By Karen Hall
Restitution of the victim's medical expenses is part of the punishment for two Lewisburg sisters who pled guilty to attacking a Nashville teenager last summer.
Symetra Brown, 35, and her sister Tabitha Brown, 33, attacked Hailey Hendricks of Nashville in the Lewisburg Wal-Mart on June 19, allegedly because of a remark Hendricks made to one of the sisters suggesting she pull her pants up.
Hendricks was so badly injured she needed reconstructive facial surgery and now has a titanium plate instead of bone as part of her left eye socket. According to what was said at the sentencing hearing Wednesday, Hendricks' medical expenses total $30,523.90. This was paid by TennCare, so restitution will be made to the state.
"It's an astronomical sum of money to pay," said Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler. "If you fail to pay, it will be hard to explain."
"I suspect she learned a pretty good lesson about keeping your mouth shut," said Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard, but, "The fact that this young girl made a statement doesn't give two grown women the right to do what they did."
Tabitha Brown was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison, as well as contributing to the payment of restitution. She has 165 days' jail credit.
"It would have been greater if she had prior felonies," Crigler said.
Symetra Brown's sentence was "a much more difficult decision," the judge said. He placed her on community corrections for five years, and ordered her to serve 60 days in jail. She has 25 days' jail credit. Symetra agreed to pay $50 per month toward the restitution. If she gets a job, she will pay more.
Crigler said he watched the Wal-Mart security video of the fight, as had the prosecutor, and both defense attorneys.
"It was quick," Crigler said, but he saw Symetra push Hendricks to the ground, and Tabitha hit her "when she was defenseless and down." The judge said the sisters played "different roles, but neither role was minor."
"There's a lot you can say about this case," Crigler concluded.
Arguing for Symetra, Lewisburg attorney Terry Hernando quoted his client as saying, "I made a big mistake - I should have just gone on."
"I believe that is a statement of remorse," Hernando said. Symetra's only prior conviction was for driving on a suspended license.
Michael Collins of the Public Defender's Office represented Tabitha and claimed she was a "minor player" in an altercation started by her sister, though Tabitha is the one who allegedly landed the bone-breaking punch.
"She has shown her remorse and has admitted her role," Collins said, asking for a split sentence of no more that three and a half to four years.
"This is not unusual conduct for her (Tabitha)," countered Barnard. "This is her third assaultative offense. She has a history." Tabitha also has at least three probation violations. Even her juvenile record shows a history of violence.
Symetra Brown had been out on bond, so she said an emotional goodbye to family members at the end of the sentencing hearing, and left the courtroom in handcuffs to join her sister in jail.
Both women waived their right to appeal.