After his 13th arrest in the Chattanooga area on allegations of domestic assault, kidnapping or rape, a local man received a 1-year jail sentence on reduced charges Tuesday.
James Leon Works, 44, will spend a few more months behind bars in Tennessee after this week's plea agreement. He has already served most of his sentence this year, as a judge and prosecutor agreed to give him credit for "time served" in jail since his arrest.
Prosecutors in Catoosa County, Ga., also are waiting to try Works. Fort Oglethorpe police arrested him in 2013 and 2015 in separate cases, charging him with kidnapping and raping one woman, beating another woman and whipping a child with a belt. Those arrests are pending until Works finishes his sentence in a Tennessee jail this year, likely pushing the Georgia cases back to March, unless a judge sets a special trial date.
Tuesday's plea was for a December 2016 case, in which he was charged with domestic assault, kidnapping and rape. His ex-girlfriend arrived at the hospital with a broken nose, a broken chin, bruises and cuts.
According to a police incident report, Works kidnapped her, drove her to a hotel and hit and slapped her until the manager kicked them out for making too much noise. She said Works drove to Camp Jordan in East Ridge, dragged her out of the car, punched her, kicked her and threatened to kill her with a hammer.
Prosecutors dismissed the rape and kidnapping charges because they didn't think they could prove the allegations, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Coyle said. Instead, Works pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted aggravated domestic assault. He received a three-year sentence, though two of those years will be suspended after he serves 11 months and 29 days.
Works' public defender, Coty Wamp, announced earlier this month that attorneys reached a plea agreement.
"We had told [the victim and her family] our intention of entering this plea," Coyle told Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole on Tuesday. "I think it's clear: They would like a different disposition but they have been informed why this is the way it is."
Coyle said investigators didn't find the hammer that Works had that night, making his alleged threat to kill the victim difficult to prove. Also, the victim said Works forced her to perform oral sex inside his vehicle. But, Coyle said, she did not mention that until days later. A nurse did not administer a rape kit, and Coyle doubted he could prove that allegation to a jury.
Defense attorney Robin Flores, who is not involved in the case, said rape and kidnapping charges are challenging for prosecutors for a number of reasons. Rape kits might not show evidence if too much time passes between the assault and the administration of the kit. The accused could pressure a witness against testifying, and a defense attorney might try to discredit a witness if he or she has a criminal history.
In Works' pending Catoosa County criminal trial, Assistant District Attorney Clay Fuller has filed a list of past arrests that he hopes to use as evidence. That list, combined with past Times Free Press articles, show police have arrested Works on charges related to violent crimes against women 13 times since 1998. Of those, he has been convicted in eight cases, including Tuesday's.
In September 2012, he was convicted of simple battery after he hit a woman, who had already been the victim in at least one other domestic violence arrest. His sentence was the time he had already served in jail since his arrest, about a year earlier. He violated his probation the day he got out, showing up at the woman's business. A judge adjusted the terms of his probation, specifically telling him he couldn't go to her place of work any more.
In May 2014, Chattanooga police arrested Works on charges that he kidnapped a woman, beat her and raped her several times in a motel. The detective in the case, Karl Fields, later lost his job on allegations that he pursued a relationship with the victim. And, due to credibility concerns with the victim, a prosecutor offered Works a plea deal, again for time he had already served in jail.
Works was later arrested again for allegedly assaulting that same victim. That is one of the cases still pending in Catoosa County. A couple of months after getting out of jail in 2015, according to an incident report, Works allegedly threatened her with a gun and raped her multiple times.
On Tuesday, the mother of another accuser told the Times Free Press that cases like Works' make victims afraid to testify. She said her daughter suffered trauma after the alleged assault, and she moves around a lot, trying to lie low. The mother doesn't know where her daughter is now.
She requested anonymity because she is afraid of possible retaliation. She said she thinks her daughter plans to testify in the Catoosa County case.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.