Ruling: Conviction will stay on Teaster's record
After repeatedly violating the terms of his probation, Wesley Teaster will no longer have the chance to have a vehicular homicide conviction removed from his record.
Teaster was in court Tuesday for a hearing on his latest violation. He’s been in the Sevier County Jail since August, after his probation officer reported that he continued to get traffic citations, had tested positive for narcotics and admitted to abusing them, and had left a court-ordered stint in a rehab facility.
Judge Ben Hooper accepted an agreement hashed out between the district attorney’s office and defense attorney Bryan Delius that calls for the charge to remain on Teaster’s record even after he completes his sentence. Hooper had originally granted him a judicial deferral, which would have allowed him to have the conviction expunged if he complied with the terms of his probation.
The judge indicated he decided to take away that option after learning about the latest violation.
“I was obviously disappointed,” Hooper said. “I was quite certain you needed to have your (deferral) revoked.”
Teaster, who is the grandson of Pigeon Forge City Manager Earlene Teaster, pleaded guilty in January 2010 to vehicular homicide by reckless conduct for a May 4, 2008, wreck that resulted in the death of Jeremy Chesney, a passenger in his car. Both Teaster and Chesney were volunteer coaches on the Pigeon Forge High School baseball team.
Chesney’s family did not attend Tuesday’s hearing, but a prosecutor said they did not approve the terms of the agreement.
As part of the terms, Teaster must spend the next year in a faith-based, addiction recovery facility in Alabama. The facility was chosen by Teaster.
Hooper agreed to those terms, but noted Teaster had left a rehab facility where he had been enrolled, at Blount Memorial.
“That certainly wasn’t a good choice you made to leave,” he said.
Delius said that, despite being in a hospital, that facility could not properly monitor and deal with Teaster’s diabetes.
Hooper said he would have ordered Teaster to complete his sentence in jail, but was willing to let him attempt rehab again.
“It must be successfully completed,” the judge said. “There will be no leaving on your own.”
Teaster had served 90 days in jail in 2011 after his first probation violation, which came after he was in another car accident and he allegedly failed to report the incident.
Delius said his client accepted responsibility for the latest violation, and has a new reason to turn his life around — he became a father shortly before his latest arrest.
“For two weeks he got to hold his child and know what it was to be a father. Since that time he’s only been able to view his child in pictures or through glass (during visitation at the jail),” Delius said.
Before her birth, he said, Teaster had been despondent. Now he hopes to deal with his substance abuse issues and move in a new direction.
“Most of all he wants to prove himself to the child.”
Police reports indicate that Teaster lost control of his Jeep while driving on Kingfisher Drive in Sevierville, causing it to overturn and eject both Teaster and Chesney. Teaster suffered serious injuries in the accident, and Chesney was pronounced dead at the scene.
Sevierville police said they believed Teaster was intoxicated at the time of the incident, and court documents indicated blood tests showed he had alcohol in his system at the time of the wreck. But prosecutors didn’t pursue those allegations after a specially appointed prosecutor acknowledged the blood was drawn more than two hours after the accident, which made it inadmissible in court under regulations at that time. Defense attorney Bryan Delius also said the sample tested by prosecutors didn’t contain drugs that Teaster’s medical records indicated had been administered between the accident and the time the sample was drawn.
Teaster is diabetic, and his insulin pump was ripped from his body during the wreck, which can also affect blood alcohol tests. The special prosecutor assigned to the case indicated all of those factors weighed into his decision not to use the results of the test.