Prosecutors to get help with DUI, domestic caseload

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   District Attorney General Joe Crumley announced a plan Thursday which will bring some much-needed help to Carter, Johnson and Unicoi counties in the areas of DUI and domestic violence prosecution.
   "Thanks to the DUI and domestic violence grant, we're going to be able to better help the dockets in Carter County. We have rewritten the grant for the DUI attorney to allow Stan Widener to prosecute in the First Judicial District. He will primarily be working Washington and Carter County. The new domestic violence counselor, Julie Hays, will also concentrate on Washington and Carter County," Crumley said.
   Victor Vaughn, who has prosecuted in the 1st District since 1998, will join Anthony Clark in Johnson and Unicoi counties. "I feel placing Victor with Tony will greatly enhance prosecution in those counties. Both have experience at all levels from General Sessions Court to Criminal Court," Crumley said. "This will also give the law enforcement agencies and public easier access to their local prosecutor."
   Crumley said he will join Assistant District Attorney Janet Best Hardin in prosecuting cases set for Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown's docket in Washington County to help fill the void left by Vaughn.
   "I'm always happy whenever I'm in court," he said. "Janet and I tried a jury trial Monday and we worked well together. I look forward to trying cases with her.
   "I still want to go to the other counties whenever possible. In fact, I'm planning on trying a murder case in Johnson County and a very serious aggravated kidnapping in Unicoi County this summer."
   General Crumley said he believes he has established the administrative side of his office to the point where he can handle the additional work.
   The changes are effective immediately. "Probably by the first of the week the assistants will get started in Carter County," Crumley said, taking some of the burden off Prosecutor Mark Hill in General Sessions Court and allowing him more time to assist Prosecutor Ken Baldwin with the Criminal Court caseload.
   On Friday, Crumley announced that he had received grant money through the Office of Criminal Justice for a domestic violence prosecutor.
   "We lost the position a year ago and it has hurt our ability to serve victims of these crimes. I am very pleased that the District Attorney General's Conference assisted us to recover this needed position," he said.
   Julie Hays initially will be hired as an investigator, "but she will be able to act as an attorney under the supervision of another attorney," according to Crumley. "She will be based at the Downtown Center and will be doing mostly Washington and Carter cases," where the largest volume is.
   "I'm real pleased to hire Julie. She first came to the District Attorney's Office as an intern from the Criminal Justice Program at East Tennessee State University," Crumley said. "She did so well, when she graduated we hired her as a legal assistant. She was accepted to the University of Wyoming School of Law where she graduated in May of this year. I'm proud to be able to give her her first job as a new attorney."
   General Crumley said a case prosecuted last week in Washington County was "the ultimate domestic violence."
   The defendant, Robert Crawford, was convicted of murder after killing the father of his girlfriend, who he had known about six months.
   "During that time they moved to North Carolina. He got drunk and shot into the wall next to her with a shotgun. They moved to Johnson City. He beat her up; but she loves him."
   Crawford was ordered to undergo domestic violence counseling. On the way back, as the couple were passing Tennessee Pottery on Market Street, Crawford began hitting the woman in the back of the head, which was observed by an off-duty officer.
   "He gets arrested for that, gets out on bond, gets served with a violation of probation, his momma comes to the jail and bails him out again. That same night he goes over to her house. Her father says, 'Just leave her alone. Don't come back.' "
   The next day the family went to court, but Crawford didn't show. "He goes to their home and cuts the phone lines. When he's run off, he goes across the street, backs his car behind a bunch of bushes, sits and drinks Jack Daniels, smokes cigarettes and waits on her to come home," Crumley said.
   Crawford watched the police come and leave when the family discovered the phone lines had been cut. He then went to the residence armed with a shotgun. The family ran into the house and was trying to lock the door when Crawford shot the doorknob, Crumley said.
   The father pushed his wife out of the way and Crawford shot through the door, directly under the window, striking him in the stomach.
   "He comes in and says, 'You've made me kill your father. Now, I'm going to kill you, Georgia (who is a cerebral palsy victim), your momma, and then you,' " Crumley recounted. "Luckily, he's drunk enough to where they fight over the shotgun and she finally gets it away from him."
   When officers arrived, Crawford jumped off an 8-foot-high deck, ran across a field and did a dive-roll over a 5-foot-high barbed wire fence. "He jumps to his feet and takes off running and they finally catch him," Crumley said. "We got a verdict on Thursday on felony murder, making Crawford eligible for parole after 51 years.
   "It's these kinds of things where we want to try to reach the victims and say, 'This is what happens,' " Crumley said.