With no medical evidence presented at a preliminary hearing Friday to support Joe Crumley’s defense that a medical condition caused his erratic driving that led to his arrest last month, a judge said there was probable cause to send the case to a grand jury.
Crumley, 58, 215 Scott Lane, Jonesborough, is charged with reckless endangerment, evading arrest, failure to yield to blue lights and sirens and reckless driving. The charges stem from a Sept. 21 incident in Jonesborough during which he’s accused of crossing the center line while driving and refusing to pull over when Jonesborough Public Safety officers ordered him to do so.
Crumley, former district attorney general for this district and now represented by attorney Jim Bowman, appeared in court Friday for a preliminary hearing after the case was assigned to a substitute judge and prosecutor.
Greene County General Sessions Judge Ken Bailey heard evidence presented by retired District Attorney General Joseph Baugh. He served as district attorney for the 21st Judicial District — which includes Hickman, Williamson, Perry and Lewis counties — from 1982-1998.
The two were appointed to the case after Washington County sessions judges and the local DA’s office recused themselves.
In addition to sending the case to a grand jury, Bailey also ordered Crumley to relinquish his handgun permit. Crumley pulled the card from his wallet and turned it over to a court deputy.
That decision came after Bailey heard testimony from two Jonesborough police officers and from one defense witness, Washington County Sheriff’s Lt. Gary Wiseman.
Jonesborough Police Officer Michael McPeak was the first to encounter Crumley on East Main Street when he saw an oncoming vehicle cross over into his lane.
McPeak said he turned around and activated his blue lights and sirens and followed the vehicle through town and past Five Points on Highway 81.
The officer, and later Sgt. Chad Proffitt, testified seeing Crumley with a phone to his ear during the pursuit. Crumley’s speed during the pursuit ranged from 13 mph to 48 mph once he got out of town.
Both officers knew Crumley prior to the incident, and Proffitt testified he hardly recognized the former prosecutor.
The officers and Wiseman all testified that Crumley appeared confused and unable to focus well.
Wiseman responded to the scene, in part because the final stop was in the county but also because he was concerned for Crumley.
He spoke to the former DA, who was already handcuffed and in McPeak’s patrol vehicle, and said Crumley initially appeared to recognize him, but that his gaze became fixed.
All three officers also testified similarly that they observed Crumley having a seizure. The medical incident was first noticed by McPeak, who said his K9 partner, Gregor, began barking loudly when Crumley began having the seizure.
McPeak said Crumley was hitting his head repeatedly against a glass partition separating the back seat into an area for Gregor and an area for a person under arrest.
As soon as McPeak realized Crumley was having a seizure, he said he called for a medical unit to respond to the scene.
Crumley was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center where he spent the next eight days. During that stay, a blood analysis showed Crumley had no drugs or alcohol in his system.
McPeak testified that when he first observed Crumley’s vehicle, he thought the driver could be impaired, but toxicology results showed he was not.
Crumley had a loaded 9mm handgun in the center console of his SUV, but police didn’t know that until after removing Crumley from the vehicle and conducting a search.
Proffitt testified that he saw Crumley reach toward the console, but that he never opened it and never had the weapon in his hand.
Because of the reckless endangerment charge, Baugh argued that Crumley’s handgun permit be surrendered, which Bailey granted.
As far as probable cause to bind the case over, Bowman argued that the officers testified that Crumley experienced a medical emergency, he wasn’t under the influence and “there’s simply no other explanation” than his client had a medical problem as opposed to committing a crime.
In his ruling, Bailey said “the medical condition is going to have to be established through medical proof,” and none was presented at the hearing on Friday, so he could not consider it in his ruling.
Crumley remains free on a $12,500 bond and is scheduled to appear in Washington County Criminal Court on Nov. 18.