Nashville man found guilty of lesser charge

Friday, March 14, 2014

By Karen Hall

Editor

A Nashville man whose summer in Marshall County ended with a drug bust was on trial here this week.

Sam A. McKinney, 31, was charged with manufacture of a controlled substance -- in his case, marijuana.

On Aug. 29, 2011, McKinney was asleep in his rented house at a 24-acre farm on Franklin Pike when he was awakened by the sound of a helicopter.

It turned out to belong to the Governor's Task Force for Marijuana Eradication, and the pilot spotted marijuana growing behind the house. Within 30 minutes, members of local law enforcement were at the door, holding McKinney until agents of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation could get there.

Ninety-eight marijuana plants were removed from the patch, which was 200 yards from the road. During a search of the premises, marijuana was found drying in a closet, and on the table in the kitchen.

McKinney, who is a disc jockey, did not deny he smoked marijuana, and said what was found on the table was probably his.

"Those were my crazier days, being a disc jockey and everything," he said.

After a two and a half day trial, the jury found McKinney guilty of a lesser charge: facilitation of the manufacture of a controlled substance. He remains free on bond, and will be sentenced on May 7.

McKinney's attorney, Christina Daugherty of Franklin, could not deny that a grow operation existed, but said, "All they have related to my client is a little marijuana and two bottles with his fingerprints on them."

The bottles contained substances used in gardening, but there was no proof that McKinney used them on the marijuana plants -- he could have touched them just to move them on a shelf.

McKinney allegedly talked freely with agents during the lengthy process of destroying the plants and searching the buildings, stating he knew the patch was back there, but never visited it and had nothing to do with the care of the plants. Later he identified some of the visitors to the patch from a photo lineup.

"Were you cooperative?" asked Daugherty when her client took the witness stand.

"Absolutely," said McKinney. "I had no reason not to be. I had nothing to hide, so I worked with them."

At one point on Aug. 29, McKinney asked the agent if he needed to get a lawyer and "he reassured me I wasn't in any trouble. It was pretty scary."

McKinney was not indicted until August 2012, and was finally arrested in April 2013 at his home in Davidson County.

Since McKinney did not give a written or recorded statement, the jury had to decide whether the agents' recollection of his words was true or not.

TBI Agent Steve Talley testified McKinney told him he was staying at the property for a reduced rent ($300/month) because he was watching it to keep people away from the grow.

When Daugherty challenged him on this, Talley asserted, "That's what he said, no question," and said if McKinney denied it, he was "mistaken."

"Is what you've told this jury the truth?" asked Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard.

"Yes, I've told the truth," Talley said.

Daugherty then re-called McKinney to the witness stand and asked simply, "Are you lying?"

"No, I'm not," he replied.

"Look at the motives," said Barnard in his closing argument. "Who has motive not to tell the truth? Either the agent is lying or the defendant is."