By Karen Hall
The third and final defendant in a series of auto burglaries that shocked Lewisburg residents in December 2009 pleaded guilty last week and received a lengthy sentence.
James E. Bragg Jr., 38, of Huntsville, was charged in five cases, and his sentences totaled nine years, of which he must serve 30 percent before being eligible for a parole board hearing. Bragg was also reported to have cases pending in other counties, so he may be behind bars for much longer. He was also ordered to pay $7,103 restitution.
According to documents in his case file, Bragg and his then-girlfriend, Brandi Lynn Clutts, and her brother, Justin Wayne Clutts, drove to Lewisburg from Fayetteville the evening of Dec. 9 and broke into seven vehicles. Justin Clutts stated to law enforcement that Bragg supplied the punch they used to break the car windows, and Brandi Clutts described it as "a small gold-colored black-tipped tool."
One of the cars was a 2008 Chevy Suburban parked across from the police station that belonged to Lewisburg Police Capt. Rebekah Mitchell. Other victims' cars were at London Funeral Home, Parkview and East Commerce Baptist churches, and Mexico Lindo restaurant.
In every case, according to statements in the case files, the passenger-side window was broken with Bragg's special tool, and purses were taken. Cash and credit cards were kept, and everything else discarded. The same evening, the two men used a victim's American Express card at Walmart to buy a flatscreen TV and a surround-sound system, and at a truck stop to buy two GPS units and three cartons of Marlboros.
All three of the gang were arrested and made statements soon after the burglaries were committed, and all were indicted by the Marshall County grand jury in April 2010.
The only one who was arraigned at that time was Brandi Clutts. Represented by Fayetteville attorney Melissa Thomas, she pleaded guilty in June 2010 and was sentenced to four years' probation.
Justin Clutts arrested earlier this year, and also pleaded guilty. He is eligible for a parole hearing next year, and his full sentence ends in 2017.
Lewisburg-based attorney Michael Auffinger was appointed to represent Bragg, and Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard praised the work he did negotiating Bragg's plea.
"He's done this man a good job; he worked hard for his client," Barnard told the court.
Also pleading guilty Thursday was Carneal O'Bryan Marks, 27, of Maple Street. Marks sold drugs to a confidential informant working for the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force in May and June 2011. Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler gave Marks an effective 15-year sentence: nine years for the sale of a C Felony amount of crack cocaine, and 15 years for the sale of a B Felony amount of crack cocaine. These sentences will run at the same time, but after a sentence from Giles County. Marks was ordered to pay a fine of $4,000. He was also represented by appointed attorney Auffinger. As a Range II multiple offender, Marks must serve at least 35 percent of his sentence before being eligible for a parole board hearing.