Vise convicted of facilitation, not burglary

Wednesday, August 2, 2006
Judge Lee Russell, left, listens to defense attorney John Price, right, make closing arguments for his client Brian Vise and list his opinion on whether the state met its burden of proof. (T-G Photo by Clint Confehr)

Facilitation, not actual burglary and theft, were what the state proved Monday against a man who'd been charged in a Unionville burglary last December, according to verdicts issued by a Bedford County jury Tuesday.

There was a "lack of evidence" to convict Brian Foster Vise, 27, on two of the indicted offenses, according to Vicki Lambert, one of three jurors who spoke after the trial, as did Felicia Hardin who said the state "didn't have enough evidence" on those charges.

Assistant District Attorney Mike Randles' interpretation of the verdicts: "If I had to guess, the jury concluded he was a driver of the van and the van was used in the commission of the theft."

Chris Heard's Kingdom Road home was burglarized on the night of Dec. 2. Guns, a camera, medicine and stereo speakers were taken. There were other burglary complaints in the area that night and Deputy David Williams Jr. found Vise's van parked on Big Springs Road. Lawmen chased suspects across rough terrain. Two men fell. Both got away.

Early on the morning of Dec. 3, lawmen were told Vise was at the Bedford County Medical Center emergency room where he claimed he'd been the victim of a carjacking. A sheriff's officer told him to come by the office when he could to discuss that crime. A sketch of the alleged carjacker was made and steps were taken to return Vise's van.

But stolen speakers and a medicine bottle were found in the vehicle. Vise was seen as a participant in the burglary and thefts. He was also charged with making a false report to police since he changed his story from a carjacking to having loaned the van to a couple of thugs, claiming he'd been punched by one who threatened to hurt him and his wife if they told police about loaning the van.

In closing arguments, defense attorney John Price criticized the investigation, saying photos should have been taken of Vise's face wounds and the thugs named by Vise should have been interviewed. While the state explained there had been another van involved in the crime, Price asked why, if Vise was at the crime scene, would he leave his van to be found?

In rebuttal, Randles said criminals run when police lights are flashing, and that investigators did find one of the men named by Vise.

A search warrant was executed at Vise's house, Price said. Nothing was found. Price said other suspects' homes should have been searched. Randles said getting a search warrant for suspects' homes isn't as easy as it might seem.

The jury, Hardin said, "had a lot of trouble with the decision. We felt like we didn't have enough evidence to work with on the state's behalf. We had our own speculation, but we couldn't go with that."

Randles had emphasized that statements from Vise and his wife, Sarah, didn't match. And the prosecutor reiterated Detective Chris Brown's "common sense" conclusion about what lawmen were told about the couple's behavior when she found out her husband had loaned their van to "a couple of thugs."

Shortly after she found out, they were together near the van and the two men, according to Randles' closing statements. If the defendant's wife knew he'd loaned their van to someone and they were all together, she'd make him get it back right then, rather than tell them to meet at a house in Rutherford County.

Statements Vise gave the officers about that, and "statements from the wife," were what juror Shannon White recalled as one of the reasons to conclude the defendant was involved in the crime, instead of just loaning the van.

Randles said he expected Price to say discrepancies were a result of fear and Price did ask the jurors to look at Vise's "slight build," and asked, "Is it unreasonable to not disclose the identity of a man who threatened your life?"

But the couple came to grips with the situation and provided names, Price said. The defense attorney subpoenaed two inmates, one in a state prison, another in the Rutherford County Jail. Both said they'd invoke their right to not testify against themselves, and so they couldn't be put on the stand.

Investigators did what they could, Randles said, turning to Price's request that the crime of facilitation be added to the judge's instructions to the jury.

Jury deliberations were from 2-5 p.m. Not guilty verdicts were delivered for the crimes of aggravated burglary, attempted aggravated burglary and burglary. Charges of theft and attempted theft also drew not guilty verdicts.

Vise was found guilty of facilitation of aggravated burglary, guilty of facilitation of theft and guilty of making a false report.

Judge Lee Russell will preside over a sentencing hearing scheduled for Sept. 15.

Russell revoked Vise's $30,000 bond and he was taken to the Bedford County Jail.

Vise's sentencing will be affected by his previous felony conviction. Price said the range of sentences could be 4-8 years. Vise could be eligible for a parole hearing after serving 35 percent of his sentence.