MARYVILLE, TN – Another status conference was held Monday, June 9, 2014, in the chambers of Blount County Circuit Judge Tammy Harrington.
The Court announced that a Hearing on Motions before the Court has been set for 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 23, 2014.
Larry Joe Wheelon and three defendants were indicted on December 2, 2013 on 18 felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. They were arraigned before Blount County Circuit Judge Tammy Harrington on December 9, 2013.
Wheelon was arrested in April 2013, charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, and then was freed at a Preliminary Hearing in August 2013 when a witness was not permitted to testify due to a legal technicality.
Following Wheelon’s April 2013 arrest, Randall Stacey Gunter, Blake Primm, and Brandon Lunsford were also arrested. After Wheelon was freed by General Sessions Court Judge Robert Headrick, Assistant District Attorney General Berez dismissed the cases against Gunter, Primm and Lunsford.
Then all four Defendants were indicted on December 2, 2013.
Following the indictments, Randall Stacey Gunter, and the other two Defendant’s filed a Motion To Dismiss the indictments and asked the Court to order their cases back to the lower General Sessions Court for a Preliminary Hearing.
The Motion alleges bad faith on the part of Assistant District Attorney Ellen Berez because she allegedly told the Defendants that when she filed the Motion To Dismiss charges on August 28, 2013 against the three Defendants in General Sessions Court that the case was at an end, and that there would be no further prosecution.
Subpoenas were issued after the beginning of 2014 to force Berez to give testimony. The State filed a Motion to Quash so Berez could not be forced to testify. The State also opposed the Defendants Motion to send the cases back to General Sessions Court to provide them with the Preliminary Hearing.
During the Spring, it appeared that Circuit Judge David R. Duggan would be hearing the cases, but then Judge Harrington reentered the picture.
On April 25, 2014, Wheelon attorney Rob White filed a $1.5 Million civil damages suit against Blount County SPCA, and Gino and Kellie Bachman.
In May 2014, it became necessary for the Court and attorneys to refer to the audio recordings made of the August 2013 Hearing regarding Randall Stacey Gunter and the other two defendants. It was first reported that the audio was “corrupted”, then it was recovered, and finally a transcript was prepared from the audio, and has now been placed in the Court file.
It was anticipated that Circuit Judge Harrington would rule upon the pending Motions before the Court on June 9, 2014, but it didn’t happen. There are four Defendants in the case and scheduling of matters has not always been easy to accomplish. Especially with the contention between all of the parties involved.
So the four lawyers and the Judge conferred in chambers, and it now appears that it is “Game On” for July 23, 2014 …. unless there is another continuance.
The most likely guess on a trial is during the late Fall of 2014 or after the first of the year in 2015.
NOTE: Two More Interesting Developments:
- Assistant District Attorney Kenlyn Foster won the Republican primary in May 2014 for Juvenile Court Judge. Although the general election is in November, winning the Republican primary in Blount County, Tennessee is tantamount to election. Informed observers believe Foster may resign as prosecutor before the case comes to trial.
- Assistant District Attorney General Mark Davidson from West Tennessee (Somerville) who prosecuted Jackie McConnell resulting in McConnell being sentenced to a year house arrest and a $25,000.00 fine for a misdemeanor, on May 12, 2014 entered an appearance in the Wheelon case as a Special Prosecutor.