Man pleads guilty just days before his trial

Friday, June 20, 2014

By Karen Hall


Just days before his jury trial was due to start, a Lewisburg man pleaded guilty to three counts of rape of a child, a Class A felony punishable by up to 60 years in prison.

Tommy L. Bryant, 37, of Rambo Hollow Road, received a sentence of 25 years on each count, but the sentences will all run at the same time. Bryant must serve 100 percent of his sentence before being released, and then remain on community supervision for the rest of his life.

"You understand the deal?" asked Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell.

"Yes, sir," answered Bryant.

Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard told the court Bryant was the boyfriend of the victim's mother, and committed the rapes in December 2012 and January and March 2013.

"In two statements he admitted it," said Barnard.

Russell complemented Bryant's attorney, Matt Milligan of Franklin.

"He fought like a tiger for you," the judge said.

Before leaving the court, Bryant waived his right to appeal.

Also sentenced last Friday was Michael Heiser, 42, of Spring Place Road. He was found guilty of simple possession of hydrocodone and two counts of sexual battery after a jury trial in April.

Heiser has an extensive criminal record, and should be considered a Range II offender, said Barnard.

"He was on bond in three cases when he committee our offense," said Barnard. "He committed three offenses while on bond in our case. He's had his probation revoked at least twice in Williamson County, and been revoked on parole in Michigan twice.

"With his history, we would ask that he gets the maximum sentence," Barnard concluded.

Heiser's defense attorney, Michael Collins of the Public Defender's Office, asked for a three-year sentence, but pointed out that some of the crimes considered felonies in Michigan would only be misdemeanors in Tennessee.

"He does have an enormous number of misdemeanor convictions," said Russell. "There are enough convictions to enhance his sentence up to the maximum. I do not find there are mitigating factors, and there is no serious argument for alternative sentencing."

Heiser was fined $750, and sentenced to four years for the sexual battery, to be followed by 11 months 29 days for the simple possession. He will probably be in prison much longer, however, because he has sentences in other jurisdictions as well, including a 15-year sentence imposed in Michigan in 2007.

Finally, Russell had to decide the manner in which Ambrie S. Sparks, 21, of Chapel Hill, would serve a four-year sentence for child abuse.

In April 2013, Sparks' six-week old daughter was shaken and slapped by her then-boyfriend, Jonathan D. Griggs, 24. The child suffered serious injuries, and was admitted to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. It was Sparks' mother who insisted she call 911, about 12 hours after the assault happened.

"Will you let her just walk out without serving any time?" exclaimed Barnard. "That would demean that child and the crime that was committed against it."

"We're talking about a 19-year-old," said argued attorney Bill Harold of the Public Defender's Office. "Nineteen year olds make poor decisions. What she is guilty of is waiting too long. She's taken parenting classes, she has a good job (as a Sonic manager) -- this is a different person."

Sparks' mother testified that her daughter and grandchildren live with her now, and Sparks has a good relationship with both children and spends a lot of time with them. The Department of Children's Services visits every month, and there have not been any problems.

"I'm horrified to look at those pictures (of the baby's injuries) and imagine any delay," said Russell.

"I would ask the court to do what it feels is just, and what it can do," said Barnard.

"This is a 19 year old who made really stupid choices," said Harold. "Give her a chance to show us she's changed."

"'Bad choice' doesn't even touch this situation," said Russell. "It's disgusting; revolting, but I'm not sure putting her in jail does something for the child. I don't want to depreciate the seriousness of the offence."

Russell decided to sentence Sparks to 30 days in jail, but she may serve it in two-day stretches, so as not to lose her job.

Sparks waived her right to appeal the sentence, as she had earlier waived her right to appeal the conviction.

Griggs pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse, a Class A Felony, in February, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, of which, as a violent offender, he must serve 100 percent.