TBA Law Blog

Posted by: William Haltom on Apr 28, 2011

Journal Issue Date: May 2011

Journal Name: May 2011 - Vol. 47, No. 5

Last November Willie Nelson was busted for pot possession after U.S. Border Patrol Agents and their weed-sniffing dogs searched his tour bus (“Honeysuckle Rose”) in Hudspeth County, Texas. This was not exactly breaking news. Willie gets busted for pot about as often as most of us brush our teeth. In fact, Willie has been arrested for pot possession so many times that Toby Keith recorded a song entitled I’ll Never Smoke Weed with Willie Nelson Again. Suffice to say that Willie has never recorded his own rendition of Merle Haggard’s Okie from Muskogee (“We don’t smoke marijuana down on Main Street …”).

But a few weeks after Willie’s latest weed bust, some real news broke. Hudspeth County Prosecutor “Kit” Bramblett announced he was going to offer Willie a plea bargain, or in this case a Glee bargain. Bramblett said that all charges against Willie would be dropped if he would come back to Hudspeth County, appear in Court, and sing Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain for the Judge.

Criminal defense lawyers are fond of saying, “Nobody talks, everybody walks.” But in this case, it was, “If Willie sings, he springs!”

The whole idea sounded crazy, which by the way, while famously sung by Patsy Cline, was written by Willie. Willie was already on the road again, and while it is funny how time slips away, the prospect of his latest prosecution was no doubt always on his mind.

Willie is no red headed stranger to our criminal justice system. However, this was the first time in his career he had been asked to sing for his freedom in a courthouse concert. Willie was no doubt hoping the whole thing would go away, but there was nothing he could do about it now.

Blame it on the times, but suddenly Willie’s Glee bargain was national news. It became a front page story in newspapers from Luckenbach, Texas, to the City of New Orleans. The Country Music Network, Tru TV (formerly Court TV), CNN, TNT and TBS all began to scramble to televise the biggest court appearance since the People v. OJ.

But somewhere in Texas, there was a good hearted woman who was having none of it. Judge Becky Dean Walker announced that she had no intention of being serenaded by Willie singing Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain or, for that matter, To All the Judges I’ve Loved Before, accompanied by Julio Iglesias.

She described the whole news story as a “joke that just got out of hand”, and she was apparently greatly annoyed with Prosecutor Bramblett for suggesting the Glee-bargain in the first place. In fact, she was overheard in her chambers, belting out, Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Prosecutors!

Suddenly, Willie’s Glee bargain has gone up in smoke. While it may seem a little unfair, maybe the whole incident is better left forgotten. But I seriously doubt Willie will end up singing Hello Walls in a jail cell with Pancho and Lefty.

I’ll bet he ends up just paying a fine. At his sentencing, the Judge will probably look at him and say, If You’ve got the Money, Honey, You Won’t Have the Time.

Bill Haltom BILL HALTOM is a partner with the Memphis firm of Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell. He is past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a past president of the Memphis Bar Association.