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Constable pleads guilty to DUI

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Driver's license suspended, sentenced to four days in jail

By Calen McKinney

 

A Taylor County public official has pleaded guilty to breaking the law he was elected to uphold.

And as a result, he will spend four days in jail, have his driver’s license suspended and pay a fine.

Henry Wayne Parson, 70, of 313 Candace St., was arrested last July and charged with first-offense DUI.

Parson was last re-elected to the 5th District constable seat in May 2010. He defeated two opponents for the post. According to Taylor District Court records, Parson actually pleaded guilty to the DUI charge in November, though the plea wasn’t officially entered into court documents until last Friday.

On Friday, Parson appeared before Judge Amy Anderson for sentencing. Parson was ordered to pay a $200 fine and $543 in court costs. He was given six months to pay. A review date was set for July 3.

Parson will serve his jail time on four separate days, according to court records, beginning today at 6 p.m. and continuing Jan. 17, 24 and Jan. 31. He will serve from 6 p.m. on those days until 6 p.m. the following day.

Parson was ordered to attend 90 days of alcohol education classes at Counseling Associates. He is scheduled to appear in court again Jan. 30 to see if he has enrolled.

Parson’s driver’s license has been suspended for 90 days and was surrendered and placed in his court file.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge last July 30. Since then, Parson has had six pretrial conferences and three sentencing court dates.

Lebanon attorney Jude Hagan represented Parson. He didn’t return a phone call from the News-Journal office to comment for this story.

According to Parson’s arrest citation, he was allegedly involved in a non-injury collision on west U.S 68 and Tharp Drive in early July. Campbellsville Police Officer Nelson Bishop responded to the scene.

Bishop wrote in court records that Parson smelled like alcohol, had poor balance and was slurring his speech.

Parson failed a field sobriety test and had a blood alcohol level of .19 on a Breathalyzer test, higher than the legal limit of .08. After the test, Bishop charged Parson with DUI.

Parson was taken to the Taylor County Detention Center, where he was booked and then released on a $1,000 unsecured bond. No money is posted with an unsecured bond. It sets an amount that a defendant must pay if he or she doesn’t appear at all scheduled court appearances.

A first-offense DUI is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a $200 to $500 fine, an order to attend a 90-day alcohol and drug treatment program and a license suspension for 30 to 120 days. A typical suspension is 90 days.

Since Parson’s alleged blood alcohol level was higher than .15, according to court documents, that creates an aggravating circumstance. As a result, Parsons faced a mandatory minimum of four days in jail.

Constables are elected in all six of Taylor County’s magisterial districts. They are most visible to residents when helping direct traffic, though they are law enforcement officers and can cite speeders, serve warrants, collect taxes and patrol county roads.

Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette said last year that Parson was stopped after a rear-end collision when Bishop approached him. He said he doesn’t believe Parson was acting in his constable capacity when he was stopped and arrested.

Hazlette said constables don’t answer to a supervisor, only to the voters who live in their district. He said Taylor County’s magistrates have the authority to allow constables to install blue police lights on their cars.

Taylor County Attorney John Bertram said constables are subject to punishment for breaking laws just as the average resident.

He said on Monday that he isn’t aware of any impact Parson’s guilty plea will have on his status as a constable. “The suspension of his operator’s license applies to him just as it would any other person,” Bertram said. “Thus, any duty which requires his personal operation of a vehicle would not be able to be performed during the suspension period.”

Bertram said in July that he isn’t aware of a provision that would allow another constable to fulfill Parson’s duties while his license is suspended. According to a candidate questionnaire Parson completed in 2010 just before the Primary Election in May, he has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience and earned a GED. He wrote that he decided to run for public office to help make the community safer.

“I am qualified and have 20 years’ experience,” he wrote. “I have worked with the Taylor County School System for 10-plus years doing traffic control to help parents, children and bus drivers in and out of school to make it as safe as possible.”