Guilty pleas accepted in Circuit Court this week

Friday, March 6, 2015

By Karen Hall


A woman pleaded guilty to three cases in Circuit Court Wednesday.

Sandi M. Jett, 36, of McDaniel Hollow Road, had two cases from last year in which she was charged with theft, identity theft, theft of services and criminal simulation. In a new case, for which she was indicted in January, she was charged with an additional theft.

Jett was due to stand trial in one of her cases on Monday.

After intensive negotiation by her attorney, Robert Marlow, Circuit Court Judge Forest A. Durard Jr. agreed Jett's trial could be canceled if she would make a "best interest plea" in all three cases on Wednesday.

Durard explained this kind of plea means the defendant is saying, "I'm not saying I'm guilty, but it looks bad enough a jury could convict me."

"It's still a conviction," the judge pointed out

Durard gave Jett a total sentence of 10 years, of which she must serve nine months in jail and the rest on Community Corrections (a strict form of probation).

She was also ordered to pay restitution to Eastside Liquor Store, where she cashed a fraudulent check for $1,998.20; to DirecTV for $605 worth of services that she obtained using a family member's identifying information; and to another family member for their income tax refund (nearly $4,000) that was diverted into Jett's bank account.

Jett has been in jail here since Dec. 22, so she could be released in September.

"You mess it up, 10 years could turn into something longer," warned Durard.

Durard also accepted open pleas of guilty from three men, all of whom will be sentenced on May 6.

* Justin L. King made an open plea to two counts of Tenncare fraud, two counts of attempted Tenncare fraud and one count of forgery.

Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard gave the factual basis of the case against King, stating Tenncare paid for two prescriptions for hydrocodone for him from two different clinics in less than 30 days. The next month, according to Barnard, King got a prescription for another controlled substance and altered it to hydrocodone, leading to the forgery charge.

* Delray D. Allen, 32, pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal simulation and one count of criminal impersonation.

Giving the factual basis of the case against Allen, Barnard called it "a convoluted situation."

On Oct. 2, Allen used fake $20 bills to make small purchases at Sonic, Little Caesar's, Wendy's, Huddle House, Quik Mart No. 10, Walgreens and Burger King. In each instance, he received genuine currency as change.

Once one cashier realized she had taken a fake bill, law enforcement was called and identified Allen and the car he was driving from surveillance videos. When they caught up with him, Barnard said, Allen had the bags from the stores he visited, with the food still warm, as well as the real $20 bills the fake bills were based on.

Allen had no ID on him when he was arrested, the ADA said, and gave a false name and date of birth, leading to the impersonation charge.

* James D. Hancock, 43, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and harassment.

Assistant District Attorney Drew Wright gave the factual basis of the case against Hancock, stating that on July 18 he assaulted his girlfriend, choking her and threatening to kill her, and he broke her phone when she tried to call 911. Then, after being arrested and jailed, the next day Hancock called his victim multiple times from the jail phone, harassing and frightening her and violating the bond conditions which specified he was to have no contact with her.

When an ordinary guilty plea is made, the sentence has been agreed in negotiations between prosecution and defense, and once the judge has accepted the plea, there can be no appeal on the length of the sentence.

By making an open plea of guilty, the defendant preserves his or her right to appeal the length of the sentence and manner in which it is to be served.