Johnson City woman gets 60 days jail sentence, 60 days probation on vehicular assault charge

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF

   A Johnson City woman who was more than 2-1/2 times the legal limit for intoxication when she struck a 23-year-old pedestrian in September 2000 and left him permanently disabled, was sentenced to 60 days in jail Friday and placed on probation for three years.
   Anne Carter, 34, 3417 Linkwood Dr. -- an audiologist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home -- represented by Elizabethton attorney Stacy Street, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Washington County Criminal Court to vehicular assault, felony reckless endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident. She agreed to accept a two-year jail term.
   After the plea hearing, however, District Attorney General Joe Crumley said he was asked to amend the plea to include judicial diversion, meaning Carter's record would be wiped clean if she successfully completed probation, and she would be able to keep her job.
   "I would not amend the charges down," Crumley said, "because I can't treat somebody different from what I would anybody else."
   As a result, Carter will lose her audiologist license, he said. "Because of that, the judge would not order restitution. If she was somehow to get her license back, then she will be ordered to pay restitution at that time, but it will probably take a while to get the license back."
   Carter began serving her jail term Friday afternoon.
   Crumley, who prosecuted the case, said his client, Michael Teasley of Johnson City, will have to live off $356 a month in disability payments for the rest of his life.
   "He's 23 years old and has a child. He has a stint from the main artery going into the brain. He looked at me, I guess it was Tuesday, and said, 'My life's over. She killed me.' He couldn't even stay for the hearing. He's in that bad a shape," Crumley said, his voice drained. "If I sound tired it's because it's been real emotional."
   Crumley said he told the judge that he felt like if he granted Carter judicial diversion it would go against everything he'd ever tried to do as a prosecutor, "because I feel very strongly that people need to be treated fairly and equally."
   During the years he served as a defense attorney, Crumley said, "I tried to give the same representation if I was appointed as I would if you hired me. As a prosecutor, I've tried to treat people the same, whether they were represented by the public defender or whether they had the best attorney in town. Because I feel very strongly that it's not who you are, it's what you've done. If I did it for her, who would I not do it for?"
   General Crumley said he talked to one of the bailiffs as he was entering court Friday afternoon. The bailiff told him that his cousin, who was a commercial driver, was convicted of DUI. "When he lost his commercial license, he ended up having his truck repossessed, his wife left him, he lost it all. How do I tell a truck driver he's not as good as an audiologist?"
   Crumley said Judge Brown noted that Carter is fragile and appears to be in a very emotional state. "She's in counseling. Her therapist is directed to have access to her in the jail and to make sure she takes her medication. This has pretty well messed up her life as well.
   "For somebody like that, 60 days may seem like forever," Crumley said, "but this young man will never be the same. He's got to live with it from now on."
   The district attorney general said his office has contacted the Crumley House, no relation, which deals with head trauma victims, "and they were excited about the idea of helping him. They work with them in a therapeutic way and even try to help them find a job, even though it may be very limited. But it would give him a lot of feeling of self-worth if he could do something," Crumley said.
   "The sad thing was he came here from West Virginia to what he considered 'the big city,' to find himself a job and had been here four days" when he was struck by Carter.
   "He told my investigator, 'I had a car but I loaned it to a friend and I was walking to my uncle's when I got hit," Crumley said. "He saw the Jeep Cherokee coming and had taken off and was running and was 12 feet off the road when she hit him."
   The accident occurred around 7 p.m. Sept. 27 at the intersection of West Main Street and Indian Ridge Road.
   "She hit him and then she went across the road, knocked down a telephone pole, went through 30 feet of fence, drove on three tires and a rim and nearly ran over a 12-year-old, then went to the day care center where her 2-year-old was and demanded the child. They locked her into a room and wouldn't let her leave with the child," Crumley said.
   According to testimony, "when she was taken back to the scene by the officers, she said, 'That will teach that little mother...... to run out in front of me,' and said, 'Who are you going to believe, me or that little piece of s...?' Pardon the French, but those were her words, not mine," Crumley said.
   At the time of the accident, Carter's blood alcohol content was .26 percent, or more than twice the legal limit for intoxication. Carter admitted to drinking beer before the accident and, according to testimony from Johnson City Police Lt. Larry Williams, would have had to have consumed as much as 14 beers to register that level, Crumley said.
   "She pled to vehicular assault, reckless endangerment with a weapon, which was the 12-year-old she nearly hit, the weapon being the Cherokee, and leaving the scene of an accident.
   "She pled to what she was charged with and she pled to what the facts showed. The case just did not deserve to be treated differently," Crumley said. "She lost a lot, but this kid just about lost his life."
   Carter had no prior record, he said, not even a speeding ticket. When she struck Teasley, she was traveling approximately 45-50 mph. "He was thrown so hard he was actually knocked out of a shoe," Crumley said.
   "The only way she could have gotten judicial diversion would have been if I had amended the charges, and I couldn't live with that," he said. "Vehicular assault is not divertible."
   Since the accident, Teasley has had two strokes, seizures and suffers from extreme pain in his head, back and legs, Crumley said.
   Teasley received a $60,000 settlement of which attorneys took $21,000, according to Crumley.
   "His uncle made him buy a mobile home for $18,000, then when the hearing didn't go in January because the judge was sick, he became despondent and suicidal and had to be put in Woodridge; got out, went home and burned his mobile home and told his uncle he did it because he could. It was his," Crumley said.