BY KEN LITTLE
A former Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper charged in August with driving under the influence and violation of the implied consent law entered a guilty plea to DUI Wednesday in Greene County General Sessions Court .
Billy D. Grooms, 58, of Warrensburg Road, was ordered by Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr. to serve seven days in jail, and was given a suspended sentence of 11 months and 29 days.
Grooms will report on Dec. 10 to serve his time, according to the court judgment. He entered the guilty plea to DUI at a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.
The violation-of-implied-consent charge was dismissed as part of the guilty plea, court documents state.
Grooms was charged on Aug. 28 with DUI and the implied consent violation following a vehicle crash on Mount Pleasant Road.
Grooms told sheriff's deputies he earlier drank "five or six beers," a report said.
After being taken to the Takoma Regional Hospital, Grooms refused a chemical test to determine his blood alcohol content, the report said.
Grooms was fined $350, placed on probation and his driver license was suspended for one year, court documents state.
SEPTEMBER CASE PLEA
In an unrelated legal matter, Grooms entered a guilty plea in September to charges in connection with Hamblen County criminal cases stemming from actions while he was still with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
A 29-year THP veteran, he was a former special-agent-in-charge.
He was charged in February 2011 with tampering with evidence, and theft over $1,000.
He entered guilty pleas to those charges and an unrelated Greene County charge of sales tax evasion on Sept. 19 during a hearing before Jefferson County Criminal Court Judge O. Duane Slone, the state-appointed special prosecutor, Assistant Third Judicial District Attorney General Ritchie Collins said recently.
Grooms was placed on two years' supervised probation on the charges and given judicial diversion by Slone, according to Hamblen County Criminal Court records. He was also ordered to pay $1,095 in restitution.
Under the terms of judicial diversion, if Grooms meets probation terms and does not get into any more legal trouble, his record on the charges he pleaded guilty to Sept. 19 will be wiped clean.
JUDGE ALLOWS DIVERSION
The Hamblen County case was heard in Jefferson County because several judges who had been assigned to it earlier recused themselves since they knew Grooms.
At the Sept. 19 hearing on the THP-related charges, prosecutors appeared at a hearing before Slone to ask the judge to revoke Grooms' bond.
Collins said at the hearing that Grooms' lawyer "inquired about pleading guilty to everything but the DUI."
Grooms was granted judicial diversion by the judge.
Roger Woolsey, who is Greene County attorney, represented Grooms through his private law practice. Grooms had no representation on the DUI charge.
Grooms entered guilty pleas to the 2011 charges while the DUI case was pending.
His co-defendant in the THP case, David M. Brown of Dandridge, still has charges pending.
Collins recently said Brown will also be offered judicial diversion.
Had Grooms gone to trial on the 2011 charges, Brown would have testified against him, Collins said.
THP CASE BACKGROUND
Grooms and Brown were based in Morristown. Earlier in his THP career, Grooms worked in Greene County.
An internal THP Office of Professional Responsibility investigation on Grooms and Brown began in May 2009.
It focused on "irregularities" in the use of confidential funds within the department's Criminal Investigation Division East Tennessee Region in Morristown, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety.
Grooms resigned from the THP in July 2009.
He admitted to investigators that he bought a receipt book, fraudulently created receipts, and falsified internal Funds Expended reports.
Brown, a 23-year THP veteran, was placed on administrative leave in July 2009 and fired in October of that year for gross misconduct and conduct unbecoming an officer.
The investigation found that Brown destroyed evidence and was untruthful to investigators. Brown admitted he had personally completed and signed a false name to a 2008 receipt and destroyed the evidence.
Neither Brown nor Grooms was able to provide "a plausible explanation regarding confidential funds usage," according to the Department of Safety.
Eight violations of procedures were reportedly uncovered. Authorities said in 2009 that $2,155 was involved.