District Attorney General Tony Clark announced he will not be pursuing a third trial for the charge of theft over $1,000 against former Unicoi County sheriff Kent Harris, during a phone interview on Jan. 9.
Clark said he and defense attorneys Stacy Street and James Bowman discussed the topic with Honorable Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood around noon Jan. 9 in Washington County.
Clark said he approached Street earlier this week about the issue and they discussed addressing the decision with Blackwood during court on Wednesday.
We went ahead then and made the announcement that I would not be trying that case again, Clark said. Its just the theft case that we will not be trying again.
Clark said Street, Bowman and himself were expecting a hearing to be set on Jan. 15, the original deadline given to Clark to make his decision.
That was not the case, Clark said. Judge Blackwood had only given us that date as a date to let him know if I was going to retry this case or not. He was not going to appear on Jan. 15.
Blackwood requested Clark, Street and Bowman to convene on Jan. 29 in Washington County for the purpose of completing paperwork to completely dismiss the charge of theft over $1,000 against Harris and discuss plans for future trials. The case was first tried last year on July 30 and for a second time on Dec. 10. Both jury panels were unable to return a unanimous verdict, which resulted in two mistrials.
Clark said there were several reasons for not trying the case again. As part of his decision-making, Clark said he considered feedback from the Unicoi County officials and case witnesses involved, concerns about the cost of the trials and the result of two mistrials.
Harris still faces three trials for the remainder of charges handed down against him by a Unicoi County grand jury in October 2011. Clark did not indicate which trial he will request to try next.
Harris is currently still charged with six counts of official misconduct, which will be tried together, and one count each of attempted aggravated assault and tampering with evidence, which will be tried separately.
For more details about the dismissal of the first Harris case read the Jan. 15 edition of The Erwin Record.
By Kayla Carter