Former teacher sentenced to three years

Published 11:27 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Former W.S. Neal High School special education teacher Larry Tindell pleaded guilty Tuesday to one charge of distribution of a controlled substance and one charge of possession of obscene material under a plea agreement that will see him serve three years in prison.

Tindell could have served up to 30 years on the felony charges and could have been fined up to $45,000.

“I advise you that had this gone to trial and had you been found guilty, I would not have been bound by that plea agreement,” Circuit Judge Bert Rice told Tindell after he had pleaded guilty to the charges.

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The plea agreement signed off on by Circuit Judge Bert Rice sentenced him to 10 years on the obscene material charge and 20 years on the drug charge. But the terms of the agreement amount to a split sentence, with Tindell serving three years in prison on each charge and five years on probation. The sentences will run concurrently.

Tindell will get credit for time served in the county jail from when he was arrested in February 2009 until he was released on bond in May 2009. He will have to pay a $1,000 fine and court costs.

Assistant District Attorney Todd Stearns said Tindell would also have to register with the state sex offender registry.

Tindell had originally been charged with distribution and possession of a controlled substance, as well as 12 counts of possession of obscene material. Under the plea agreement, the possession of a controlled substance charged and the other 11 counts of possession of obscene material were dropped.

“Do you understand that if you plead guilty in front of me, you are admitting to these crimes?” Rice asked Tindell during the hearing Tuesday.

“Yes, sir,” Tindell replied.

Stearns and Assistant District Attorney Jeff White detailed the facts of the case for Rice.

White said the case began when the drug task force was investigating allegations of illegal drug activity at Tindell’s Ridge Road home.

“Mr. Tindell gave to a cooperating individual three tablets” which were later tested and determined to be Lortab, White said.

Drug task force officials have said previously that they had Tindell on tape giving the pills to a young man.

Stearns said the obscene materials counts were added after a search of Tindell’s home on Feb. 10, the day he was arrested on the drug indictment. Agents found in Tindell’s possession photos of young men engaged in sexual acts, Stearns said.

Stearns said a medical doctor examined the photos and determined from the bone structure and other physical aspects of the subjects in the photos that they were under 17.

“He stated he was prepared to offer testimony that at least one (photo) depicted males under 17,” Stearns said.

Rice said that under the terms of the state’s split sentencing act, he — as the sentencing judge — is in charge of Tindell’s sentence.

“You serve day for day,” he said. “You don’t get parole or early release from the pardons and parole board. The split sentencing act permits the sentencing judge to be the overseer of your time.”