Casey Thomas, standing left, Barry Burbank and Jeremy Mulkey stand before McMinn Sessions Court Judge James Watson as he sets bond on the three men Tuesday in Athens, Tenn. They are accused of throwing an object from an Interstate 75 bridge onto a tour bus carrying Lee University students along with other incidents.Staff Photo by Tim Barber
ATHENS, Tenn. — Three men charged with tossing items off Interstate 75 overpasses in McMinn County and $100,000 in vandalism to construction equipment at the new Cleveland airport in Bradley County had a busy day in court Tuesday.
Casey Thomas, 18, of Athens; Barry Burbank, 20, of Sweetwater; and Jeremy Mulkey, 19, of Athens, appeared Tuesday in General Sessions Court arraignments in both counties. All three have been in the McMinn County Jail since their arrests.
In their first court appearance of the day, the three had their bonds reduced by McMinn County Judge James Watson.
The three were arrested Dec. 28 after three incidents in McMinn in which objects were thrown from roadway overpasses onto vehicles on I-75. In one incident, a fan motor hit a bus carrying Lee University students, injuring the driver.
In connection with the bus incident, Mulkey originally was charged with 18 counts of attempted reckless homicide, one count of criminal conspiracy to commit reckless homicide, three counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of felony vandalism. On Tuesday, his bond was reduced from $956,000 to $23,000, with charges reduced to one count each of attempted reckless homicide and conspiracy to commit reckless homicide, three counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of felony vandalism.
Thomas has been held on $83,000 bond, facing charges of three counts of reckless endangerment, two counts of felony vandalism, and one count of criminal conspiracy to commit reckless homicide. On Tuesday, his bond also was reduced to $23,000.
Burbank was charged with three counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of felony vandalism. His bond was reduced from $13,000 to $5,000.
The three will appear in McMinn's General Sessions Court again on Jan. 14 on the charges.
Family members for the three men were in the McMinn court Tuesday, but refused to comment.
After their court appearance in McMinn, the suspects were taken to Bradley County for arraignment on charges of felony vandalism. They are accused of commandeering a track hoe and going on a destructive joyride, wrecking several other pieces of equipment at the construction site of the new Cleveland airport.
Thomas also is charged with theft over $10,000, accused of stealing a Bobcat front-end loader from a construction site in Athens, Athens Police Department Detective Scott Webb said. Thomas is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Friday for a pretrial hearing.
Similar charges are expected to be filed against Mulkey, Webb said, but no charges have been filed against Burbank in the incident.
Knoxville attorney Bob Jolley, who was representing Mulkey in the McMinn court on Tuesday, said he could not comment on the case until after a preliminary hearing.
While family and attorneys didn't wish to comment, officials around McMinn have been very vocal.
"This was a senseless crime," McMinn Sheriff Joe Guy said. "They are just lucky no one was seriously injured or killed."
Since the first incident in November, drivers in McMinn and the region have been fearful of driving along I-75, he said.
"This has affected people's sense of safety," Guy said.
The three arrests came together last week when information was obtained about the theft of a Bobcat from Trio Rentals in Athens on Nov. 29, Webb said.
He said he contacted the McMinn and Bradley County Sheriff's Offices along with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.