TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
A trial was averted.
Johnny Paul Smith, 24, entered into a plea agreement Friday in Knox County Circuit Court before Judge Tom Jensen.
Smith was indicted nearly a year ago in September for attempted murder, first-degree fleeing or evading police, five counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, first-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving, menacing, operating on a suspended license, driving under the influence and second-degree persistent felony offender.
Smith was on Friday’s docket for a last pretrial conference before his scheduled Sept. 10 jury trial.
Represented by defense attorney Jennifer Milligan, Smith learned his official sentencing hearing has been slated for Oct. 4.
In July 2012, Barbourville Police were conducting a safety checkpoint near the Knox County Courthouse.
Smith, driving a car, first tried to run down two officers working the checkpoint — those officers had to leap to safety to avoid being struck.
Officers barely had time to recover before Smith then drove toward another officer, who had turned his back to question a potential violator.
Several shots were fired in order to save the third officer from being run down.
After that, the chase was on.
Barbourville Police said Smith led them on a car chase which lasted for several miles outside the city limits — then ended up on a side road.
Officers pursuing Smith were forced to use a special tactical maneuver to bring Smith to a stop.
Questions about Smith’s competency came before the court earlier this year, but in May Jensen found Smith competent to stand trial.
During that hearing, Jensen swore in psychologist Dr. Timothy Allen, director of the University of Kentucky’s Adult Forensic Clinic, who examined Smith.
According to Allen, Smith was evaluated from his arrival on Oct. 11 through his release on Nov. 5. “We met (with Smith) on several occasions,” Allen testified. “I met with Mr. Smith individually four times.”
Allen explained Smith suffered a head injury in 2006, for which he was hospitalized approximately a week.
Much of the “external” information about Smith came from Smith’s mother, Allen testified. “She was a good source of information,” he said, adding that after the head injury, “she noticed a difference in memory.”
Allen testified that the examination was conducted through interviews and observance, but said Smith “gave very low effort” when it came to cooperating with the exam.
“He repeatedly chose wrong answers,” Allen said. “He said he had significant memory problems.”
Allen added that Smith said he could not remember where he worked, nor facts or memories of his own life prior to and after the accident.
However, Allen further testified that Smith knew he “was running from the law,” although he “denied initially” that he was aware of his alleged behavior.
“(When) we probed further, he acknowledged (by) some statements he made (that he had) some knowledge (of his alleged crimes),” Allen said.
He also said that Smith showed an “unwillingness to cooperate” with the examination. “(He gave) ridiculous answers to some of the questions,” he said, adding that the five questions he asked were very simple, and that third-graders averaged 4.5 out of 5 correct answers.
Smith scored zero out of five.
Milligan also questioned Allen, explaining that when she represented Smith on another, unrelated case, he wasn’t the same mentally. “He appears (to be) a different client today,” she said. “Can you account for that?”
Allen explained that a brain injury, such as the one suffered by Smith in 2006, would exhibit worse symptoms “immediately after the injury,” but that over time those symptoms would improve as the brain healed.
Smith was placed on medication after the accident, specifically for seizures. Allen testified that medication “won’t cause memory loss.”
He did add if the dose was too high it could cause “mental clouding.”
The possibility of Smith malingering, or feigning, his competency was also discussed.
Testimony was also offered that Smith said he heard voices, however, Allen said Smith was not acting as though that were true.
Smith was then sworn in, with the limited focus on asking simple questions.
Smith was asked several questions, yet took some time in answering them, and some were answered incorrectly.
During a June court appearance, it was learned through Milligan that Smith, who was out on probation for an unrelated crime, had a revocation hearing pending. The results of that revocation could have meant a 15-year sentence, but it was unknown at press time what were the results of that hearing.