MARYVILLE, TN – Blount County Circuit Judge Tammy Harrington this afternoon heard a Motion to Dismiss All Charges against Larry Joe Wheelon made by his defense attorney Rob White. White stated that Wheelon was arrested in April 2013 on 19 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, and the Preliminary Hearing last August 2013 dealt with only one of the counts. White said the present case resulting from the December 2013 indictment of Wheelon should be dismissed, and Wheelon should be afforded Preliminary Hearing on the other 18 counts relating to his April 2013 arrest. White also argued that his Motion should be granted due to the alleged “bad faith” by Ellen Berez, former Blount County D. A. who handled the August 2013 Preliminary Hearing associated with Wheelon’s April 2013 arrest on aggravated cruelty to Tennessee Walking Horses which resulted in Wheelon’s rights having been violated.
White argued that present case resulting from the December 2013 indictment of Larry Joe Wheelon on 18 counts should be sent back to General Sessions Court so Larry Joe Wheelon could get a Preliminary Hearing on the other 18 of 19 counts relating to his April 2013 arrest which were never heard because Asst. D. A. Ellen Berez did not go forward with the cases.
According to Attorney White, Asst. D. A. Ellen Berez told White she was going to Noll Pross (discontinue the legal proceedings) against Larry Joe Wheelon at the end of the second day of the three day Preliminary Hearing before General Sessions Judge Robert Headrick. General Sessions Court is “Small Claims Court” and does not conduct felony trials, but may do Preliminary Cause Hearings in which the State has to prove that it met basic “probable cause” legal requirements when a person’s property is searched, seized and arrested. In Wheelon’s instance, he was arrested in April 2013 as a result of an Affidavit and Search Warrant obtained by Office of Inspector General Agent Julie McMillian.
AUGUST 13, 14 and 15, 2013 – LARRY JOE WHEELON PRELIMINARY HEARING
On Day One, testimony was provided and Attorney Rob White questioned if the State had proved “probable cause” existed for the search of Larry Wheelon’s barn and his subsequent arrest. On Day Two, General Sessions Judge Robert Headrick concluded that the State had proved “probable cause” did exist. More testimony was then taken on Day Two. Attorney Rob White alleged that USDA Office of Inspector General Agent Julie McMillian had obstructed justice by tampering with a witness. A recording of a telephone message by Agent McMillian was played. Asst. District Attorney Berez took the matter under consideration, and debated if the case would continue or she would Noll Pross (discontinue the legal proceedings). White in his Motion today alleged that District Attorney Berez told him that the Wheelon Preliminary Hearing would not go forward, and consequently, White then released all of the witnesses he had subpoenaed to testify in the case. Asst. District Attorney Ellen Berez considered things overnight, and concluded the next morning, Day Three – August 15, 2013, that Agent Julie McMillian had done nothing improper regarding her investigation of Wheelon’s training operation, the search of Wheelon’s training barn, and the subsequent seizure of the “sore” horses, and Wheelon’s arrest on aggravated cruelty charges. Berez continued with the case on Day Three and she lost track of a key witness who entered the courtroom after General Sessions Court Judge had excluded all expert witnesses who were to testify that day. Wheelon’s attorney White objected, and Judge Headrick dismissed the case against Wheelon.
Asst. D. A. Ellen Berez was then replaced by Asst. District Attorney Kenlyn Foster. Larry Joe Wheelon and three other Defendants were then indicted in December 2013 by a Blount County Grand Jury on 18 counts of conspiracy and aggravated cruelty to animals.
In his Motion To Dismiss today, Rob White argued that a Tennessee case, “Golden”, controlled in this matter, and his client had been prejudiced by the State’s handling the Preliminary Hearing, and that the present case in which the Grand Jury indicted Wheelon on 18 counts should be sent back for Preliminary Hearing on all of the counts of animal cruelty first alleged (18), except the one on which the case was dismissed.
Assistant District Attorney Kenlyn Foster, who had sitting second chair supporting her the veteran West Tennessee prosecutor Mark Davidson, argued that there was “essentially no prejudice to Mr. Wheelon” and that White’s Motion should be denied. She said White at the time made no objection to the Amendment of the Affidavit which provided that only one of the April 2013 counts would be subject to the Preliminary Hearing. Once the case was dismissed, then the subsequent indictments stood on their own. She said that when Asst D.A Berez decided to go forward with the case on Day 3, that Rob White could have recalled all of his witnesses. White chose not to do that, and got a Hearing on the one count, the April 2013 arrest and the charge relating to it was dismissed on a technicality.
Circuit Judge Tammy Harrington noted that during the day a number of pending matters had been resolved by agreement of the various lawyers representing the Defendants. She said that the Court would take matters under advisement and review all exhibits filed in the case, before ruling on Larry Joe Wheelon’s Motion To Dismiss on August 8, 2014.
Following the conclusion of the Motion Hearing, Larry Joe Wheelon, defense attorney “fled” the courthouse purposely avoiding questions from the assembled media. In the past, Attorney White has been readily available to the press.
Informed sources say neither Wheelon nor White wanted to answer questions regarding Wheelon receiving a Horse Protection Violation Notice for soring a Tennessee Walking Horse on July 12, 2014 at the East Tennessee Trainers Auxiliary Horse Show.
Summary of the matters relating to the three other defendants to follow later.