Judge Crigler hands down sentences after guilty pleas

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Chapel Hill woman was ordered to report to jail next month, after pleading guilty to DUI and introduction of contraband into a penal institution.

Cassie Lynn Whaley, 29, of S.E. Forrest Lane, was indicted in May on charges of driving under the influence, possession of a Schedule IV drug, tampering with evidence, and introduction of contraband into a penal institution. According to affidavits sworn by Sgt. Christopher Cook of the Chapel Hill Police Department, he arrested Whaley on a DUI charge on Feb. 12, 2010. Cook stated Whaley tried to conceal her Xanax tablets in the seat of his patrol car, and also that she attempted to smuggle pills into jail, concealed in a body cavity.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler sentenced Whaley to three years with the Tennessee Department of Corrections on the contraband charge. She must serve 30 percent of this, or just over 10 months, before being eligible for a parole hearing. Crigler also sentenced Whaley to 11 months 29 days in the county jail on the DUI charge, all but 48 hours were suspended. She has a 21-day jail credit, so, in effect, Whaley has already served her time for the DUI. The judge dismissed the other two charges.

Whaley had two other DUI arrests - in March and May 2010 - and told Crystal Gray, of the Board of Probation and Parole, "After my last DUI I checked myself into rehab." A certificate in her case file shows she completed treatment and rehabilitation with Buffalo Valley in June.

Whaley has convictions on her record for simple possession, failure to appear, possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving without a license. She's been confined in the Tennessee Prison for Women before, serving a three-year sentence for the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Whaley was a 1999 honor graduate of Forrest High School. She told Gray she got Xanax from her doctor because she was "going through a rather stressful time in my life" and got addicted.

"It took a higher dose to make me feel the same calm, numb feeling," Whaley told Gray. "I didn't realize I was impaired to the point of not being able to drive safely.

"Now, looking back," Whaley continued, "I am embarrassed and ashamed. I am terribly sorry for putting other people's life in danger (by) driving intoxicated."

Whaley was represented by Lewisburg attorney Jheri Beth Rich.

Crigler also accepted a guilty plea from Joshua D. McBurnett, 32, of Ruby Road. McBurnett was charged with eight counts of rape and other sex offences. He was sentenced to a total of 15 years, of which he must serve 30 percent, before being eligible for parole. He has 147 days of jail credit, so McBurnett could be free in just over four years. McBurnett had been a pressman at Lewisburg Printing for five years, until he was arrested last fall. According to documents in the case file, he began abusing his victim in 2006, and last had contact with her in September 2010, when she was 16 years old.

"This has turned my and my family's world upside down," the victim's mother wrote for Charles Brannan's pre-sentence report on McBurnett. "It's sick!"

McBurnett was represented by the Public Defender's Office.