ERWIN — Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris entered a not guilty plea to felony charges against him at his arraignment hearing Tuesday morning in Unicoi County Criminal Court.
Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, appointed by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark in November to oversee the Harris case, denied two motions filed by Harris' legal counsel seeking the dismissal of charges against their client - one alleging that District Attorney General Tony Clark interfered with the independence and composition of the grand jury that in October returned 10 true bills charging Harris with 10 felonies. The other motion filed previously by the defense sought the dismissal of the charges against Harris alleging that the presentment document returned by the grand jury was not signed by grand jury members or the grand jury foreman when it was presented to the court.
On Oct. 14, a Unicoi County grand jury returned 10 true bills charging Harris with 10 felonies, including six counts of official misconduct and one count each of tampering with evidence, criminal simulation, theft over $1,000 and attempted aggravated assault.
Harris' legal counsel previously filed a motion seeking the severance of these offenses, which was granted by Blackwood. The six counts of official misconduct will be tried together, as will the criminal simulation and theft over $1,000 charges. The attempted aggravated assault and tampering with evidence charges will be tried separately from the others.
Clark elected to have the theft over $1,000 and criminal simulation charges tried first. Blackwood set a trial date for July 30 in Unicoi County Criminal Court for these charges.
Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com and read Wednesday's print edition for more on this developing story.