Johnson City Press Monday, July 6, 2015

Enough of the special exemptions for defendants

December 2nd, 2011 9:34 am by Staff Report

It is — as the cliché goes — beginning to sound like a broken record.
In September, we wondered if former District Attorney General Joe Crumley received preferential treatment after he was stopped by Jonesborough Public Safety officers in a traffic pursuit that ended with the former prosecutor bumping his car into a police cruiser.
Many of you told us that had you been the one involved in such a chase, you doubt you would have been given the opportunity to turn yourself in more than a week later — as Crumley was allowed to do.
We agreed.
Then came news in October that a judge decided it was not necessary to arrest a local sheriff facing 10 serious felony charges. Those charges against Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris stem from a pair of Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probes — one initiated in 2009 and the other in 2010 — that overlapped and were eventually combined.
District Attorney General Tony Clark said the TBI had intended to arrest Harris, but was discouraged from doing so by Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown.
Clark said both he and the TBI were opposed to Brown’s decision. “Judge Brown said that was his decision, that it is his call,” Clark said. “I respectfully disagreed with him and he respectfully disagreed with me, and a summons was issued in lieu of an arrest and that’s the only explanation he gave me.”
Maybe Brown felt Harris was not a flight risk. If so, we asked if the judge routinely applied this exception equally to all defendants before his court.
Now comes word that Brown had issued a criminal summons for a Johnson City heart surgeon who was arraigned Monday in Washington County Criminal Court on 34 counts of obtaining narcotics by fraud. That move reversed a previous order for a $250,000 bond and allowed Dr. William Walker to report for booking at the Washington County Detention Center within 10 days.
As with the Harris case, Clark disagreed with Brown’s decision.
“If you get indicted on 34 felonies, you should have to post bond,” Clark said. “Most criminal defendants have to post bond. I just think everybody ought to be treated the same.”
We agree, and no special exemptions should be granted to a defendant just because he is a former prosecutor, a sheriff or a renowned heart surgeon.

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