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Former Bristol deputy court clerk denied pretrial diversion

March 14th, 2012 8:22 pm by Kacie Breeding

BLOUNTVILLE — A former Bristol General Sessions Court deputy clerk has been denied pretrial diversion on a four-count official misconduct indictment involving court records allegedly altered for her own financial gain.

Melissa Dawn Fields, 43, 621 Highway 394, Blountville, was denied pretrial diversion Friday afternoon in Sullivan County Circuit Court.

Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Jim Goodwin outlined the basis for his denial in a letter filed March 7.

In the letter, Goodwin said Fields’ decision not to provide a statement for the diversion eligibility report left him with no basis to believe she is “serious” about rehabilitation, leading him to conclude she is likely to reoffend.

He said the following factors — that Fields “does not take responsibility” or “show any remorse” for her actions — also led him to believe she is likely to reoffend.

He characterizes Fields’ actions as “deliberate and calculated to avoid detection” and said she did not “act on impulse” or “under duress,” but was motivated by a desire for financial gain, citing this as further evidence of the likelihood that she will reoffend.

In describing the offenses, Goodwin said Fields “fraudulently, deliberately and intentionally altered the amount of interest to be calculated on civil court judgments ordered against her” on four separate occasions, and “physical court files disappeared” between the time the interest rates were altered and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conducted an investigation.

Goodwin charges that Fields’ alleged offenses have “seriously eroded the public’s confidence in and perception of the court system” and said that putting Fields on diversion “would not serve the ends of justice and would depreciate the seriousness of the offense.”

Factors Goodwin cited in Fields’ favor included her lack of criminal record, “good” work history, and “community support” in the form of letters from friends and colleagues.

Goodwin said he gave Fields’ lack of a criminal record little weight because it is a prerequisite for anyone seeking pretrial diversion.

Goodwin said he also gave Fields’ “good” work history with the clerk’s office, where she rose over a period of years to the position of deputy clerk, little weight as well, saying she used her “long-held position” and the “very high level of trust” her employer placed in her to accomplish her criminal actions.

Goodwin acknowledged several character letters filed on Fields’ behalf but said he gave them “little to moderate” weight in Fields’ favor because only “a couple” of them “express support and acknowledge (Fields) stands charged with a crime.” He said this caused him to question what information the writers were given prior to submitting the letters.

In the letters, friends and colleagues offer words of high praise for Fields, with some describing her as having “exceptional” or a “high moral” character. One friend rated Fields’ morals and character “among the best” he has ever known.

According to court records, Fields abused her position as deputy clerk and “modified the court-ordered interest rate on a civil judgment” in four separate cases filed against her in Bristol General Sessions Court.

A Sullivan County grand jury returned sealed indictments against Fields on Oct. 12, 2011, and she was arrested Oct. 18, 2011. The TBI began its investigation of Fields on May 12, 2011, and Sullivan County Court Clerk Tommy Kerns advised Fields’ employment was terminated the same month.

In one of two cases with judgments dated May 20, 2010, Judge A.W. Watson had ordered Fields and a person identified as Lois Fields to pay $4,768.42 plus 10 percent interest to Capital One Bank, USA, at a rate of $35 per month. In the second case, Watson had ordered Melissa Fields to pay $3,116.87 plus 10 percent interest to Capital One Banke, USA, at a rate of $35 per month.

In a case with a judgment dated Aug. 26, 2010, Watson had ordered Fields to pay $5,544.28 plus 10 percent interest to Gault Financial, LLC, at a rate of $25 per month. In all three of these cases, the indictments allege Fields modified the interest rate “on or about” Oct. 21, 2010.

In another case, Judge William B. Hawkins, sitting by interchange, had ordered Fields to pay $2,030.10 plus 10 percent interest to Midland Funding, LLC, at a rate of $25 per month. It’s alleged Fields modified the interest rate in that case sometime between when the judgment was issued March 25, 2010, and May 1, 2010.

Fields was released from the Sullivan County jail the day of her arrest after posting a $7,500 bond.

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