Judge sends Bell to jail

Friday, February 3, 2012

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

A Nolensville woman who was staying in Chapel Hill will have the Marshall County Jail as her address for next seven months.

Traci Lynn Bell's probation was revoked during Circuit Court on Jan. 25. Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler ordered Bell to serve the balance of her 11 month 29 day sentence.

She'd been convicted on traffic charges related to a crash.

The court heard testimony from probation officer Crystal Gray that Bell, 34, had violated several probation rules: she was arrested on a new charge; she presented no evidence she had a job; and, she left the county on numerous occasions.

Bell's sons live with their father in Nolensville so they can attend the schools they are accustomed to, while Bell has been living in Chapel Hill, with the boys visiting her there. Thus, she left the county every time she took the boys home to their dad. Bell broke the law every time she got behind the wheel because her license has been revoked.

Nolensville Police Officer Brian Howell testified he pulled Bell over on Dec. 12 because one of her brake lights wasn't working, and then discovered her license was revoked. She was due in court in Williamson County on Feb. 1.

"I was trying not to drive too much," Bell said when she took the witness stand to explain her actions. "I was incredibly nervous. My ride didn't show up to help me." She could have gotten her license back if she'd had an interlock device installed in her car. Bell testified she couldn't afford the installation fee, and neither her estranged husband nor her boyfriend would give her any more financial help. When she's able to work, Bell is a freelance makeup artist.

"She has no defense to the fact that she has broken the law in the state of Tennessee," said Assistant District Attorney Robert Carter, asking the judge to revoke Bell's probation.

"We ask the court to be lenient," said Bill Harold of the Public Defender's Office. "Give her another chance to finish probation. Let her show she can be a good citizen."

"Please don't revoke me," Bell pleaded with Crigler. "My kids need me; they desperately need me." She admitted her personal life was "a mess."

Crigler said it was clearly proven that Bell had violated her probation, but he had the choice to revoke it in full or in part.

"It's almost more merciful to revoke it in full, because (if I revoke it in part) she'll be right back for not paying fines and costs," Crigler said. "She's screwed up."

"You're obviously unable to complete probation," Crigler told Bell.

A jury found Bell guilty after a trial in February 2011. Prosecutors sought a felony conviction for vehicular assault, but she was convicted on misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an injury accident, failure to notify police of an accident, and violation of the open container law. Crigler sentenced Bell to 11 months 29 days in the county jail on the DUI charge, and ordered her to start serving 90 days on April 20. Between the end of her trial and the start of her sentence, Bell only reported to Gray once, so she was already in violation of her probation. Then she tested positive for cocaine when she reported to start serving her time. This led to her first violation-of-probation charge, which Crigler punished by adding 60 days to the time she had to serve. Bell has also failed to make any payments towards her fines and costs.