KNOXVILLE — Legally, this judge had no choice. Morally, he had no doubt.
Terry Dennis Jones, 42, deserves the mandatory life term he racked up Monday in a case involving an attack on a Knoxville Police Department officer, U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips decided.
"The defendant has an extensive criminal history," Phillips said. "Indeed the defendant was on probation when he committed (this) offense. The defendant has a history of violence that includes altercations with law enforcement."
Under federal law, a drug dealer with two prior felony drug crimes under his belt rates a mandatory life sentence if he racks up a third. Jones had at least five when Knoxville police nabbed him last February with $54,000 worth of crack and powder cocaine.
But more troubling for Phillips is what Jones did when KPD Investigators Jeremy Maupin and Bruce Conkey tried to arrest him. Jones has admitted attacking the investigators and a pair of patrol officers who were helping with the arrest.
Jones bit Maupin on the stomach with such force that Jones' teeth marks were visible on Maupin's flesh and wrested Maupin's gun from his holster before Conkey managed to grab it back.
Grabbing Maupin's gun netted Jones a mandatory seven-year prison term that federal law requires to be stacked on top of his life sentence.
Facing life plus seven years, Jones had been set to stand trial in October but entered an unexpected guilty plea on the eve of that proceeding. In a plea deal with Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Cook, prosecutors refused to cut Jones any sentencing slack. But defense attorney Richard Gaines snared the right to appeal authorities' right to stop Jones in the fi rst place.
Such conditional plea agreements are a rarity. The stakes are high for both sides. If Jones wins the appeal, the case against him could well crumble. If Jones loses, he will die in prison.
Because the real battle rests in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which reviews federal cases in four states including Tennessee, neither Cook nor Gaines spent time at Monday's hearing trying to sway a judge whose decision was already mandated by the law. Nor did Jones, a chronic drug dealer with three years of college on his resume.
If Jones came to Monday's hearing expecting sympathy or even reluctance from Phillips to order a defendant to die in prison for something other than murder, he found neither.
"The defendant's extensive criminal history demonstrates no respect for the law," Phillips said. "The public must be protected from further crimes by this defendant."