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Judge denies request to reduce sentence of man who sparked chase that injured trooper

Wes Bunch • Jun 21, 2014 at 8:21 PM

GATE CITY — A Tennessee man serving six decades in prison for sparking a high-speed pursuit that left a Virginia State Police trooper with permanent spinal injuries failed to have his sentence reduced Friday during a hearing in Scott County court.

Jason T. Byrns, 33, of Kingsport, appeared in court after filing a motion to have his 60-year prison sentence reduced on the grounds the punishment was too harsh.

30th Circuit Court Judge John Kilgore denied the motion following roughly a half-hour of arguments, telling the court Byrns' sentence was warranted given the circumstances of the case.

Scott County Commonwealth's Attorney Marcus McClung said the amount of incarceration was fitting given the number of people Byrns endangered with his actions.

"His actions from the start were a decision to escape arrest no matter what, and that's what he attempted to do," McClung said. "His intent that day was to do anything to anybody in order to avoid arrest, and that's what the judge said today, too."

In March, Kilgore sentenced Byrns to 94 years in prison with an active sentence of 60 years. He was also ordered to pay $133,000 in fines and be subject to 13 years supervised probation upon release.

The sentence was handed down after Byrns was convicted in November 2013 of 16 felony and misdemeanor counts, including aggravated malicious wounding, that stemmed from the April 2013 high-speed pursuit that injured former VSP Trooper Jamie Lawson.

McClung said Friday that Byrns' sentence took into account the number of times he attempted to injure not only Lawson, but other law enforcement officers involved in the pursuit.

"When people picture the facts of this case , they only picture the incident that Trooper Lawson was injured with," McClung said. "The truth is he went at him eight times trying to injure or kill the trooper. That doesn't even mention the disregard for human life he had when he was driving through Gate City."

McClung said Byrns attempted to strike five different officers, including Lawson, with his vehicle.

Byrns reportedly hit Lawson's cruiser at speeds between 50 and 70 mph. Byrns also made several unsuccessful attempts to strike Lawson's vehicle while traveling at speeds near 100 mph, and even swerved at the trooper once while he stood outside of his cruiser.

The April 9, 2013, pursuit began when Lawson fled a license checkpoint on East Carters Valley Road in Scott County.

After traveling through Gate City and reaching speeds over 100 mph west of town, Byrns attempted to wreck several local and state officers before crashing his own vehicle on Daniel Boone Road.

Lawson was injured when Byrns rammed his cruiser into a parked coal truck in the Daniel Boone community.

Following the wreck, Lawson spent nearly three months at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where he received extensive treatment for spinal injuries. Despite regaining some use of his legs, Lawson was forced to retire from the state police in late 2013. He also served as assistant fire chief of the Gate City Volunteer Fire Department prior to the crash.

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