James William Hefner, Jr., 51, of 1713 Cantrell Dr. in Rocky Face, Ga., was sentenced Tuesday by Superior Court Judge Jim Wilbanks to serve a total of 11 years in prison. Hefner, was convicted following a jury trial on October 9, 2018 of the felony offenses of fleeing to elude a police officer and possession of methamphetamine, plus possession and use of drug related objects, disregarding a traffic control device and driving while license suspended, all misdemeanors.
Hefner had a significant prior criminal history before taking the current case to trial including two prior felony theft convictions and a felony conviction for habitual traffic violator. He also had seven prior convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and 11 prior convictions for driving with a suspended license between 1987 and 2011. As a result, Judge Wilbanks, who had also presided over the trial, sentenced him to serve the maximum amount on each count and ran all counts consecutively for the maximum possible sentence allowed under Georgia law.
The evidence showed that on Oct.
12, 2017 at 3:30 a.m., Deputy James Caraway initiated a traffic stop of Hefner after observing him driving a motorcycle at a high rate of speed on Highway 41 and LaFayette Road in Rocky Face. Hefner exceeded 80 miles per hour on Mount Vernon Road as he fled from Deputy Caraway’s blue light and sirens, running the red light at Highway 201. Driving on both sides of the road, Hefner ran from the police for almost an hour through Whitfield, Walker, Gordon, Murray, Gilmer, and Pickens Counties.
Hefner was taken into custody after he ran his motorcycle into the patrol vehicle of Deputy Jason Azar of the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office. He was found to have methamphetamine and a methamphetamine pipe on his person. His license to drive had been suspended by the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services. While the chase lasted almost an hour, the jury’s deliberations took a mere 25 minutes.
Hefner did not testify or present any evidence in his own defense. His attorney conceded some of the crimes but argued that the state had not proven the methamphetamine possession or the excessive speed required for the felony fleeing charge. Hefner rejected multiple plea offers including one for five years to serve followed by three years’ probation made shortly before trial. Hefner still has pending charges in Gordon County arising from the same incident.
Assistant District Attorney Christina Antalis presented the case to the jury and represented the state at sentencing. Hefner was represented by David Tatem of the Public Defender’s Office.