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Judge: Coaches not guilty
Jun 05, 2006 12:00 am
May 26, 2006 – A pair of Mt. Juliet baseball coaches charged with a handful of drunken driving-related charges were cleared on all counts Thursday in Wilson County Criminal Court.
Mt. Juliet High School head baseball coach Mark Purvis, 34, was facing DUI, implied consent and open container charges relating to a post-midnight stop April 15. His passenger and assistant coach Barry Dewayne Eddings, 35, was facing a public intoxication charge.
In the incident, the men claimed they had stopped near the intersection of Clemmons and Curd roads to remove debris from the roadway just before 1:30 a.m. when Mt. Juliet Police Officer William Cosby observed the stationary vehicle. Both men conceded they had "had a few beers" on video from the traffic stop and were arrested following Purvis' failure of field sobriety tests.
However, Criminal Court Judge Barry Tatum found the men not guilty based on evidence Cosby did not have just cause to initiate the stop.
"He (Tatum) ruled the stop was unconstitutional and suppressed the evidence," Purvis defense attorney Frank Lannom said, noting the U.S. Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure.
Lannom said evidence must indicate the suspect is either violating a traffic law or committing a crime before an officer can initiate a stop.
Fellow defense attorney Eddie Taylor, who represented Eddings, was also pleased with Tatum's decision.
"He made the right decision," Taylor said. "I've won some and lost some, but in this case he made the only just verdict."
"I'm so happy we have a judge in Judge Tatum who appreciates, understands and enforces the Constitution," Lannom said.
As far as the pair's coaching careers are concerned, Director of Schools Dr. Jim Duncan said their suspensions are in effect through May 31, but he will "certainly consider" reducing their suspensions.
"I felt like both of them would come through this," Duncan said. "Certainly it's an unfortunate situation, and something I felt like shouldn't have happened… They had violated the public trust setting an example for students."
Duncan said the pair could follow a formal appeals process to request back pay for their suspension time.
"They should return to the ranks," Duncan said. "But, of course, their actual assignments are made by principals."
"It's Dr. Duncan's decision, but we believe he will be reinstated and may receive back pay," Lannom said. "He was suspended – and has been unpaid – based on allegations we expect to be rectified… He wants to get back to his baseball team."
Features Editor Sherry Phillips can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 44 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.