Criminal Court Judge Gary McKenzie left no doubt he was unhappy with the way a defendant has been held in jail since September, partly because of an indictment he called “in and out of order.”
Lee Floyd Bebley, Crossville, had his bond revoked and has been unable to be assigned a trial date because of a Tennessee Supreme Court order banning jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The purpose of bond is to ensure a defendant’s attendance at future court hearings and trial. Upper courts have ruled that bond cannot be used as punishment for crimes still pending. There are a few exceptions, most notably, if the defendant has demonstrated a flight risk or is a danger to the community.
The issue that drew McKenzie’s ire centered around the revocation of Bebley’s bond after he was arrested on the similar charges for which he was under bond from an earlier arrest.
Total bond for Bebley — after his second arrest based on a new indictment — was set at $120,000.
Charges holding Bebley are two counts of possession of methamphetamine for sale and/or delivery (two counts for sale and two counts for delivery), three counts of possession of a Schedule II drug for sale and/or delivery (three counts for sale and three counts for delivery), reckless endangerment, theft of property of up to $1,000, evading arrest, felon in possession of a weapon, simple possession and reckless driving.
One indictment lists 11 charges with different dates of offenses intermingled as if the charges were one chain of events, McKenzie noted.
“The indictment falls in and out of order … What this looks like, and I hope it is not, is that the state is picking and choosing what charges in the indictment it wants to use …” McKenzie said. “There is no conspiracy charge or other indications all these charges are linked together” in one crime, the judge continued.
“This is an absolute train wreck,” McKenzie said.
The judge added later each offense on separate dates should have been charged in separate indictments with separate bonds.
Assistant District Attorney Amanda Worley responded that the charges were consolidated because of the serious nature of the crimes coupled with the allegations occurring within the same month.
The state is alleging, Worley explained, that Bebley is accused of committing new offenses while out on bond. She added that the cases were handled this way because Bebley picked up three new charges while out on bond for six charges.
“It smells like the state got all these charges thinking the feds (federal prosecutors) would take over prosecution and (federal prosecutors) then did not.”
McKenzie said the way the indictment was handed with multiple charges on multiple days with no evidence of being a single crime spree as “foggy” for the court record.
“I hope this is not the practice in this judicial district,” the judge said.
With that, a hearing was held on a reduction or reinstatement of Bebley’s bond.
Worley called Sheriff’s Investigator Jon Wirey who testified he was an investigating officer, along with Investigator Jason Elmore and Lt. Jeff Slayton, who oversaw an undercover purchase of Oxycodone from Bebley. Sgt. James Scott was a back-up officer in the area.
Under cross-examination, defense attorney Jeff Vires asked Wirey the identity of the confidential source who made the recorded drug buy. Worley objected, but McKenzie responded, “He’s your witness … you opened the door.
Wirey then gave the court a first name of the confidential buyer but said he did not know the buyer’s last name. “He was not my informant,” Wirey testified.
Sgt. James Scott then testified that he got a description of the vehicle Bebley had left the incident driving and spotted it at Braun St. and Webb Ave. When he attempted to stop the vehicle, the driver refused to stop and traveled to a residence on Cook Rd. where he was taken into custody.
In arguing for a bond or a reduction in bond, Vires told the court that Bebley did not pose a danger to the community, has local ties and lives in Crossville and had the promise of housing and a maintenance job if allowed out on bond.
At that point, he asked for the same bond to be reinstated with whatever restrictions — like wearing a GPS monitoring ankle bracelet — the court wished to add.
Worley countered that with all the charges Bebley is facing (20 counts in three indictments), that he be held without bond pending a trial.
McKenzie then ruled that Bebley would continue to be held without bond until March 15. He noted that there was no argument with the proof the state presented in its two witnesses.
The judge added that he foresees the Supreme Court lifting the ban on jury trials this spring and Bebley’s case will be a priority for a jury trial when that happens.