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Former Wilson Central band director sentenced on child porn charge

By Kelly Lapczynski • May 29, 2018 at 4:05 PM

Martin Drew McFarlane, former co-director of the Tullahoma High School band and former Wilson Central High School band director, was sentenced to five years in prison followed by five years of supervised release on child pornography charges Thursday in federal court in Chattanooga.

Jennifer Johnson, Wilson County Schools spokesperson, said McFarlane started working for the district in 2008 as a band teacher between Southside Elementary School and Wilson Central. She said he resigned from Wilson Central in 2015 to take the Tullahoma band director position.

His originally slated March sentencing date was postponed to allow McFarlane, while free on bond, time to complete a 16-week therapy program that began Jan. 29 and ended May 21.

McFarlane’s attorney, assistant federal defender Myrlene R. Marsa, filed the March motion to postpone, Marsa said McFarlane’s counseling would provide insight when imposing a sentence “sufficient but not greater than necessary for the case.”

Prosecutor assistant U.S. attorney James Brooks did not object to McFarlane’s request to postpone McFarlane’s sentencing. However, the prosecutor did object to his attorney’s motion for a variance that would allow McFarlane to seek a sentence below the recommended guideline range. McFarlane’s attorney asked the court to impose a term of five years, “which would amount to a 60-month downward variance from the low-end of the recommended guideline range.”

Marsa’s motion argued McFarlane’s treatment for addiction to child pornography during mitigation. The government conceded the point but considered the case aggravated by McFarlane’s role as a teacher of children and his failure as an addict to remove himself from the presence of children before his arrest.

The charge against McFarlane carried a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20, along with a fine of up to $250,000 and a mandatory term of five years of supervised release.

Despite the government’s objection, U.S. District Judge Harry S. Mattice Jr. handed down the five-year sentence and waived the fine.

Following the five years in prison, McFarlane will be subject to another five years of supervised release. The conditions of the release include continued mental health treatment, participation in a drug or alcohol abuse testing and treatment program, participation in DNA collection and compliance with sex offender laws. Additionally, McFarlane will be prohibited from owning a firearm.

McFarlane was indicted Aug. 22, 2017, by a federal grand jury on one count of transportation of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Following an FBI and Tullahoma police search of McFarlane’s Tullahoma home, the indictments were handed down May 11, 2017.

McFarlane struck a plea bargain with prosecutors, and he entered a guilty plea Dec. 14 to one count of transportation of child pornography before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher H. Steger in federal court in Chattanooga. By agreeing to the deal, the possession of child pornography charge was dropped, and McFarlane avoided trial.

In addition to federal charges, McFarlane also faced misdemeanor drug charges from Tullahoma police after marijuana was found during the search of his home.

Local police charged him with manufacture, sale and delivery of a schedule VI drug and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. He entered a guilty plea to those charges in Coffee County general sessions court and was given a suspended sentence of 11 months, 29 days and a $250 fine, court costs and Coffee County probation.

McFarlane, a 2004 Tullahoma High School graduate, was hired as the co-director of the band program in 2015. McFarlane resigned from his position at the high school a day after his arrest on drug charges.

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