Appeals court upholds Judge Vance's bond revocation for jail inmate

Jun. 22, 2013 @ 07:23 PM

The appeals court has denied a Sevier County man's claim that his probation was wrongly revoked.

Justin E. Stinnett failed to show that the judge made a mistake in revoking his probation because it wasn't proved that Stinnett did he was charged with doing. The Court of Criminal Appeals said the record supports Circuit Judge Richard Vance's ruling that Stinnett violated his probation by damaging a toilet in the jail.

The appeals court ruled that Judge Vance "properly revoked Stinnett's probation based on the commission of an additional criminal offense."

On June 26, 2012, Stinnett pleaded guilty to robbery and got a 10-year suspended sentence only after he served a year in jail. Ten days after he entered his plea, he was charged with vandalism "after he willfully caused damage to a toilet in Segregation Cell 163 at the Sevier County Jail," the appeals court ruling shows.

At his probation revocation hearing on Oct. 9, Stinnett denied he damaged the cell toilet. Lt. Andrew Loveday, a supervisor at the jail, testified at the hearing that Stinnett intentionally jammed pieces of metal into the commode; repairs cost over $400. Loveday said the contractor told him the commode was jammed by the top of a Bic lighter and/or ink pen.

Officer Steven Ogle testified at the hearing that the commode was working before Stinnett went into the cell, and Ogle's cell check list shows no damage to the cell when the previous inmate entered it and left. That same check list shows that when Stinnett left the cell the commode would not flush.

Stinnett had testified at the hearing that he tried to use the commode and it wasn't working. He denied knowing what happened to the toilet. He also admitted he had cut himself to be put on suicide watch so he could leave the cell, and that he had cut himself with a piece of a Bic lighter.

When Vance found Stinnett guilty of violating his probation by damaging the cell, the judge noted that Stinnett had seven previous probation violations and had committed other criminal offenses while on probation. He was deemed an "extremely high risk for re-offending" was was ordered by Vance to serve his sentence of 10 years.

The appeals court noted in its ruling that strict rules of evidence do not apply in a probation revocation hearing. The court can use "reliable hearsay" in making its decision.The appeals court also noted that Stinnett had not objected to Officer Ogle's testimony at the hearing.