Drunken driver gets 14-year-sentence in death of former state rep

A Kingsport man, whose drunken driving killed a former state representative, received a 14-year prison sentence Thursday, according to the Kingsport Times-News.

The sentence was handed down to James D. Hamm Jr. in a Sullivan County courtroom. Hamm was found guilty in February of this year on vehicular homicide by intoxication, driving under the influence, leaving the scene of a motor vehicle collision involving a fatality, two counts of reckless endangerment and failure to exercise due care in the death of former state representative Mike Locke.

“We’re very pleased with the sentence,” said Lesley Tiller, Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney. “We feel it’s appropriate. …I think it has given closure to the Locke family.”

Tiller and Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Kent Chitwood prosecuted the case for the state of Tennessee.

The state sought and received the maximum sentence in this case. Hamm will have to serve 30 percent of the sentence — four years and two months — before he is eligible for parole. Tiller said this was based on the fact that he does not have any prior felony convictions.

Locke was placing campaign signs along Fort Henry Drive for then primary candidate Bud Hulsey, who is now the state representative for Kingsport, when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Hamm. The impact knocked Locke off the bridge and into a ravine approximately 20 feet below.

…”I’m glad that the justice side of this thing is finally completed,” Hulsey said. “I wish his sentence was more severe than that.”

Last year, the Tennessee legislator passed a bill sponsored by Hulsey, dubbed the Ben Woodruff and Mike Locke Act, which requires those convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide to serve 60 percent of their sentence instead of 30. The bill does not apply retroactively.