilty to reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, as well as the misdemeanor of driving on a revoked license.

Judge Crigler sentenced Stovall to three years, with six months to serve on the assault charge, plus 48 hours for the misdemeanor. Stovall was also ordered to pay $5,000 restitution to the victim, plus court costs.

Stovall "was involved in a two-vehicle crash at mile marker 3, State Route 99, causing life-threatening injuries to himself and the other driver," according to Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper David Hill's report.

It states witnesses saw Stovall "driving erratically" moments before the head-on collision at 4:20 p.m. Dec. 15. Stovall's license had been revoked following a conviction for driving under the influence in June 2009. The court heard Wednesday that the victim has had seven surgeries, and will need more. Stovall's attorney was John Drake.

Also pleading guilty on Wednesday were Stephen Craig, Alexander Harris, and Zachary Easterwood, who had each been charged with drug offenses.