The day before he was scheduled to go on trial for felony possession of methamphetamine, John Noble Patton lost his motion to suppress evidence Crossville Police seized during questioning because he had not been first advised of his Miranda rights.
After being cautioned about the amount of time he would be facing if the jury convicted him, and after conferring with his attorney, Jeff Vires, Patton, 45, opted to skip his trial by entering a plea.
Patton pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of less than .5 grams of methamphetamine with intent to sell and/or deliver and received a six-year prison sentence. The sentence is to be served at 30% with Patton receiving credit for 162 days already served.
Patton was also fined a total of $4,000 and in unrelated theft cases that were dismissed, he is to pay $13,600 in restitution and court costs. All pending cases were dismissed.
On May 18, 2019, Crossville Police were dispatched to the parking lot of the Hampton Inn on a report of a pickup truck parked at the end of the parking lot that was not registered to guests at the motel. Ptl. Joshua Mangas found Patton to be the occupant of the vehicle.
During questioning — all that was videotaped on the officer’s dash camera — Patton gave the officer conflicting statements as to why he was parked in the the business parking lot.
During the hearing held in January, Mangas testified, “His story was not making sense to me … first he said he was there to meet his wife, then to meet another woman.” The problem for Patton was he couldn’t remember the names of the women he said he was there to meet.
At some point during the encounter, Mangas told Patton to “hang right there” at the front of his patrol car while he sat down to further check on whether Patton was wanted. He then saw Patton throw something underneath the officer’s patrol car.
“What did you try to throw under my car?” Mangas asked Patton. “Oh, look there. Oh yeah.” He then detained the suspect.
Vires argued that when the encounter took place and Mangas told Patton to “hang out” in front of his patrol car that Patton was not free to leave and at that point, was technically in custody. Miranda rights should have been read to Patton, advising him of his right to remain silent and to have an attorney present before answering questions.
Worley countered that the encounter between the officer and Patton yielded changing stories as to why Patton was in the motel parking lot. The officer, Worley said, had a right to detain him because the property owner had complained about his presence.
Judge Gary McKenzie noted in making his ruling that Patton was in the parking lot with the property owner not knowing who he was or why he was there, that Patton was not in jail, not in the patrol and not handcuffed.
It was a routine questioning during an encounter, was not forceful, voices weren’t raised, “he (Patton) was not surrounded by officers … the search was conducted for the officer’s safety, not formal arrest,” the judge noted.
McKenzie then denied Vires’ motion to suppress the seizure of the small container of meth based on alleged Miranda rights violations.
A hearing on a state motion to revoke bond was then held.
Deputy Ryan Ashburn testified that on Dec. 16, 2019, he was on patrol in the Linary community when he came across Patton driving a four-wheeler on Old Hwy. 28. Ashburn knew Patton had a suspended driver’s license and stopped him to issue a citation.
During the resulting search, Ashburn recovered .59 grams of meth and $1,500 in cash. This occurred while Patton was on bond on other felony cases.
McKenzie then revoked Patton’s bond and at Worley’s request, on all pending charges.
“What less drastic measure can I do to protect society?” McKenzie asked before announcing that decision.
McKenzie then told Patton he wanted to make sure Patton understood “what you are up against.”
The judge admitted he did not know what a jury might decide during a trial, but the charges included two class B felonies with Range 1 being an eight- to 12-year sentence, and Range 2 being 12 to 20 years. With some offenses occurring when Patton was out of jail on bond, a conviction could result in multiple sentences being served consecutively instead of concurrently or at the same time.
A recess was then called and when court resumed, Patton entered the guilty pleas to the two meth charges.
The plea was called a “realistic resolution” to Patton’s legal troubles.