CLINTON—Prosecutors have asked for an effective 11-year sentence for the Oak Ridge man convicted of one count of vehicular homicide and eight counts of aggravated assault in the fatal parking lot crash at Midtown Community Center after fireworks on July 4, 2015.
The crash killed a father of two, James Robinson, 37, of Knoxville, who was trying to push his daughters to safety, and it injured eight others. It’s one of the worst crashes anyone can remember in Oak Ridge.
Lee Harold Cromwell, 68, was convicted of the vehicular homicide and aggravated assault charges after a three-day trial in Anderson County Criminal Court in Clinton in February, and he was scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday. But the sentencing hearing was postponed because Cromwell did not want private attorney James Scott representing him anymore. A public defender has been appointed instead.
A new date hasn’t been set yet for the rescheduled sentencing hearing. The public defender will need time to review the case and the transcript of the three-day trial in mid-February before he or she can represent Cromwell at sentencing.
Deputy District Attorney General Anthony J. Craighead asked for the effective 11-year sentence to be served in a state prison in a notice of enhancement factors that was filed in Anderson County Criminal Court in Clinton on Thursday.
As a standard offender, Cromwell’s sentence range for the conviction of vehicular homicide by recklessness, a Class C felony, is three to six years, Craighead said.
Each of Cromwell’s convictions on the eight counts of aggravated assault, which are Class D felonies, carry a range of two to four years, Craighead said.
Here are the enhancement factors cited by Craighead:
First Factor—Cromwell has a previous history of criminal convictions or criminal behavior, in addition to those necessary to establish the appropriate range, Craighead said. He did not have a driver’s license while operating his pickup truck before the July 4, 2015, parking lot crash, the prosecutor said.
“In fact, his driver’s license was suspended,” Craighead said.
Also, Cromwell is accused of filing false liens against several people, specifically people involved in investigating and prosecuting the fatal July 4 crash, Craighead said. And he filed those allegedly fraudulent liens while out on bond. Cromwell has been indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury on the fraudulent lien charges. That case is still pending.
Second Factor—The crime involved more than one victim. Besides the victims of the vehicular homicide and aggravated assault convictions, “the offense placed several other people in danger,” Craighead said.
“The testimony at trial was that the parking area was very crowded,” Craighead said. “The testimony at trial was that both adults and children were in the crowd.”
Third Factor—In four of the counts, the victims were children, in some cases very young children, whose age caused them to be particularly vulnerable, Craighead said.
“The children were unable to escape the crash, and their injuries were much more impactful because of their age,” Craighead said.
Fourth factor—The personal injuries inflicted upon the victims, or the amount of damage to their property, was particularly great, Craighead said. The state acknowledges that the injuries and death of the victims are included in the crime.
“However, the proof at trial showed substantial damage to the two vehicles of the victims,” Craighead said. “That is damage to property that is particularly great.”
Fifth factor—Cromwell had no hesitation about committing a crime when the risk to human life was high, Craighead said.
“In all the aggravated assault counts, the defendant (Cromwell) drove at a high rate of speed through a very crowded parking lot,” Craighead said. “The risk to human life was very high.”
The state is asking for a five-year sentence on the vehicular homicide conviction and three years on each of the eight counts of aggravated assault. The prosecution asked for some of the sentences to be served concurrently and others to be served consecutively. That would mean some would be served at the same time, while others would be served one after another.
The state asked for some consecutive sentences under a three-part test that says the circumstances of the crimes were aggravated, confinement for an extended period of time is necessary to protect society, and the aggregate length of the sentence reasonably relates to the convicted offense.
Regarding the aggravated circumstances, prosecutors said Cromwell drove his truck through a very crowded parking lot at a high rate of speed.
“The proof showed he stopped after hitting another car, and then accelerated again,” Craighead said. “He crushed a man to death and injured eight other people. Several other people were in harm’s way and likely could have been struck, injured, and killed. This was a highly aggravated offense.”
Regarding the protection of society, Craighead said there is evidence that Cromwell considers himself a “sovereign citizen.” That description wasn’t raised at trial, but the issue did come up in earlier hearings in Anderson County General Sessions Court. Contesting a speeding ticket, Cromwell filed an affidavit in Oak Ridge City Court on May 29, 2014, that said he denies the corporate existence of the United States, Tennessee, and a long list of other agencies, including the Oak Ridge Police Department and Anderson County Sheriff’s Department.
“The very definition is that he lives an ‘anti-social lifestyle,'” Craighead said in the notice of enhancement factors on Thursday. “While on bond in this case, he continued to violated the law by committing Class A felonies (the alleged filing of fraudulent liens). He refused to obtain a driver’s license. He was continuing to violate the law as he drove his vehicle. An extended period of confinement is necessary to protect society from the continuing crimes of this defendant.”
Regarding the aggregate length of the sentence and whether it reasonably relates to Cromwell’s convictions, Craighead pointed out that Cromwell’s actions killed one person and injured eight others, including four children younger than 13.
“Running these charges concurrently would minimize the injury and suffering of all the parties,” Craighead said. “A consecutive sentence on these counts would not only reasonably relate to the crime, but would in fact be the only fair and just sentence.”
Three cars were struck by Cromwell the night of the crash, and a young man who was between the cars jumped to safety, Craighead said. With that in mind, the state proposed using each car as a “guide post” to determine sentence lengths. Count 1 is vehicular homicide. The others are aggravated assault.
- Counts 1, 2, 3, and 4 are the Henderson family, and James, Julia, Jaide, and Jackie Robinson. The state asked for those four counts, the vehicular homicide and three aggravated assault convictions, to be served concurrently, for an effective five years.
- Count 5 and 6 involves Elizabeth and Michael Eldridge. The state asked for those two aggravated assault convictions to be served concurrently, for an effective three years.
- Count 7 is Curtis Booker, and Count 8 and 9 are Ja’Taalia Henderson and La’Ruis Henderson. The state asked for those to be served concurrently for an effective three years.
Then the state asked that those three groups of convictions be served consecutively. So Cromwell would serve five years for the first group, and three each for the second two groups—for an effective 11-year sentence.
However, a sentencing memorandum filed April 7 by Scott, the defense attorney who no longer represents Cromwell after Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, cited a plan of supervision included in a pre-sentencing report that would allow for community supervision. Scott submitted the following mitigating factors:
- Cromwell unlikely possessed the criminal intent to violate the law and was not motivated by criminal conduct. “There was no evidence that the defendant (Cromwell) acted with intent or knowledge,” Scott said.
- Cromwell has factors that merit community supervision: There was no evidence that he acted with malice, or otherwise, Scott said.
- Cromwell was immediately remorseful after the unintended act as shown in a letter attached to the sentencing memorandum, Scott said. It shows “literal compassion and thorough prayers for all the alleged victims in this matter, which also exemplifies a lack of knowledge and intent that are essential elements of the crimes for which he was convicted,” Scott said.
The plan of supervision included in the pre-sentencing report said a risk/needs assessment tool was used in March to determine Cromwell’s supervision plan level.
“The subject scored to be supervised at the minimum level,” said the Tennessee Department of Correction report, prepared by investigating officer Wayne R. Langley.
If Cromwell were granted community supervision, the following plan would be initially implemented, the report said:
- Intake first 30 days, two reports to office, and one home visit.
- Minimum supervision after the first 30 days.
- Referred to victim impact group.
- Pay court costs.
- Pay probation fees.
- Any other conditions ordered by the court.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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