BY KEN LITTLE
The state Court of Criminal Appeals last week denied the appeal of a Bulls Gap woman convicted of aggravated assault for firing a weapon near Greeneville Light & Power System contractors who were spraying herbicide in the area of her home on Stone Mountain Road in 2009.
Danielle White, 41, of 565 Stone Mountain Road, was convicted in September 2011 of two counts of aggravated assault.
In November 2011, White was sentenced by Greene County Criminal Court Judge John F. Dugger Jr. to three years and six months in prison on each of the two counts, to be served concurrently.
Dugger also specified on the sentencing order that White's "period of incarceration prior to release on probation" would be four months.
White appealed the conviction. She contended that the trial court erred in failing to appoint counsel and in allowing her to represent herself.
In her appeal, White also claimed Dugger erred in failing to recuse himself and "denying her a fair trial," that the "grand jury foreman was not selected constitutionally because there was a systematic exclusion based upon gender, race, and ethnicity," and that the indictment was invalid because no grand jury foreman was appointed.
White further claimed that the trial court erred in using a jury selection process "that was not in accord with the relevant statute," that the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress, and that there was prosecutorial misconduct "when the assistant district attorney referred to the defendant's invoking her right to counsel."
The state Court of Criminal Appeals, in a decision filed April 25, affirmed the judgments of the trial court.
White was free on bond as of Wednesday, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF CASE
White was charged with the two counts of aggravated assault after the incident on July 27, 2009.
Arrest warrants filed by sheriff's deputies said that White fired at least one shot from a .22 caliber rifle "in the general location" of two GL&PS subcontractor employees from South Carolina, frightening them.
White has filed numerous petitions in the case while acting as her own attorney, usually calling herself "Born Free Danielle White."
In those filings, she asserts, that the State of Tennessee "failed to prove it had any authority over 'Born Free.'"
Warrants identified the workers as Paul Pridgen and David Caldwell, both of South Carolina.
The two men, according to court documents, were working for Helena Chemical Company and Vegetation Management., of Irmo, S.C., a subcontractor for GL&PS, clearing power pole rights-of-way by spraying herbicide.
The report said one of the alleged victims told officers that a woman who was holding a rifle had ordered the two men off her property.
A short time later, according to the report, a rifle shot was fired.
GL&PS has hired subcontractors to spray herbicide along some transmission-line right-of-way locations for about 10 years.
APPEALS COURT OPINION
In its opinion, the Appeals Court noted that White represented herself through the trial proceedings, "despite the trial court's urging her to seek counsel."
White claimed she could not afford a lawyer "but refused to complete an affidavit of indigency, although the court repeatedly urged her to do so," authoring Judge Joseph H. Tipton wrote in the opinion.
"The court released $10,000 of the defendant's cash bond for her use in employing counsel, but she was unable to find counsel who agreed with her interpretation of the Constitution, and did not retain an attorney," the opinion said.
Shortly before trial, the court appointed a public defender as advisory counsel.
After trial, White retained a lawyer who represented her at the sentencing hearing and the motion for a new trial and who represented her in the appeal.
That lawyer, Scott Justice of Jefferson City, was to meet with White on Wednesday, an assistant in his office said.
Justice did not immediately respond to questions about the case.
NO OBJECTION TO WORK
At White's trial, an employee of Helena Chemical Company and Vegetation Management who was working for GL&PS on July 27, 2009, testified that employees were in Bulls Gap performing "low-volume" application of herbicides on circuits and utility rights-of-way.
"He said before they performed their work, they sent representatives to provide notification to residents of the upcoming herbicide application," Tipton wrote in the opinion.
The property of residents who objected to the work "would not be treated and the utility company maintained a list of those individuals," the employee testified at trial.
White's property was not on the list.
"Neither the defendant nor her husband ever approached the crew on July 27 and said they did not want the property treated and that the crew should leave," the opinion said.
The employee, Pridgen, said that White's husband approached the crew leader and asked what they were doing, and the crew leader stated they were applying herbicide, and he "walked away without saying anything."
The employee said the crew progressed through less than three feet of vegetation "when he saw movement on a ridge about 75 yards away and heard a woman's voice say, 'You can't spray no herbicide on my d
property," Tipton wrote about trial testimony in the opinion.
"He looked up and saw the woman with the rifle. He said the woman leveled the gun at him and fired a shot (and he) heard the sound of rifle fire and of a shot whizzing by their heads," the opinion said.
Pridgen "said the bullet was close and scared him for his own safety and that of the crew," Tipton wrote in the opinion.
During her trial, Tipton wrote that White "repeatedly tried, and on some occasions exhausted, the patience of the trial court."
"She failed to demonstrate respect for the court and courtroom decorum when she repeatedly interrupted and argued with the trial judge, even after she was admonished," Tipton wrote.
"The judge did his best to maintain order, and many of the examples cited by the defendant are examples of the judge's efforts after trying lesser methods of getting the defendant's attention.
"Contrary to the defendant's claim, the record reflects that the judge made extensive efforts to accommodate the defendant's desire to proceed pro se," Tipton wrote in the opinion.