Altamont, Tenn. – In what could be the final judicial action in the case of Michael Holmes shooting Shelby Comer, Holmes was sentenced to three years of probation and two years of working two days a week at a regional ministry with a focus on helping women. Whereas the defense was petitioning for a judicial diversion ruling which would eventually potentially result in the verdict being eliminated from Holmes’ record, the judge saw things differently.
Leading up to the reading of the sentence the defense presented character witnesses for Holmes including a life-long friend of Holmes’ family and Holmes’ ex-wife. Both of whom painted a picture of Holmes as a positive member of the community and possessing admirable traits as a friend and father.
Judge Rusty Graham acknowledged that the threat posed by Holmes was minimal, but Graham also explained that he didn’t find the actions of the former law enforcement officer to be without review. Graham continued saying that Holmes’ actions were something “he should have known not to do what he did.” Graham said, “The serious breach of trust with the high position of law enforcement officer…there has to be a statement to law enforcement that this is not acceptable conduct far outweighs anything else involved so I’m setting the sentence at two years.” Two years was the maximum incarceration that Holmes was eligible for due to the criminally negligent homicide guilty verdict levied against him by a jury in February of this year. However, Graham went on to say, “The last consideration is how that sentence is to be served. Should it be served in the County Jail? Should it be served in the penitentiary? Entirely on probation?” Graham added the possibility of a combination of those. “So, looking down at the considerations for probation, I find that almost every one of the considerations applies. [Holmes] does not have a bad criminal past or anything like that…so the other issue is whether or not in my judgment incarceration would be overly detrimental to the intended [outcome].” Graham indicated that placing police officers in incarceration may put them in unnecessary jeopardy. “So, I’m going to set him on a period of three years on parole.
The Assistant District Attorney David Shinn immediately stood up and reminded Graham that the probation option could be extended to six years. Graham acknowledged Shinn’s facts but replied, “I think that probably three years is sufficient.” Graham then revealed the final component of the sentence. “Now, I am going to impose an unusually high amount of community service hours….so I’m going to require for the first two years of his probation, to work for [a Tennessee non-profit] which is a residential recovery unit on Mondays and Tuesdays from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm following the direction of the president or their designee.” Graham said that the ministry caters to women that have suffered poor decision-making in their own lives and hoped that Holmes could learn something from the experience while giving to a good cause.
Whereas ADA David Shinn deferred commenting on the case to District Attorney Mike Taylor, Holmes’ defense team of Bill Bullock and Cliff Sobel spent a few minutes with Grundy County Herald following the sentence being announced. Bullock said, “We thought that Officer Holmes was entitled to [judicial] diversion, but the judge granted probation…and we didn’t think he needed to go to jail and we’re going to look at all our options now.” Bullock affirmed that there was no predetermined intention to appeal the sentence. “We think we have some grounds for appeal,” Bullock said but remained open to the possibility to accept the judge’s decision. Sobel said, “I think the judge’s decision is a sound one in the law and it’s just a tragic loss for this county of a 20-year-old girl that is no longer with us.”
We’ll continue to follow this story.