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Pretrial diversion request stirs up new rumors in boating fatality case

Kacie Dingus • May 11, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Bristol dentist Wray W. Chaffin II, indicted in September on charges stemming from a June 18 boating accident, has asked for a pretrial diversion at a hearing Thursday morning in Blountville.

Although Chaffin's attorney, Richard Pectol, said he'd heard rumors that the request for a pretrial diversion was a "done deal," he denied it outright. "It's not true," he said.

In fact, the request will not be answered until court on July 27. Meanwhile, Richard Pectol, Chaf fin's attorney clarified that the request did not indicate an admission of guilt from his client, who turned himself in on Oct. 2 in response to the indictments.

Pectol spoke briefly with Timesnews.net in a telephone interview about the public's speculation that the well-known dentist was hiding out in the months following the boating accident on Boone Lake that killed 63-year-old Wayne Cross and injured James E. Clark, both of Bristol.

"The next day, he was out on the lake with his kids on inner tubes. He was not hiding," Pectol said.

According to Pectol, Chaffin did not know he had struck the boat occupied by Cross and Clark. Pectol says Chaffin told him, “I thought I hit a log.”

The next day, he had put the boat in a lift to determine the extent of the damage before taking his wife and children out on the lake, Pectol added.

The Tennnessee Wildlife Resources Agency spotted Chaffin and his family in the damaged boat the day after the accident and impounded it.

A thorough, and lengthy, investigation followed, Pectol said, adding that his own accident reconstructionist was not given access to the boat until last week due to the extensive investigation conducted by the state.

Pectol added that he and his client "have not made a decision that we will not have a trial."

If Chaffin's case does go to trial and a jury convicts him of all charges, Circuit Judge Jerry Beck could sentence Chaffin to as much as two years on the criminally negligent homicide charge, as much as a year on the negligent boating charge, and a maximum of 30 days for failure to render aid.

District Attorney General Greeley Wells told Times-News last November that the criminally negligent homicide charge requires, in part, that the state prove Chaffin "should have known better" than to operate his boat the way he allegedly did that night.

If Wells grants Chaffin's request for a pretrial diversion, he may serve approximately a year on probation with no guilt, and the record would be expunged.

Meanwhile, Chaffin remains free on $7,500 bond.

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