This story was updated Feb. 20, 2019, at 4:36 p.m. with more information.
A 39-year-old former reserve deputy for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office was indicted Wednesday on vehicular homicide and DUI charges related to a fatal 2017 car crash on Highway 111.
After hearing the allegations, a grand jury indicted Justin Whaley on charges of vehicular homicide, reckless driving, driving on a divided highway, failure to yield, failure to maintain lane, driving under the influence, speeding and drivers exercise due care.
Whaley is next scheduled to appear March 1 in Hamilton County Criminal Court before Judge Barry Steelman.
In August 2018, Soddy-Daisy police accused Whaley of driving the wrong way in the early morning of July 3, 2018, colliding head-on with a vehicle and killing James Brumlow, 36. According to one of Whaley's defense attorneys, Soddy-Daisy police approached a judge in Hamilton County General Sessions Court around that time and obtained a warrant on several charges and a $600,000 bond against Whaley.
Before Whaley turned himself in, his defense attorneys, Lee Davis and Gary Gerbitz, said they tried to get General Sessions Court Judge Gary Starnes to agree to a bond reduction. When Starnes declined to, they asked Judge Steelman, who agreed on the condition that Whaley turn himself in to authorities.
Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston opposed the hearing at the time, saying Whaley appeared to be receiving special treatment. Whaley's defense attorneys disagreed and argued that he had no previous record and was not a danger at large to the community. Steelman ultimately reduced Whaley's bond from $600,000 to $50,000 and made him surrender his driver's license and undergo GPS and alcohol monitoring.
Judges take a variety of factors into account when deciding a bond, including prior record, community ties, ability to get to court if granted a bond, and the severity of the charges.
At the time, Soddy-Daisy police Capt. Jeff Gann told other media he had never seen a bond reduction process happen that quickly in his 20 years in law enforcement.
During the hearing, Steelman said he had seen other situations in which people were accused of murders and rapes and given lower bonds. He also added that bond is not meant to be punitive in nature, but to ensure a defendant's appearance.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347.