Bulloch County Superior Court Judge Gates Peed sentenced a man Wednesday to 20 years in prison for beating a woman with a glass mug after smoking synthetic marijuana, known as “spice.”
Thomas Jason Browning, 24, of Brannen Road, admitted committing the crime when Bulloch County deputies first arrived at the scene Sept. 11, 2011, according to testimony from Bulloch County sheriff’s Investigator Walter Deal.
Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Michael Muldrew said the state recommended Peed hand down the maximum sentence of 20 years to serve for the aggravated battery charge, but Browning’s attorneys asked for a sentence of one year, with 19 years probation.
After hearing testimony from witnesses, Peed gave Browning 20 years to serve.
When deputies responded to Browning’s home after the attack, they found him covered in blood.
“He said ‘This is my fault, I hit her, I hurt her,’” Muldrew said.
Amber Fields, 21, of Swainsboro, was airlifted to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah for injuries sustained in the attack. She suffered broken facial bones, a fractured skull, shattered nose and other injuries after Browning “bashed her head in” with a heavy glass mug, he said.
Fields underwent a series of major surgeries and was in a coma for some time after the attack, according to reports from family members. Muldrew said most of her facial bones were replaced with titanium.
Fields and some family members took the stand Wednesday, testifying about her ordeal. Browning claimed on the stand that he did not recall the attack.
When deputies arrived at the scene, Browning admitted having smoked spice. The drug, which was legal at the time, was found in his home, according to reports from Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson.
While on the stand, Fields said Browning has smoked the drug before the attack and had been acting oddly, Muldrew said.
Now illegal, spice has been suspected in several violent incidents and illnesses, according to reports.
In an interview shortly after the September 2011 beating, Bulloch County Drug Suppression Team Capt. Rick Rountree said spice has been increasingly popular in the United States since 2008.
Anderson said spice, which changes in content as manufacturers adjust methods of making it, has been known to cause paranoia and violent actions.
According to drugabuse.gov, spice produces a marijuana-like high, but with more intensity and possibly unpredictable effects.
The Center for Discovery adds on its website, www.centerfordiscovery.com, that these effects can include anxiety attacks, hallucinations, nausea and confusion. Also in 2011, three Roswell, Ga., teens were hospitalized after smoking spice, and one had swelling of the brain, according to several reports.
Another website, www.livescience.com, says the synthetic cannabinoid was first created in the mid-1990s in the lab of organic chemist John W. Huffman of Clemson University, who studies cannabinoid receptors.
In reports, Huffman said smoking spice is “like playing Russian roulette. You don't know what it's going to do to you. You're a potential winner of a Darwin award," referring to an unofficial “award” given to people who have committed senseless and less-than-intelligent acts.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.