Christian Lee Romines, 25, Kingsport, appeared before Dugger Friday morning prepared to plead guilty to four counts of aggravated burglary, three counts of theft over $2,500, theft over $10,000, vandalism over $2,500 and misdemeanor vandalism.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Romines was to be sentenced to four years at 30%, plus pay what would presumably be one-third of the $180,000 in restitution, assuming his two codefendants are eventually convicted.
Those codefendants — Cody Todd Lane, 29, Kingsport, and Joseph Joel Gibson, 41, Kingsport, are scheduled to appear in Criminal Court on Feb. 21 on pending charges including theft over $60,000 and aggravated burglary.
Judge Dugger questions the plea deal
During Romines’ plea hearing Friday, Dugger questioned why he was pleading to theft over $10,000, a Class C felony, when the $180,000 restitution would seemingly call for a charge of theft over $60,000, a Class B felony punishable by 8-12 years.
Assistant Attorney General Amy Hinkle explained that Romines was the first of the three defendants arrested and charged, and at that time the full scope of the thefts wasn’t known.
Hinkle said that the victim, Robert Long, had to research the value of some of the stolen items such as rare coins, guns and knives. When Long itemized the list of stolen items that hadn’t been recovered, the total was $180,809.
“I’d like to see those boys sweat”
Dugger then said he would like to hear from Long before proceeding with Romines’ plea.
Long told Dugger he didn’t like the plea deal and would prefer a trial.
Long said, “I’d like to see those boys sweat” rather than allowing them to sit in jail, being served three meals a day, getting jailhouse tattoos, and talking to each other about better ways to deal drugs.
Long said he was retired from the military and his stolen collection of weapons, coins and memorabilia had been gathered from all over the world. He was told by local police that the weapons were apparently sold to a fence who likely trafficked the guns to Mexico.
As for the restitution, Long said if he received a check for a nickel he’d frame it on his wall, but he doesn’t expect to see any restitution from the defendants.
Upon hearing Long’s victim impact statement, Dugger said he would not accept Romines’ plea.
Instead, he set a trial date of June 9 for Romines, who has been incarcerated since his arrest in 2018.
The allegations against Romines
On March 22, 2018, officers from Kingsport, Surgoinsville, the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office and Scott County Sheriff’s Office located Romines at a motel on Lynn Garden Drive in Kingsport. They also found a cedar chest containing stolen property and a large quantity of coins that had been taken from Long’s home the previous day.
Romines allegedly admitted to serving as lookout for two other suspects during multiple recent Hawkins County burglaries:
On March 21 at Long’s residence in Surgoinsville, where among the items taken were a large quantity of rare coins, jewelry, about 16 ammo cans full of rolled coins, weapons, and a large cedar chest.
On March 21 at a residence on Morning Star Road in Church Hill, where items valued at $600 were stolen from a pickup inside a garage.
On March 20 at a residence on Gibbons Road in Church Hill, where various items valued at $3,000 were reported stolen.
On March 12 at a residence on Caney Valley Loop in Surgoinsville, where a gun case was stolen along with four long guns, a .22-caliber Derringer and ammo. A Stihl chainsaw and Mig welder were also taken from the garage.
On March 5 at a residence on Christiana Drive in Rogersville, where various items valued at $5,725 were stolen.