Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

April 18, 2014

Motion to toss evidence in burglary denied

CROSSVILLE — A defense motion to have evidence seized by deputies searching for a man who fled warrant service thrown out failed when deputies testified they had oral permission from the defendant's son to search the residence the father and son share.

The attorney seeking to exclude the evidence seized called the son to testify, but the son, who is also charged in the case, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself and declined five times to answer questions from his father's attorney.

Terry Cobb, 44, 774 Turner Rd., is being held for probation violations and charges of two counts of aggravated burglary, theft of less than $60,000, theft of less than $10,000 and theft of less than $1,000.

Deputy Sean Mullikin testified at the hearing that on Dec. 12 he went to the Terry Cobb residence to serve warrants and spotted the suspect through a front window as he drove down the long driveway to the Cobb home.

When Cobb spotted the deputy's patrol car, he fled out a back door and into a nearby wooded area. Mullikin called for assistance and briefly gave foot pursuit without success.

When he returned to the residence, Mullikin testified that he called Cobb's son, Thomas Lane Cobb, 21, outside and asked if Thomas Cobb knew where his father might be. Thinking the elder Cobb might have "doubled back" and returned to the residence, Mullikin asked for permission to search the residence and was granted verbal permission from the son.

While Mullikin searched the residence, Deputy Ryan Ashburn searched a garage area that was detached from the house and had an open door.

Inside the house, Mullikin testified while looking into a bedroom, he spotted in plain view items he recognized as coming from a recent house burglary. In the garage, Ashburn spotted a duffel bag that deputies said contained components for a methamphetamine lab,

While the meth lab seizure was not part of the challenge by defense attorney John Williams, the items found in the house were.

Williams argued that the son was not a permanent resident of his father's home and had no standing to give officers permission to conduct the search. He added that a search warrant should have been obtained before the items were seized by investigators.

Mullikin countered from the stand that Thomas Cobb's grandmother had told him that her grandson lived with his father and that previous booking sheets had the father's address listed.

Williams also alleged that Mullikin had his gun drawn on the son when he asked permission for the search, a point disputed by Assistant District Attorney Caroline Knight.

Ashburn testified he witnessed Thomas Cobb giving permission and that Thomas Cobb also gave Investigator Jerry Jackson permission to search the residence.

Jackson testified that investigators had been "looking at the residence for some time" prior to Dec. 1 while investigating the residential burglary in question, and that the items spotted by Mullikin did turn out to be stolen.

When Williams asked Jackson why he had not obtained a search warrant, Jackson responded, "There was no need for a search warrant. We had consent."

Williams argued that deputies should have obtained a search warrant, or at least, written permission to search.

Knight countered a search warrant was not required because consent had been given and that Thomas Cobb at any time could have stopped the search but did not.

"Obviously, a search warrant would have been best," Judge Leon Burns said. "They should be encouraged to get a search warrant."

It wasn't the first time this issue of searches without warrants had been addressed by the court, despite consent.

Burns added that evidence justifies belief that Thomas Cobb lived at the residence and, as a result, did have standing to give voluntary consent to search to Jackson.

Burns then denied the motion, denied a motion to lower the bond based on new charges against Terry Cobb while he was out on bond, and moved the cases to the May 2 discussion docket, May 7 deadline docket.

Burns also set a trial date for both father and son for July 23.

Thomas Lane Cobb is facing charges of theft of less than $60,000, theft of less than $10,000, three counts of simple possession/casual exchange, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Both remain in jail.

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